St. Agnes’ Prayer

mosaic of St. Agnes in the crypt of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a church in its basement that I much prefer to the glorious, vaulted, cathedral-like main church. It doesn’t hurt that one of the most beautiful masses I ever attended was there.

Around the crypt church’s main altar are a number of side altars, each dedicated to an early Roman martyr who is depicted in a mosaic along with a Latin verse. Many of them, perhaps all, appear in the proper texts of the Liturgy of the Hours on the saint’s feastday. When I first visited a quarter century back or so, I went around and read them and found most of them inspiring.

St. Agnes’ prayer is by far my favorite:

Ecce, venio ad te
quem amavi, quem quæsivi,
quem semper optavi.

I come to you whom I have loved, whom I have sought,
whom I have always desired.

Quickly, and quite naturally, it became a prayer that I speak quietly whenever I rise from the pew to approach Our Lord in the Eucharist.

Over the last year, however, it occurred to me that a change in person seems to suit the moment better:

Ecce, venio ad te
qui me amavisti, qui me quæsivisti,
qui me semper optavisti.

I come to you who have loved me, who have sought me,
who have always desired me.

This rephrasing helps remind me how this relationship really works, and what a miserable state I, agnus, a lamb, can get myself into, when I wander far from Him, pastor bonus, the Good Shepherd.