Wednesday 21 January 2009

Feast days and name days - St. Agnes

St. Agnes died about the year 300 AD, at the tender age of thirteen. Like many other Christians during the first centuries in Rome, she was killed for her beliefs. She protects maidens and children, gardeners, engaged couples, chastity and rape victims. She is often, as in the pictures here to the left, depicted with a lamb, an agnus, signifying innocence and purity. The name Agnes, however, has nothing to do with agnus, but is derived from the greek word agnós, meaning chaste.

Today is the feast of Saint Agnes on the Church's Calendar. In the Swedish Calendar, it's also Agnes's Name Day. For each day, in the Swedish calendar, one or two names are being celebrated, these names usually correspond with the feast days of the Saints e.g. Stefan (Swedish version of Stephen) on Dec 26th, Michael on Sept 29th and Tomas (Thomas) on Dec 21st. On their day people named after these saints are usually congratulated and name days are celebrated like birthdays, though on a smaller scale. Some days, like New Years Day and June 24th, the day of John the Baptist, have no names attached to them, and some names, like Tor (October 19th) or Ragnar (October 1st) have name days, but have, of course, no connection to the Catholic Church whatsoever, being rather pagan in nature.

Agnes was a very popular name, in both Sweden and the English speaking world, at the start of the 20th century, and has now, in recent years, again become popular. Among the Agneses of the world we find, apart from the author of this blog-post, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known as Blessed Mother Teresa.

The Name Day Calendar of the Royal Swedish Academy is another link, probably an unconscious one, with Sweden's Catholic past. It is an example of some of the ways that Sweden, although technically a Lutheran Country, has many expressions of Catholicism. In many cases, Swedish National life retains many more of the outward signs of Catholic Civilization than many nominally Catholic Countries.

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