Agnes… lambs… Popes…. nuns… pallia

The Holy Father blessed lambs today, the feast of St. Agnes, as usual.

The lambs are associated with Agnes, because of the Latin similarity of their names, Agnes and agnus.  Get it?

Those sisters in the background are Benedictine nuns from the convent at St. Cecilia in Trastevere.  When I first lived in Rome, I would go there everyday, into the cloister, and serve Mass for the rector of the basilica.  I got to know them a bit.

In the morning the rather heavily drugged lambs are, tied down on a small litter, decorated with flowers, and brought to the Basilica of St. Agnes out on the Via Nomentana, where Mass is said.  You are thereby entertained by their bleating…. better than the Sistine Choir, actually.

Now that I think of it….it’s a good thing they don’t mix that agnus thing up with angus. That would make the litter harder to carry!  (Where is Vincenzo when you need him?)

Then they are taken to the Pope.

Then they are taken to St. Cecilia’s.

Later they will be shorn and, traditionally, their wool is used for the pallia distributed to new archbishops on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  Of course there are so many archbishops these days that they would need a whole flock of lambs.

Then they are taken out to a beautiful farm, Timmy, where they can play with other lambs.

Well… honestly… I am not sure about the fate of the lambs. 

But I do know that Romans are neither overly sentimental about critters nor are they sparing in their appreciation of abbacchio scottaditto.

"But Father! But Father!", the fluffly lamb-lovers will blurt, as they recoil in horror from the screen.  "Would you… would you….?!?  You’re baaaaahd!"

I would.  When I see lambs, I think "Supper and sweater."

And for the record, in June the new archbishops get the better design of the pallium.   Just in case the Pope was going to ask.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. shin says:

    I’d like to see some ‘Agnus Dei’s blessed, personally, too. Lambs are good, yes. :)

  2. lacrossecath says:

    Haha! Father you crack me up.

  3. EnoughRope says:

    I made a burger last night that was half lamb and half veal… put some l,t,o and goat cheese on top- DELICIOUS!

  4. Agnes says:

    In honor of the feast:

    Mary had a little lamb,
    She had him with mint jelly,
    And everywhere that Mary went,
    The lamb was in her belly.

    I got shepherded by my archbishop today! St. Agnes enjoyed the company of Archbishop Neinstedt this morning at the all-school Mass. From my vantage point with a flailing toddler in the vestibule, it was excellent!


  5. Agnes says:

    (it was truly “active” participation!)

  6. Magpie says:

    For the lamb-loving animal rights people, I say there is no higher compliment to anyone or anything than to eat it. Hence I love fluffy rabbits in a springtime grassy field, but I also like to eat them when I get an opportunity. Likewise for lambs.

  7. Choirmaster says:

    Father Z, you are incredibly hilarious!

    My basic rule of thumb: The cuter, cuddlier, and softer the animal, the better it tastes!

    To wit:

    Duck vs. Chicken
    Lamb vs. Cow
    Rabbit vs. Raccoon

    …I rest my case!

  8. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z: better than the Sistine Choir, actually

    LOL! But I always thought that bleating lambs had a more Melkite than Gregorian sound to their chant.

    When I was young I received a sweater made by a distant cousin whose sheep had been blessed by the local curé. I always wondered whether I was actually wearing a blessed sweater. Or whether the blessing inhered only in the wool while it was still attached to its owner. Or evaporated before the poor beast became a succulent gigot. Such ruminations sparked my life-long fascination with the ram-ifications of things theological. Thus I wool admit I am udderly taken abaaaaak that your interest is merely sartorial and culinary. I don’t know wether you are serious and I shouldn’t give a dam. But as my fodder always said, ewe mutton be surprised at anything these days.

  9. Roland de Chanson says:

    Magpie: For the lamb-loving animal rights people, I say there is no higher compliment to anyone or anything than to eat it

    Interesting double-entendre. BTW, have you actually eaten animal-rights people?


    As a lover of Szechuan cuisine, I agree. To wit: shih-tsu vs. dachshund. To wit!

  10. TJerome says:

    When they say “Is the Pope Catholic?” I’ll can truly say YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Tom

    ps: Is that Sister Chittester in the photo?

  11. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I am certain, padre, that said lambs would be put out to pasture. Their milk would be used to make pecorino romano for the Papal table, of course. ;=)

  12. RichardT says:

    A few years ago I went to the annual service of the Butchers’ Livery Company (i.e. guild) in London.

    They led a few sheep up the aisle to be blessed – but they certainly weren’t drugged! They seemed to have ancestral memories of what happens to lambs on altars, and left some very obvious signs of their nervousness which had to be swept up.

    And yes, spit-roasted lamb outside afterwards.

  13. SidMJr says:

    These lambs will be the Easter lunch and dinner of the sisters who make the pallia…

  14. wanda says:

    OK. I have to ask, in Fr. Z.’s picture, what exactly is on that pallet that the two men are holding? It isn’t lambs, surely. Have pity on my lack of knowledge. Thank you.

  15. irishgirl says:

    It’s actually a basket, not a pallet. It just looks like a pallet from the way the camera is pointed.

    All in all, they look kind of cute!

    RichR-your ‘angus’ is hilarious…and kind of drugged, too! Almost Vincenzo-like!

  16. cl00bie says:

    Do they bless bears on the feast of St. Ursula? :)

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