Two Young Girl Martyrs
During the reign of Diocletian and Maximian, there lived in the city of Agen in Aquitaine a young girl named Faith. Her parents were Christians, and the child from the time she was a baby had been taught to confess the faith of Christ.
Dacian, the Governor of Gaul, came one day to the city of Agen to find out the Christians who lived there, and to give them their choice of denying Christ or suffering martyrdom.
The girl Faith was sitting in her own home when the soldiers roughly entered the room, and told her that she was to appear before Dacian.
She was not frightened at the sight of those rough men; she stood before them in all her childish beauty, and said a prayer, asking Jesus to help her in this hour of trial.
She was asked her name. "My name is Faith," was the answer, "and I try to be like my name."
"What is your religion?" asked the Governor.
"I have served the Lord Jesus all through my young life," said Faith simply.
Then the Governor bade her think of her home and of her youth and beauty, and begged her to renounce Christ, and to sacrifice to the heathen goddess Diana, who would give her all she wanted.
She refused to do this, and then Dacian, in his fury, bade her prepare for instant death. Faith's mother stood near her and comforted her with loving words. "Go forth, my own Faith," she said, "unto your trial that you may win your crown--tomorrow, and what will the short pain matter? He, the Good Shepherd, goes before His sheep, my child."
"And the sheep follow Him," answered Faith, "for they know His voice."
A brazen bed was brought, and this young, beautiful, gentle girl was bound to it with iron chains; a fire was lit beneath it, and there St. Faith lay hour after hour suffering patiently.
There was a priest of the city named Caprais, who had hidden himself amongst the hills, because he has not courage to bear the pains of martyrdom. But now from a distance he watched the young girl enduring that terrible torture. He say the heathen who stood by acknowledge that the love of the Christians was stronger than the fear of death, and then fall down and worship the God of the girl martyr.
Dacian gave orders that they too should be beheaded. Caprias, I say--poor, weak Caprais--saw all this, and new courage came into his heart, and he went forth from his hiding place, and gave himself up as a Christian; and St. Faith being unbound from her bed of pain, she and Caprais were beheaded together, and so the gentle maiden and the priest whose faith she had strengthened, went together to their rest.
It was during what is called the ninth persecution, under Mazimian, the St. Faith won the crown of martyrdom. It was during the tenth persecution under Diocletian that the other girl martyr of whom I am going to tell you went to join the noble army of the Great King.
Little St. Agnes lived in Rome. Her Parents were very rich, and the child had all she wanted to make her life bright and pleasant; but when she was a very little girl she determined to give all her love to God, and though after a time the son of Symphronius, the prefect of Rome, wanted to marry her, she would not grant his request. She said that all her love was given to her Lord and Master, and there was no place in her young heart for any one else. Of course the Prefect's son was very rich and powerful, and he was so angry at her refusing his offer that he accused her of being a Christian, and little Agnes was brought before the judge, and there ordered to burn incense to the heathen gods.
The people who stood by looking upon that smoking altar, and hearing the threats which fell upon the girl's ears, if she refused to do as she was bid, thought that her faith wavered, for they saw her stretch out her little hand over the fire. She did stretch out her hand, but it was not to throw incense there--it was to make the sign of the Cross, and to ask Jesus, because of all He had suffered on that Cross for her, to help her now.
He answered the child's prayer. Patiently she bore that taunts of her enemies, and at last the decree went forth that she was to die. Her head was cut off, and she went to live for ever and for ever with Him, for whose dear sake she had given up all wealth, and honor, and worldly love.
The name of Agnes in Greek means a lamb. One night after the little saint's martyrdom, her parents had a beautiful dream, in which they saw their child coming to them, and by her side was a beautiful white lamb; and then she comforted them for her loss, and told them of all the glories and the joys of that bright Paradise where she rested with her Lord and with all the Saints and Martyrs who, like her, had given up their lives for Jesus' sake.
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