The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 14, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

An offer she couldn't refuse

St. Agnes of Montepulciano was so popular, they built a convent to bring her home

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

In the world of sports, we are used to athletes jumping to a team that woos them with more money, a better stadium in which to perform, a more prominent role on the team or perhaps a better chance to make more money endorsing products.

And in the work-a-day world, it's perhaps even more common for people to accept a better offer from a competing company.

But how many of us think of similar things going on in the world of the saints? No, not that saints are leaving God to work for the other side, but that someone convinces them to accept a better offer.

That's what happened with St. Agnes of Montepulciano. This Italian saint was born in about 1268 in Gracchiano-Vecchio, Tuscany. When she was only nine, Agnes entered an austere convent at Montepulciano, where the nuns were popularly called the Sacchines because of the coarse material used in their habits.

A few years later, she was transferred, along with her novice mistress, Sr. Margaret, to a new convent at Procena. By the time Agnes was 15, she was chosen to become the abbess, which required Pope Nicholas IV to grant a special dispensation.

She proved to be a popular leader and before long, because of her reputation for sanctity and austerity, several postulants joined the community. For example, for 15 years, she lived on bread and water and slept on the ground, using a rock as a pillow.

Agnes was known for having visions - it's said that she received Communion from an angel and that she held the infant Jesus in her arms. She also could levitate and perform miracles.

By about 1300, the residents of Montepulciano decided they wanted Agnes back because of her fame. So they did the equivalent of what a city might do today to attract a sports team - they built a new convent on the site of several houses of ill repute and made her the prioress. The convent flourished under her rule.

She died at age 49 in 1317 at the Montepulciano convent, which she had placed under the Dominican rule. She was canonized in 1726. We celebrate her feast on April 20.

As we prepare to enter Holy Week in this Jubilee Year, it would be good to consider who we are yelling our "Hosannas" at - the Son of God or a pop idol.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and 365 Saints

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