Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Agnellus, Confessor

Saint Agnellus of NaplesArticle

Saint Agnellus was granted to noble parents at Naples through the special intercession of the Blessed Virgin. When Johanna, his mother, greatly distressed at her barrenness, was praying before an image of the Blessed Virgin, she distinctly heard these words proceed from the image: “Johanna, thy prayer is heard; you shalt give birth to a son, who will be very dear to me.” This promise was fulfilled, and Johanna gave to her son the name of Agnellus. Fifty days after his birth, the following miracle took place: The child was held up to an image of the Blessed Virgin, and looking at it, he said in the presence of a great many persons: “Ave Maria:” this is, “Hail Mary,” as if to signify that as he had been born by the intercession of Mary, he would spend his life in her service. After having uttered these words, he spoke not again until the usual time for children to do so. When his reason began to dawn, it was seen how justly the name of Agnellus, which means a little lamb, had been given to him; for he was ever patient and gentle, obedient to his parents, and to those above him, polite and kind to every one; he never complained or excused himself, was free from deceit; far from all falsehood; always honest and true; in one word, he was an innocent lamb. While growing up, he made so much progress in learning and virtue, that his relatives built great hopes upon him for the honor of their ancient name. By the early death of his parents, he inherited a considerable estate, but did not give his heart to it, and endeavored to use it for the welfare of his neighbors. He built a large hospital not far from the church, in which he had been promised to his mother by the Blessed Virgin. When this was quite finished and fitted up, he himself frequently carried weak, infirm, needy, helpless and sick persons into it. To wait on these he employed servants and nurses, all of whom he paid liberally, in order that they might be more willing in the fulfillment of their duties. The same he did with the physicians and the druggists, of whom he chose the best. He himself was most willing to serve the sick, as well by day as by night. He handed them their food, gave them their medi- cines, bandaged their wounds, and, in one word, waited on them as a father on his sick children. Besides this, he animated them to be patient and to receive devoutly the holy Sacraments. The Almighty blessed the charity of this holy man by many miraculous cures on patients who had been pronounced incurable. Those who placed obstacles in the way of the Saint’s good works, were visited with divine punishment.

The Saint had a pious old servant, named Anna, whose principal business was to procure and to take care of the fowls, that were needed for the sick. One day, when the fowls had strayed away, they were taken and consumed by relatives of the Saint, who derided him for the care he took of the sick. Saint Agnellus knew this by divine revelation, and sending the good servant, he requested his relatives to make restitution. The good woman received nothing but abuse and invectives. Not much better treated was the Saint himself, when, representing their fault to them, with great gentleness, he exhorted them to atone for it. As they denied the deed, and were thus adding the sin of lying to that of theft, he reminded them that nothing was hidden from God, and told them that God had sent him to exhort them, and to threaten them with the divine wrath in case they despised his words. This admonition enraged one of them to such a degree, that, calling the Saint a liar, he gave him a violent blow which broke one of his teeth. The mild and patient servant of God bore the pain and the injury with wonderful gentleness, saying that he forgave them with his whole heart, but that he feared the Almighty would not leave unpunished the wrong which they had done to Him in the person of His servant. Hardly had these words passed his lips, when the wicked man who had struck the Saint, found that his arm was withered, while at the same time he became entirely blind. The bodies of the others who participated in the theft were immediately marked in a wonderful way with feathers. If this seems incredible to you, know that the entire city of Naples saw this miracle and attested it, and that God justly punished by mockery the mockers of His Saints. So visible a miracle, wrought to punish them, opened their eyes; they confessed the theft and asked Saint Agnellus’ pardon. He advised them to go to confession and to repair the theft. When this had been done, he, at their request, prayed that God would take the marks of their opprobrium from them. God heard his prayer for all except him who had struck the blow; for although the use of his arm was restored to him, he remained blind as long as he lived. So miraculous an event caused Saint Agnellus to be much more highly esteemed by the inhabitants of Naples than before; so that in all important affairs of the city, the people had recourse to his prayers, which they deemed very powerful with the Almighty. They were not mistaken; for, it is well known that Saint Agnellus, with the sign of the Cross, drove away an enemy who marched against the city or was already encamped before the walls. It is also known that, after his death, he was seen in the air, with a crucifix in his hand, keeping the enemy from besieging the town. Many sick persons were cured by the prayers of the Saint, or by his making the sign of the holy Cross on them. When the servant of God perceived that he was disturbed in his prayers and devout exercises by the crowd of people who constantly sought his help, he, one night, left the town secretly, as the hospital he had built no longer needed his presence. Retiring to a forest, he remained there for some time, occupied in prayer, devout reading, and other pious exercises; his nourishment being roots and herbs, until God made it known to him, that he should return to the city and take care of those whom heaven would send him. Agnellus obeyed the voice of the Lord and returned to the city, where he found a great many priests, who, on account of the persecution of the Vandals, had fled from Africa to Naples. No sooner had they become acquainted with Saint Agnellus, so famous for his virtue and holiness, than they humbly requested him to become their Abbot. Agnellus, already assured of the divine Will, consented to their request and became their superior. He exercised this function with unwearied zeal until his death, which took place in his 61st year, in the year of our Lord 676. Besides the other excellent qualities of the holy mans mind and heart, the fact deserves especial admiration, that although he suffered much hardship from persecution and other wrongs done him while he was erecting the hospital, and on other occasions, he never manifested the slightest despondency or sadness, but was always generous, unwearied and cheerful. It was remarked, however, that this was the fruit of his prayers; for as soon as he had to suffer, from whatever cause it might be, he sought aid and strength from the Almighty in prayer.

