Consistent with the musical theme of my posts of yesterday, today we celebrate the feast of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. Here’s the story:
Cecilia was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Cecilia told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification, and was baptised. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favor; the new convert asked that his brother be baptised.
The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.
The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers and musicians.
What a great story! The only problem is that almost all of the details above are a romanticization created in the fifth century. During that period there was great reverence for virginity, both male and female. Myths of the virginal holiness of early saints abounded.
So, what can we say about Saint Cecilia? Was she a virgin? Probably so, but we will never know for sure. What we know for certain are those things that are truly important. Cecilia was a Christian believer living in Rome during the second or third century who suffered persecution for the sake of Christ. When given a choice between recanting her faith in Jesus or death, she willingly gave her life for the faith.
Saint Cecilia, pray for us.