Saint Agnes of Prague 10th June

Agnes of Prague

Agnes of Prague

Feast Day 10th June Agnes born into the royal house of Bohemia in 1211. She was the eight child of King Premysl Otakar and his second wife ,Queen Constance of Hungary. Saint Clare was eighteen at the time  and was just embarking on her great Franciscan adventure where Agnes would follow twenty four years later.                                                                              Agnes’ father was a master Politician and betrothed his daughters diplomatically around the royal houses of Europe. Agnes was first betrothed to an infant Duke of Silesia when she was three. but the boy died.  Then she was given to Henry of Austria , son of the Emperor Frederick II, but he also died. Finally , Emperor Frederick  himself was officially engaged to her.                                                                                                                                                    Before her father died in 1230 , when she was nineteen , Franciscan Friars arrived at the royal castle in Prague. They told Agnes about Clare and the Poor Ladies in Assisi. When she heard that Clare stipulated that those wishing to enter the Order  should sell everything and give to the poor, and should serve the Poor Christ in poverty and humility, she said “this is what I wish, this is what I desire with all my heart”.                                          So Agnes made up her mind not to marry . She wrote to Pope Gregory IX asking that her engagement to Frederick be broken off, and because Frederick was displeasing to the Pope at that time, he agreed. Frederick graciously let her go , saying ” if this insult had been given to us by any man, we should never cease to avenge the shame of such contempt. But since she has chosen a greater Lord than us , we take it as no insult, for we believe it has been by  God’s inspiration.”                                                                                                                 From this time on Agnes began to get rid of her wealth. First she built a hospital to care for the poor and sick. She then founded the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star to run it for her. She also built a house for the Friars and another for Sisters, even though there were none ready to enter it yet. The final preparation for her own entry was to ask Clare to send her Sister to show them how to live this new life. Five came from Trent.  On the 1st June 1234 Agnes herself dedicated her life to God as a poor Sister.  Seven very noble ladies of her kingdom joined her on this day, and the ceremony took place in the presence of seven bishops, the Lord King, her brother ,the Queen ,her mother, and many other nobles. Life was very different for her now. Instead of being waited on ,she undertook many of the menial tasks, like washing up the dishes, mending clothes, caring for the sick Sisters. She also continued her building projects.  She added to the monastery  a chapel which became the burial ground for royalty in Bohemia, and an oratory where she herself could seek space and silence for prayer.                                                                                                           Saint Clare began writing to her in 1234,the year she entered ,and correspondence between them continued until the year of Clare’s death in 1253.  the four extant letters of Clare are full of Clare’s thinking about poverty and prayer and relationship with Christ, so that had there been no Agnes we would not have such a rich source of Clare’s spirituality.               According to the medieval life of Agnes, written by a Friar about 1328, she was also influential in the lives of ordinary people:   She restored fugitives and prisoners to their former liberty; she freed  those condemned to death for their crimes and those tortured for any punishments.  She brought peace to those without hope, helping everyone in their aspiration to the best of her ability.                                                                                               Part of the land on which her Monastery was built was designated by the King ,her brother ,as a sanctuary where no state police could enter. Here she was able to feed and clothed the poor on the alms that the friars begged.  The Sisters themselves fasted quite rigorously so that the poor could be thus fed.  The 1270s were times of famine and disease and floods in Bohemia. The monastery was  in a desperate state, and became a refuge for people equally desperate.                                                                                                                Agnes died on 2nd March1282, at the age of 71. She was first buried in the Chapel of Our Lady, opposite the Oratory where she had spent so much time in prayer.  She was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1874 and canonised by Pope John Paul II on 12th November ,1989, the day  before the velvet revolution against Communism in Czechoslovakia.

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