Vatican City, Jan 21, 2016 / 10:42 am
Pope Francis observed the feast of St. Agnes on Thursday with the time-honored custom of the blessing of lambs, whose wool will be used to make palliums, a vestment worn by metropolitan archbishops which signify their unity with the Church of Rome.
The two small lambs, traditionally less than a year old, were placed in baskets and carried to the Urban VIII Chapel in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace Jan. 21, where they received the Holy Father’s blessing.
St. Agnes, whose name means “lamb” in Latin, was a young girl when she consecrated her virginity to God. Although stories of her martyrdom vary, tradition holds that the beautiful young girl was pursued by various men, whom she refused because of her promise to God.
Feeling slighted, these men then turned her over to Roman authorities, outing her as a Christian. She was then put to death by the sword after refusing to give up her virginity or denounce her faith, at the young age of 12 or 13.
The young saint is buried in the basilica named for her, located on Rome’s Via Nomentana. Since she is mentioned in the Roman Canon, her association with the pallium is an important symbol of unity with the successor of Saint Peter.
During the blessing of the lambs, one lamb wears a white crown symbolizing the saint’s purity, and the other lamb to wear a red crown, emblematic of her martyrdom.