St. Agnes was born in Italy in 1274, a gentle future glory of the Order of St. Dominic. Her father was an eminent Christian who lived in the village of Gracciano Vecchio, in central Italy. On the very day of her birth a miracle announced to those present that this was a favoured child: mysterious burning torches appeared, shining brilliantly near her crib. Already at the age of four, the little girl would retire in solitude to pray to Jesus, her love.
When she was nine years old, Agnes asked her parents for permission to enter a monastery. They opposed this wish, not certain of the will of God. After she had prayed fervently that their opinions change, Agnes was allowed to join the Sisters of Montepulciano. When she reached the age of fourteen, she was assigned to the duty of stewardess of the monastery, an office in which she would provide for the material needs of the sisters and keep accounts. The community was edified to see her carry out her duties cheerfully, in perfect obedience, without her piety being in any way altered. Whenever a sister needed any service, the response of Agnes was always characterized by grace and charity.
St. Agnes already had the reputation of sanctity; a number of persons had seen her raised in the air nearly two feet above ground. When the residents of a neighbouring town decided to build a monastery for their daughters, they came to ask for Agnes as its first superior. She was at that time fifteen years old. At the request of the Holy Father, she accepted the office. This experience would prepare her for a later important work, that of founding a large monastery in honour of the Mother of God at Montepulciano.
Miracles surround the prayer of this young saint. Sometimes, as Agnes knelt in prayer, flowers sprang up—violets, lilies and roses. One year, on the feast of the Assumption, the Mother of the Saviour appeared to her and placed the Infant Jesus in her arms. St. Agnes succeeded in founding the foretold monastery of twenty cloistered Dominican sisters; an angel had told her to establish it under the Rule of St. Dominic.
During her last illness, Agnes was sent to bathe in curative waters. During her journey, she brought back to life a child who had drowned. Her health did not improve, but a spring welled up nearby which cured others. St. Agnes returned to her monastery and prepared for death. She died at the age of 43 on April 20, 1317. Miracles occurred at her tomb, as they had during her lifetime. She was beatified in 1534 and canonized in 1726.
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