Writing a letter to your confirmation candidate

It seems that one of the biggest events in confirmation preparation in this country is the letters of support to be given to the confirmation candidates during their mandatory retreats.

I have three such letters saved on this blog:

Confirmation letter to my daughterConfirmation letter to my fourth sonConfirmation letter to to my third son
I've asked my children what they remember about the letter they got from me and their dad, and also what they remembered about the letters they received. 
The answer was not much, or at least nothing specific. In general they were happy to have gotten a bag full of letters and there was a sense of feeling loved and supported. I guess that's the main thing - for them to have a sense that this is an important step in their spiritual growth, and that people they know, love and respect have taken the time out of their lives to let them know that! So here are some tips on procuring and writing letters for young confirmation candidates. Start thinkin…

The Feast of St. Agnes

St Agnes of Rome
Photo by Father Lawrence Lew OP

It's interesting to me how the liturgical year and the American Calendar sort of converge during these dark and cold days of January. 

Every year at this time, we have people from all of the United States, leave their homes to travel to Washington D.C. to protest and witness against the atrocity of abortion. Then on January 20, we recognize the bravery of a man named Sebastian, who stood up against the murderous emperor Diocletian for the persecuted Christians. 

On January 21, we remember Martin Luther King Jr., who changed the country through peaceful protest and inspirational speeches.

We also remember today a young teenage girl named Agnes, who choose to suffer and die rather than compromise her Christian faith.

In today's vernacular, I guess we could say Agnes was privileged. She was born into the nobility of the Roman Empire in 291. She was reportedly very beautiful and many young men wanted to woo and marry her. 

But Agnes had other plans for her life. She was a converted Christian and wanted to live out a vocation of dedication to Christ as a consecrated virgin. 

A young man Procopius, (son of the governor during the reign of Diocletian)  made Agnes his special project. Guys like this are common even today. He didn't really love Agnes. She was a trophy for him. He thought she could be bought and he tried to buy her with gifts and promises of wealth and luxury. 

Agnes refused him. Maybe she saw through him. Maybe he scared her. After all, Agnes was still very young. Some accounts put her as young as 12 years old. The Life of Saint Agnes of Rome, Virgin, and Martyr, put her at 14. Either way, she refused  Procopius and all of his gifts and gestures and expressed her love of the Lord and strong faith. 

Procopius accused her of being a Christian and had her brought in front of his father the governor. Again she was bribed with gifts if only she would deny God, but Agnes refused. 

She was then taken to a house of prostitution with the intent of taking her virginity and shaming her. Everyone was struck by her innocence and beauty, but an Angel protected her with a great and beautiful light and no one dared to approach her.

Except for Procopius. When he came near the girl he was immediately struck down as if by a bolt of lightning and died. 

Eventually, Agnes was condemned to death, which she accepted with courage and strength. 

You can read a complete accounting of St. Agnes here. 

Saint Agnes (Agnes means lamb) is the patron saint of chastitygardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins.

It has become the custom in our family to read St. Agnes's story from the book,57 Stories of Saints. It does a nice job of presenting young Agnes and her humility, holiness, and faith. It also makes her gruesome death easier to read to children.

Here's a shorter version from Catholic Online:

We made these cute little lambs a few years ago to help commemorate the feast day.

St. Agnes

There is a tradition in the Vatican with the Pope and lambs on the Feast of St. Agnes.  Every year the Pope blesses two little lambs on the feast of St. Agnes.  These lambs are raised by Trappist monks outside of Rome.  The wool of the lambs is blessed on the feast day. Later, it will be woven by an order of nuns and become the fabric for the pallium which the pope gives each June to new archbishops around the world.  Here is some more information on how the lambs are cared for.

Sister Pomnianowska said her order got involved in 1884 when a group of elderly sisters living nearby could no longer handle the task of preparing the lambs to attend a Mass and then be blessed by the pope.

She said that as soon as the Trappists arrive with the lambs, "we take them to the top floor of our house, where we have a large terrace and laundry room. As you can imagine, they are the joy of the entire community, especially of the younger sisters."

"The first thing we do is wash them. We put them in a tub with baby soap to delicately wash the dirt away. Then we dry them. We used to use towels, but now we use a blowdryer. We are careful not to leave their skin damp because they are young and could get sick," she said.

The baby lambs spend the night in the laundry room, in a covered pen filled with straw to keep them warm.

The morning of their big blessing day, she said, a decorative blanket is placed on each lamb. One blanket is red to recall St. Agnes' martyrdom; the other is white to recall her virginity.

"Then we weave two crowns of flowers -- one red and one white -- and place them on their heads. And we tie bows around their ears," she said.

After they are adorned, the lambs are placed in baskets, the sister said. "We are forced to bind them to prevent them from running away; once, in fact, I saw a lamb jump up and run from the altar."

Once they are prepared, the lambs are taken to Rome's Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, where they are placed on the altar over the martyr's tomb and are blessed. Then Vatican workers arrive to take the lambs to the pope, she said.

The lambs are blessed again by the pope, usually in the Chapel of Pope Urban VIII in the apostolic palace, she said. The ceremony is attended by two of the Holy Family Sisters -- usually two who are celebrating a significant anniversary of religious profession, she said.