St. Agnes of Bohemia

She lived nearly 700 years ago, but was only canonised in 1989.

This princess from the royal house of the Přemyslids had several opportunities to be married to rulers of great empires, but she chose a life of poverty and humility, following the example of St. Francis and St. Clare. She founded a convent for the Poor Clare’s in Prague, and its Early Gothic architecture still adorns the city today. She used the money set aside for her dowry to found a monastery for the Knights with the Cross with the Red Star, the only religious order to be founded in the Czech lands, which is also unique in that the founder of this male order was a woman. This order, originally a Hospitaller one, had a significant impact on the history of the church, and still exists today.

The letters that St. Clare sent to St. Agnes contain thoughts that we can still ponder on today.

Excerpts from Clare's letters to Saint Agnes of Prague

To the esteemed and most holy virgin, the Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid of the Cloistered Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverent prayer that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness.

Therefore, dearly beloved, may you too always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). And may neither bitterness nor a cloud overwhelm you, O dearly beloved Lady in Christ, joy of the angels and crown of your sisters!

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead itself through contemplation!
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
which God has reserved from the beginning
for those who love Him.
Since you have cast aside all things which, in this deceitful and turbulent world, ensnare their blind lovers, love Him totally Who gave Himself totally for your love. His beauty the sun and moon admire, and of His gifts there is no limit in abundance, preciousness, and magnitude.

What a great laudable exchange:
to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,
to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,
and to possess a blessed and eternal life.

I also beg You in the Lord, as much as I can, to include in Your holy prayers me, Your servant, though unworthy, and the other sisters with me in the monastery, who are all devoted to You, so that by their help we may merit the mercy of Jesus Christ, and together with You may merit to enjoy the everlasting vision.

Farewell in the Lord. And pray for me.

St. Clare of Assisi

According to a prophecy, the canonisation of St. Agnes was supposed to bring freedom to the Czechs. Only few days after her canonisation, on 17 November 1989, the Velvet Revolution did indeed take place, forcing the Communist regime to step down and replacing it by democracy.

Her legacy:
St. Agnes' care for the poor reminds us of spiritual poverty in the sense of the Beatitudes.