ST. CECILIA OF ROME

200 — 230
Feast Day November 22
Patron Saint of musicians, poets and hymns

 

Born in Rome, Italy, Cecilia came from an extremely wealthy family and was given in marriage to a young pagan nobleman named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, fasted, and invoked the angels and saints beseeching them to guard her virginity.

During her wedding ceremony, as the musicians played she "sang in her heart to the Lord." When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, she told her husband she had taken a vow of virginity and that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her. Valerian asked to see the angel as proof, and Cecilia told him he would have eyes to see once he traveled to the third milestone on the Via Appia (Appian Way) and be baptized.

Following his baptism by Pope Urbanus, Valerian returned to his wife and found an angel at her side. When Valerian's brother, Tibertius, heard of the angel and his brother's baptism, he also was baptized and together the brothers dedicated their lives to burying the saints who were murdered each day by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius. 

As her husband and brother-in-law buried the dead, Cecilia spent her time preaching and was able to convert hundreds of people, most of whom were baptized by Pope Urban. 

Her husband and brother-in-law were eventually arrested and brought before the prefect where they were executed after they refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods. Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were heaped up and stoked to a terrifying heat - but Cecilia did not even sweat.

When Almachius heard this, he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the baths. The executioner struck her three times but was unable to decapitate her so he left her bleeding and she lived for three days. Crowds came to her and collected her blood while she preached to them or prayed. On the third day she died and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons. She was 30 years old.

Officials exhumed her body in 1599 and found her to be incorrupt. She was draped in a silk veil and wore a gold embroidered dress. Officials only looked through the veil in an act of holy reverence and made no further examinations. They also reported a "mysterious and delightful flower-like odor which proceeded from the coffin."

Cecilia is one of seven women, in addition to the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.