Great Ladies
of the
Poor Clares

Saint Agnes of Prague
(1211 -1282)


The Princess

Heavenly Father, You drew St. Agnes away
from
the pleasure of royalty, 
and
through the lowly way of the cross
led her on the path of perfection.
Grant that in imitation of her
we may depreciate transitory things
and always strive
after those of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.
  Amen.

 

    T

    Born about 1211, Agnes of Prague (also known as Agnes of Bohemia) was the daughter of King Premysl Ottokar I and Queen Constance of Hungary .  “The Princess” grew up with all the privileges and problems of royalty.  While sons were preferred as future heirs, marriageable daughters were considered a great asset for securing powerful political alliances. 

Agnes had several relatives who, even during her lifetime, were known for their holiness.  St. Hedwig of Silesia was her aunt; St. Elizabeth of Hungary , her cousin.  Yet the pursuit of sanctity had no place in King Ottokar’s plans for his daughter.  Ottokar’s only goal was to see that the Princess married well.  Thus he began negotiations for her betrothals when Agnes was only three years old.  Time and again his efforts failed.  Finally came the proposal to satisfy all the king’s ambitions: Emperor Frederick II asked for Agnes’ hand.

In the midst of this royal match-making, the Franciscan friars arrived in Prague .  Agnes was fascinated.  Their love for Christ, their poverty, their simplicity, their joy – were not these the treasures of a more enduring Kingdom?  The friars told her of the vocation of Lady Clare and her Sisters.  Was not their enclosed life of prayer and penance a fruit of the nuptial love for which the Princess yearned?

Agnes knew that she could give her hand to no earthly king – for the King of heaven had already claimed her heart.  When Emperor Frederick continued to press her, Agnes appealed to the Pope who commended and confirmed her decision to follow Christ in the footsteps of Clare of Assisi.  Faced with papal approbation of the Princess’ plans, the emperor grudgingly assented.

In the spring of 1234, St. Clare sent five nuns from the monastery of Trent to help Agnes and her companions establish the first monastery of the Poor Sisters in Prague .  There Agnes, now the Queen and bride of the King of heaven, lived until her death on March 2, 1282 .  The holiness of the Princess was well known.  But the political unrest which marked her life continued, delaying Agnes’ canonization for centuries. A tradition grew among the people of Prague that when the Princess was canonized, something wonderful would happen.  On November 12, 1989 , Pope John Paul II canonized Agnes in Rome .  Nine days later, her nation’s Communist government resigned and, without violence or bloodshed, freedom was restored.  The Princess had not forgotten her people… and neither had the Divine King. 

 

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