The Catholic Defender: The St. Cecilia Story
The Roman world in 230 A.D. was far from safe for the Christian population that had been for the most part underground throughout the Roman Empire. Burying the dead was officially against Roman Law and those caught would themselves be executed.
About 177 A.D., a baby girl was Baptized into the Catholic Faith. Her name given was Cecilia who was raised in a Christian home who developed a love for the Mass and the Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother.
From an early age she made a vow to virginity to honor the Lord, her first love. Cecilia would make sacrifice serving God through fasting, wearing sackcloth next to her skin, she had great devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Saints, angels, especially the virgin and martyrs for the faith.
The Parents of Cecilia living in a Roman world found it difficult having to give their Christian Daughter to a Noble Roman who was raised Pagan. Their money could not be dependable to maintain their freedom so they lived in trying times for the faithful.
Valerian's marriage to Cecilia was unique in that he was aware of Cecilia's commitment to virginity. Cecilia before the marriage celebration told Valerian that she would be protected by her Guardian Angel to help her keep her vow. That being her will, during the marriage ceremony, Cecilia sang praise to God that came from her heart.
Valerian, kind of like St. Joseph who needed some help believing The Virgin Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit, wanted proof of Cecilia's angel. Cecilia told him that once Valerian traveled down the Appian Way to the third milestone he would find Pope Urbanus and be baptized by him there.
Upon his return, he found an angel, bright as light, by her side. Cecilia received from the angel a crown of roses and a lily that would be a sign of her martyrdom. Valerian's brother, Tibertius, upon learning of the angel also was baptized into the Catholic faith.
The two brothers dedicated themselves to burying the Christian Martyrs who were being killed daily by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius.
Eventually, both brothers were captured and brought before Almachius who commanded for them to worship the Pagan gods of Rome which both refused.
As Almachius ordered for their execution, Cecilia preached the Catholic faith converting more than 400 people who were mostly baptized by Pope Urban.
Cecilia herself soon was captured, arrested, and condemned to death. Because of her success in converting people, Almachus intended to suffocate Cecilia in the public baths locking her up one day and one night heaping fires stoking up tremendous heat. Cecilia's angel protected her through this time so that she did not even sweat.
Almachius was furious when he learned that Cecilia was still doing well, it only took him about 15 minutes to arrive to find she was fine. Almachius ordered two Soldiers to take a sword and cut off her head, Upon coming to her, stunned, they found that Cecilia already parted her hair and placed her head down on a block.
The Soldiers came to respect greatly the bravery of this amazing woman of faith. He took the sword and struck her neck three times but failed to sever Cecilia's head so she was left to bleed to death. People gathered finding that Cecilia did not die for three days, but she continued to preach and pray for others.
On the third day, St. Cecilia died laying on her right side with her hands crossed in prayer, on her right hand her three fingers extended to represent the Trinity and on her left hand one finger extended representing one God. Cecilia was buried in the catacomb of St. Callistus, near Rome.
At the beginning of the 9th century, Pope Paschal I discovered her incorrupt body in the catacomb of St. Praetextatus and had them moved to Rome, to a basilica in Trastevere that now bears her name.
In 1599, Officials exhumed her body still incorrupt. Cecilia was draped in a silk veil and wore a gold embroidered dress and it was universally held by those present that there was a "mysterious and delightful flower- like odor which filled the room." Pope Gregory XIV rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia.
Saint Cecilia is remembered as the patron of musicians, poems, musical compositions, art, and and festivals.
O glorious saint, who chose to die instead of denying your King, we pray you please to help us as His fair praise we sing. We lift our hearts in joyous song to honor Him this way. And while we sing, remembering, to sing is to doubly pray. At once in our hearts and in our tongues we offer double prayer sent heavenward on winged notes to praise God dwelling there. While in our hearts and tongues we try with song to praise God twice, we ask dear saint, to help us be united close to Christ!