Martyrdom of Saint Agnes
As revealed by JESUS to Maria Valtorta
The Notebooks for 1944
NOTE: Saint Agnes was believed to be born in 291 A.D. and died around 304 A.D.
January 13, 1944
It seemed I was seeing a kind of portico (either a peristyle or a forum), a portico in ancient Rome. I say “portico” because there was a beautiful marble mosaic floor and white marble columns supporting a vaulted ceiling, decorated with mosaics. It might have been the portico of a pagan temple, or of a Roman palace, either the Curia or the Forum. I don’t know.
Against a wall there was a sort of throne, composed of a marble platform supporting a seat. On this seat was an ancient Roman wearing a toga. I then understood he was the Imperial Prefect. Against the other walls were statues and statuettes of gods and tripods for incense. In the middle of the room or portico was an empty space with a large slab of white marble. In the wall facing the seat of that magistrate there opened the real portico, by way of which the square and street were visible.
While I observed these details and the Prefect’s surly expression, three young women entered the vestibule, portico, or room (whichever you prefer).
One was very young–practically a child. Dressed completely in white–a tunic which covered her, leaving only her thin neck and small hands with a girl’s wrists visible. Her head was uncovered, and she was blond. Simply combed hair, with a part in the middle of her head and two long, heavy braids over her shoulders. Her hair weighed so much that it made her bend her head slightly backwards, giving her a stately queenly bearing, without her so desiring. A little lamb a few days old was frolicking at her feet, bleating–entirely white, with a pink little nose like a child’s mouth.
A few steps behind the girl were the other two young women. One was almost the same age as the first one mentioned, but more sturdily built and with a more lower-class appearance. The other was more adult–about sixteen or eighteen years old at most. They, too, were dressed in white, with their heads covered. But more modestly dressed. They seemed to be servants, for they behaved respectfully towards the first one. I understood that the latter was Agnes, and the one her age, Emerentiana–I don’t know who the other one was.
Agnes, smiling and secure, went right up to the Magistrate’s dais. And here I heard the following dialogue.
“Did you wish for me? Here I am.”
“When you find out why I wanted you, I don’t think you will still call this gesture of mine a ‘wish’. Are you a Christian?”
“Yes, by the grace of God.”
“Do you realize what this assertion can bring to you?”
“Be careful! Death is ugly, and you are a child. Don’t smile, because I am not joking.”
“And I am not either. I am smiling at you because you are the pronobus of my eternal wedding, and I am grateful to you.”
“Think of an earthly wedding, instead. You are beautiful and wealthy. Many are already thinking of you. You have only to choose to become a happy patrician.”
“My choice has already been made. I love the Only One worthy of being loved, and this is the hour of my wedding; this is the temple for it. I am hearing the voice of the Spouse Who is coming and am already seeing His look of love. I am sacrificing my virginity to Him so that He will make it into an eternal flower.”
“If you are concerned about your virginity and about your life as well, sacrifice at once to the gods. This is what the law requires.”
“I have one true God and will sacrifice to Him willingly.”
And here it seemed that some of the Prefect’s assistants gave Agnes a vase with incense in it so that she could scatter it before a god over the tripod chosen by her.
“These are not the gods I love. My God is our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him, whom I love, I will sacrifice myself.”
It seemed to me at this point that the angered Prefect ordered his assistants to place chains around Agnes’ wrists to keep from fleeing or committing some offensive act against the images, since from that moment on she was regarded as guilty and a prisoner.
But the smiling virgin turned to her executioner, saying, “Don’t touch me. I came here spontaneously because I am called here by the voice of the Spouse, Who from Heaven is inviting me to the eternal wedding. I have no need for your bracelets or your chains. Only if I wanted to be moved towards evil would you have to place them on me. And–perhaps–they would be of no use, for my Lord God would make them more useless than a linen thread on a giant’s wrist. But to go out to meet death, joy, and marriage with Christ–no, your chains are of no use, O brother. I bless you if you give me martyrdom. I do not flee. I love you and pray for your spirit.
As beautiful, white, and upright as a lily, Agnes was a heavenly vision in the vision…
The Prefect gave the sentence, which I did not hear clearly. There seems to have been a kind of gap during which I lost sight of Agnes, intent as I was on the multitude that had crowded into that place.
I then came across the martyr again, even more beautiful and cheerful. In front of her was a little golden statue of Jove and a tripod. At her side was the executioner, with his sword already unsheathed. They seemed to be making a last attempt to bend her will. But Agnes, with flashing eyes, was shaking her head and, with her small hand, refusing the statue. The little lamb was no longer at her feet, but, rather, in the arms of the weeping Emerentiana.
