Virgin and Martyr (c.250-)
Saint of the day November 22
St Cecilia was born a patrician in Rome, towards the close of the 2nd Century, while Alexander Severus was the reigning Emperor, but was brought up a Christian. From her early age, she had determined to remain single for the love of God; she used to fast and perform all kinds of penance and charitable works. But her parents had other designs for her and so gave her in marriage to a young patrician named Valerian.
In the evening of her wedding day, with the music of the marriage hymn still ringing in her ears, Cecilia renewed her vow of virginity to God. On retiring to the bridal chamber, Cecilia plucked up courage and said to her bridegroom: “I have a secret to share with you I have an angel of God watching over me. If you touch me in the way of marriage, he will be angry and you will suffer; and if you respect my maidenhood he will love you as he loves me.”
Valerian, a nobleman, agreed to comply if Cecilia would but show him this angel. “If you believe in the one living and true God and receive the water of baptism, then you will see the angel,” was Cecilia’s reply. Valerian consenteti and she sent him to find Bishop Urban, who baptized him. When he returned to Cecilia with the news, he found her to his dismay conversing with an angel. The angel approached him and laid upon the head of each a chaplet of roses and lilies. Valerian was so moved that within a few days he and his brother, Tiburtius, who had been brought by him to the knowledge of the Faith, sealed their confession with their martyrdom they were beheaded by Almachim, the Prefect.
Cecilia had their bodies buried and then when she in turn was called on to repudiate her faith, her answer to the threats of the Prefect was, “Do you not know that I am the bride of my Lord Jesus Christ?” Though sentenced to death by suffocation, she remained alive a day and a night even immersed in boiling water! Emerging unscathed, she was then struck with an axe in the head and breast. She lay bleeding for three days, praying and exhorting all who visited her, and at last expired, singing God’s praises. She is also, according to legend, reported to have sung on the day of her scheduled marriage, seeking God’s aid in her hour of trouble and is therefore venerated as the patroness of sacred music.