Practical Considerations

Saint Agnellus was neither faint-hearted nor sad while in trouble, or while suffering persecution; but was always strong, cheerful and hopeful. In like manner, Saint Flavian was not seen cast down by the most dreadful persecutions and ignominies that he had to suffer; he too was always cheerful. This was the effect of prayer, to which both were devoted. The Apostle Saint James says: “Is any of you sad? let him pray.” (James 5) Most people, when sad or suffering, leave off praying; they feel as if they could not pray; and yet they never needed it more than just at that time. The evil one disgusts them with prayer at such moments; for he knows the power and necessity of prayer in sadness; hence he endeavors to keep us from it as long as possible. He is used to fishing in troubled waters; and besides keeping those who are sad from doing good, he influences them to sin, especially to murmur against God, to complain of Him; nay, he even brings them sometimes to despair: “For sadness has killed many,” says the Wise Man, “and there is no profit in it.” (Eccl. 30) In truth, we have no profit in sadness unless it be that we are sad on account of our sins, as Saint Chrysostom teaches. For by such sadness, the loss that we have sustained by sin may be repaired. But even this sadness ought to be moderate, that it may not make us faint-hearted, or bring us to despair. Follow the advice of the Wise Man, who says: “Give not up thy heart to sadness, but drive it from thee.” (Eccles. 38) If you perceive that on account of misfortune or persecution, or sickness, or poverty, or any other trial, your heart becomes sad, think of the example your dear suffering Saviour gave you, and follow it. On Mount Olivet, He was overtaken by such deep sadness that He Himself said: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.” (Mark 14) But what did he do? The gospel tells us that He went to pray and continued in prayer, and returned a second and a third time to His prayer. And what happened at the third time? His heavenly Father sent Him an angel, who comforted and strengthened Him; and encouraged him so greatly for His approaching passion, that He went fearlessly to meet His enemies who came to take Him prisoner. This beautiful, animating example your Saviour gave you that you might learn what to do when you are sad, or when you feel that sadness approaches you. Immediately have recourse to prayer, and give not way to any disgust of prayer, but force yourself to it and continue not only longer than usual, but repeat it also with great confidence. God, although He sends you no visible angel to strengthen and comfort you, will fill you with the consolation you need. “Is any of you sad? let him pray.” (James 5)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Agnellus, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>