Thursday, January 21, 2010

St. Agnes: A further note on the 'Pallia' and a short reflection on today's saint

Most of us know that the wool from the chaste white lambs, blessed by the Pope for St. Agnes' day, is woven into the Pallia for new or 'translated' Archbishops. That is why Archbishop Nichols received a new one this year as he had been 'translated' to Westminster from the Archdiocese of Birmingham. I last checked this subject when writing my first book 'Gardening with God'. In the entry for St. Agnes' day I state that it is the nuns of Torre de'Specchi in Rome who traditionally weave the wool into Pallia. I'm not certain whether this is still accurate. However, I think it is remains the case that within three months of his confirmation each new metropolitan archbishop must beg his pallium from the Pope. Before it is sent to him it lies for a night on the tomb of Saint Peter. Strictly speaking, he may not exercise his full archepiscpacy until he receives it, either from the Pope himself or from another Archbishop. Where at all possible, Pope Benedict certainly seems to do these investitures himself, and now that countless millions of us can see these being done via TV and internet, it certainly shows us how, and with what solemnity, the Apostolic Succession is handed down. For it to be done by the Successor of Peter himself, underlines the message and makes it such a moving, significant occasion, not just for us, but even more so for the Pope and the Archbishops themselves. No Archbishop may hand on his pallium to his successor, for it will be buried with him. I'm not quite sure whether that means, for instance, that Archbishop Nichols will eventually be buried with two Pallia. Can anyone shed light on this?

A short reflection on Saint Agnes - part of today's entry in 'Gardening with God':

"St. Agnes is thought to have been only thirteen when she was martyred by the sword for consecrating herself to Christ.............................Although little is known for certain, her existence is verified by her inclusion in the Roman canon, and by the praise accorded to her in the writings of other saints, notably Ambrose, during whose lifetime she was martyred. In his 'Treatise on Virgins' (Book 1, Chapter 2), he marvels especially at her extreme youth. This should have meant that she could be only a learner, but through her chastity and faith she becomes our teacher. She is perhaps the supreme demonstration that age and erudition do not automatically bring wisdom or fortitude. Like all the saints, she shows the way to the door beyond which they are to be found. Without humility and becoming "as little children", we cannot even reach the door."

(copyright 2002 Jane Mossendew 'Gardening with God' - Continuum)


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