St. Cecilia

“Saint of Music” d. 230 Feast: November 22 Patronage: Music, church music, musicians, composers, instrument makers, poets

RECOLLECTION St. Cecilia is one of the most venerated martyrs of the early Church and her popularity is still strong today. The details of her life are few but the acts of her martyrdom record that she was a cradle Catholic from a wealthy senatorial family in Rome. As a young woman, an advantageous marriage was arranged for her with a pagan nobleman named, Valerian. During the wedding Cecilia heard holy music, and she “sang in her heart to the Lord.” After the wedding she informed her new husband that she had consecrated her virginity to God, and that an angel guarded her. That would have been a surprise! Valerian made the natural request to see the angel. Cecilia told him he would be able to see the angel if he went to meet Pope Urbanus on the Via Appia. Valerian did so and was moved by the Holy Spirit to be baptized. When he returned to his bride, the angel appeared to the couple and crowned them with coronets of roses and lilies, which signified their mutual love and purity.

Valerian took to the faith most sincerely, and his brother decided to convert as well. They became zealous in living their Christian faith by serving the poor and burying the Christian dead. This was during the punitive reign of Emperor Severus (read Perpetua and Felicity, March 7) and being Christian was punishable by death. One night the brothers were discovered doing their good works and received the ultimate sentence. A soldier named Maximus was so moved by how courageously the brothers faced martyrdom that he chose to convert on the spot and died with them.

It was only a matter of time before the Roman soldiers sought out Cecilia. After arriving at Cecilia’s house, they condemned her for being Christian and attempted to suffocate her inside the Roman bath in her own home (it would have been like a sauna). Cecilia was protected by God and remained unharmed. After the soldiers discovered that she was still alive, a swordsman was instructed to finish her. The executioner made three unsuccessful attempts to behead Cecilia, leaving her partially severed head attached to her body. The soldiers were too cruel to give her a clean death and left Cecilia to die in agony. During her suffering over the next three days Cecilia arranged for her wealth to be distributed amongst the poor and for her home to be used as a church so that her persecuted brothers and sisters could celebrate Mass.

Cecilia died holding up three fingers in honor of the Trinity who she loved to the point of losing her very life.

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