Have you heard of the Eve of St. Agnes?
Not the poem by Keats, but the tradition of asking St. Agnes for assistance in finding a spouse. It developed in the Middle Ages because Agnes is the patroness of virgins, chastity, girls, and engaged couples.
It’s kind of ironic to be asking Agnes for help in finding a husband. If you know the story of St Agnes, you know she had consecrated herself to God and was martyred for refusing to marry the son of a Roman official…. Then again, it kinda makes sense to ask her for her assistance… she certainly held her ground and kept high standards!
I’ve read lots of different articles about this little tradition. The details of what to do diverge with each source, but I’ve done my best to compile them for you here.
To Get a Husband You Must…
- Fast all day — not eating a single thing…
- Don’t let anyone kiss you, and don’t kiss anyone yourself — not even your mom, dad, or siblings.
- Make a salty Dumb Cake or a boiled egg (which has had its yolk replaced with salt) and eat it right before bed. (I guess this symbolizes your thirst for love?)
- Put clean sheets on the bed and clean pajamas on yourself. St. Agnes was so pure she apparently hates dirty things.
- Before going to bed, take a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme and sprinkle them with holy water (or urine?!?)
- Put the rosemary in one shoe and the thyme in the other
- Place the shoes on the floor on opposite sides of your mattress.
- Walk backwards to the bed (without looking behind you) when you are going to sleep for the night. (You may need to eat the cake or the egg as you do this… some sources cite this as being a necessity)
- Before falling asleep say, “St Agnes, that’s to lovers kind, Come ease the trouble of my mind…” or, ” Now good St. Agnes, play thy part / And sent to me my own sweetheart / And shew me such a happy bliss / This night of him to have a kiss.”
- Fall asleep as quick as you can, either on your back or with both hands under your head.
- He will visit you in your dreams, bringing you water and a kiss to quench your thirst. Based on how he was dressed, you were supposed to be able to determine his trade… I guess making him easier to find…
- If you have this dream, you can’t tell anyone for ten days… some say you will meet your spouse during that time
Now, if you’re Scottish, throw those instructions out the window. Instead, meet up with all your Scottish girlfriends in an empty crop field during the middle of the night, throw grain onto the soil, and pray:
“Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
Hither, hither, now repair;
Bonny Agnes, let me see
The lad who is to marry me.”
I have found no documentation to support this endeavor ever actually worked for anyone. And while we can read this and find it comical, some people (myself included in this at one point) can completely relate to the “desperation”However, the lengths to which these girls were willing to go illuminates a serious truth about the human heart.
We Were Made to Love and be Loved
“It is not good for man to be alone…” – Genesis 2:18
Let me repeat: it is not good for man — or woman — to be alone. It was God who said so. It was God who made it so. He made us so that it is Love that completes us.
And yes, ultimately, the Love that completes us is God Himself. God is Love after all. But it is in interacting with one another, in loving one another that we are drawn deeper into both understanding God, as well as the depths of His mystery.
This is why God said, “it is not good for man to be alone…”. Loving others helps us to know more about God. It also helps us to be more like Him – to better bear his image. That helps to make us feel ‘complete.’
Pet Peeve + Heartache
I kind of hate talks/book/articles about embracing life as a single man or woman. For the average single person, it’s a little like pouring salt on an open wound. I’m not saying these things they don’t contain any truth or wisdom. They do! However, in my experience and observation of others, they often leave an individual feeling as though they wouldn’t be hurting from their loneliness if they were only doing “a, b, and c,” and that simply isn’t true. Sometimes — no matter what you do — being single makes your heart ache.
One of the things I’m most grateful for in my marriage is the absence of that agony. I no longer question if “he” is out there. I do not wonder if I’m lovable or if I’m attractive. I see him everyday. And everyday he tells me he loves me. And everyday I hold a bundle of squirrely energy that has her daddy’s eyes; her very existence proves someone finds me attractive. Those nagging questions in the back of my mind have disappeared.
Still, their memory remains, and the pain swells up every time I speak to a single friend about their loneliness. What can be done or said to ease their pain? Sometimes I wonder if this is how Our Lady felt when she was at the Wedding Feast at Cana. She couldn’t do anything of her own accord to help, so she turned to the One who could…
Fasting can be done for two different reasons: to atone for sins (gaining mastery over our appetites in the process), or in support another person going through a difficult time. In this second way, fasting helps unite our prayers with those of Christ, who willingly suffered and died for us. Likewise through fasting, we willing choose to suffer in order that someone else might receive extra grace.
It’s a unique way of expressing our humility. It’s as if we’re saying to God, “I truly can’t do anything about this… but you can. And I am relying on you, not myself, not anything else in the world, to help rectify this situation.”
Y’all know I’m often inspired by Leslie Knope. Though she’s fictional, she really has helped me to be a more vibrant Catholic. So it should come as no surprise that she has once again inspired me by her loving heart and creative brain.
Year after year, Leslie spends the day before Valentine’s Day celebrating all her girlfriends and lavishing them with ridiculously thoughtful gifts. She refers to it as ‘Galentine’s Day’ and passionately believes it should be a national holiday.
Not surprisingly, since the airing of the first Galentine’s Day episode, fans have adopted this custom among their own female tribe (Don’t believe me? #galentinesday). I have to admit, if I lived closer to my sisters and friends, I would probably be one of those fans…
Actually, I am one of those fans, because I do have one little surprise planned from afar. But more importantly, I also plan to spend the day fasting –turning to the One who can actually do something– for everyone who will be blatantly reminded of their singleness the very next day. And I hope some of you might join me!