Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 33)

In the Roman Canon, after St. Agnes we find St. Cecilia.

St. Cecilia, from her earliest childhood, had wholly dedicated herself to the service of God by the vow of chastity.  “She carried the Gospel always in her heart and never ceased by day or by night, praying and conversing on holy subjects.”  By the command of her parents, she was urged to marry a wealthy and distinguished young man named Valerian, but he was a heathen.  She consented only after receiving the assurance, through her guardian angel, that God would preserve her virginity, even after her marriage.  By prayer and penance Cecilia prepared for this worldly nuptial day, and when at the banquet the nuptial hymn was sung amidst the sound of musical instruments, Cecilia secretly sang in her heart to the Lord alone the hymn: “Keep Thou my heart and my body immaculate, that I may not be confounded!”  And her heavenly Bridegroom sent an angel to her, who watched over the purity of her heart and body.

“Like unto the wise and busy bee, Cecilia served the Lord,” and gained many souls to Him.  The first among them were her husband, Valerian, and his brother, Tiburtius, who soon after obtained the crown of martyrdom.  On this account, the pagan prefect of the city, Almachius, delivered her up to be suffocated in her own palace. She was confined in a chamber and “the oven was heated seven times more than usual,” but, like the youths of Babylon, she praised the Lord in the midst of the flames.  The angel converted the scorching steam into a refreshing dew for her; “the fire had no power over her body, and not a hair of her head was singed, nor were her garments injured, nor had the smell of the fire reached her.” Upon this the tyrant sent the executioner to her, who struck her thrice without severing her head.  For three days she continued to live.

The faithful hastened to the palace. She gave to all consolation and counsel.  She ordered that her house should perpetually serve as a church, and then breathed forth her angelic soul.  She was laid in a coffin of cypress wood, and was interred in the Catacombs of St. Callistus.

In the year 821, her holy body was, in a celestial vision, discovered by Paschal I, who placed it under the high altar in the Cecihian Church in Trastevere.  Almost eight hundred years later (namely in 1599) the holy martyr still in precisely the same posture in which she lay there on the floor of her house.  Thus she still reposes, sweet and modest, enveloped in her rich attire, and in a penitential garment, on which the glorious traces of her blood are visible.  She probably died in the year 177; her feast is celebrated on November 22. St. Cecilia is honored as the patroness of Church music, as she herself was versed in music, and is said frequently to have heard celestial melodies.

St.Cecilia, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt