Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions.
She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.
It is on this occasion that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There, he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Information courtesy of Fisheaters.com. Image courtesy of Teresa Satola.)
The “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”) is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax taken from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome.
This practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps now is a good time to revive it.