I saw they were having Agnes kneel down on the floor in the middle of the room, where the large slab of white marble was located. The martyr recollected herself, with her arms over her chest and her gaze uplifted to the sky. Her eyes, in the rapture of a delicate contemplation, became flooded with tears of superhuman joy. There was a smile on her face, which was not paler than before.
One of the assistants took hold of her braids, as if they were a rope, to keep her head still. But there was no need to.
“I love Christ!” she cried when she saw the executioner lift the sword, and I saw it penetrate between the shoulder blade and collarbone and open her right carotid, and the martyr fell, still maintaining her kneeling position, to her left, like someone cuddling up to sleep, in a blessed sleep, for the smile did not leave her face and was hidden only by the blood gushing from her slashed throat as if from a beaker.
This was my vision tonight. I could not wait to be alone to write it down and take joy in it once more in peace.
It was so lovely that while I was experiencing it–and tears were falling which I think the faint light in the room hid from those present, and I remained with my eyes closed, partly because I was so absorbed in contemplation that I needed to concentrate and partly to make them think I was sleeping, although I don’t like people to know…where I am–I could not bear to hear bits of ordinary, very human phrases drifting like flotsam amidst the beauty of the vision, and I said, “Hush, hush,” as if the noise bothered me. But it was not that. The fact was that I wanted to remain alone to contemplate in peace. As I indeed managed to.
Then, afterwards, Jesus spoke to me.
“It is said, ‘God, having infinitely loved man, loved him until death.’ (John 13:1).
My truest followers are not and were not unlike their God, and, in keeping with His example and for His glory, they have given Him and men measureless love extending to the point of death.
I have already told you that the death of Agnes, like that of Therese, has a single name: love. Regardless of whether the sword or illness appears to be the cause of the death of these creatures, who were able to love with that relative ‘infinity’ of the creature (I speak this way for quibblers over words), which is a lesser copy of God’s perfect infinity, the true and exclusive agent is love.
A single word should be affixed as an epigraph upon these ‘saints’ of Mine. The one which is used for Me: Dilexit. ‘He loved’. Agnes the girl and the young Cecilia loved; the group of Symphorus’ children loved; the tribune Sebastian loved; the slave Julia loved; Cassian the teacher loved; Rufus the carpenter loved; Linus the pontiff loved; the white flowerbed of virgins, the tender meadow of the children, the delicate company of the mothers, the virile one of the fathers, the iron-hard cohort of the soldiers, and the sacerdotal procession of bishops, pontiffs, priests, and deacons loved; the humble and twice redeemed mass of slaves loved.
This purple court of Mine, which confessed Me in the midst of torments, loved. And, in gentler times, the host of those consecrated in cloisters and convents loved, and the virgins in all convents, and the earthly heroes who, while living in the world, have been able to make love a cloister for the spirit so that it will live loving only the Lord, for the Lord’s sake, and men through the Lord.
‘He loved.’ This little word, which is greater than the universe–for in its brevity it contains God’s most forceful force, God’s most characteristic, and God’s most powerful power–this word, whose sound, when spoken supernaturally to describe a life led, fills creation with itself and makes mankind start with admiration and the Heavens with rejoicing, is the key, the secret which opens up and explains the resistance, generosity, fortitude, and heroism of so many creatures who on account of age or family conditions seemed to be the least suited for such heroic perfection. For, if it still does cause amazement that Sebastian, Alexander, Mario, and Speditus should have been able to defy death for the sake of Christ–just as they had defied death for Caesar–it is astonishing that some who were little more than girls, like Agnes, and loving mothers should have been able to cast their lives into the midst of tortures, agreeing, as their first torment, to wrest themselves away from the embrace of relatives and children out of love for Me.
But to the human and superhuman generosity of the martyr to love there corresponds the divine generosity of the God of love. It is I who give My strength to these heroes of Mine and to all the victims of the unbloody, but long and no less heroic martyrdom. I make Myself strength in them. It is I who infuse fortitude into the lamb Agnes and the feeble old man, the young mother and the soldier, the master and the slave, and, in addition, over the centuries, into the cloistered nun and the statesman who dies for the faith, the unknown victim and the spiritual leader.
In the depths of their hearts and on their lips, do not seek any other pearl or savor except this: ‘Jesus.’ I, Jesus, am wherever holiness shines and charity pours itself out.”