Cecilia, also known as Cecily, was born in Rome and educated in the teachings and perfect practice of Catholicism. In her youth she made a vow of virginity to God. However, she was forced by her parents to marry a noble pagan youth named Valerianus. Refusing to forgo her vow, she convinced her new husband to respect her virginity, and eventually also won him over to Christianity.
Later, his brother Tiburtius was converted to the faith and both brothers practiced it with great zeal. Consequently, the prefect Turcius Almachius condemned them to death. Their executioner Maximus, however, himself was converted and suffered martyrdom along with the two brothers. Their remains were buried in one tomb by Cecilia.
At this point Cecilia came under the eye of the prefect and was soon sought by his officers. Before being taken prisoner, she made arrangements to have her house converted into a place of worship for the Roman Church. After a glorious profession of faith, she was condemned to be suffocated in her bath. Miraculously, this failed to harm Cecilia, so a soldier was assigned to behead her. Striking the neck of Cecilia three times without completely decapitating her, the soldier fled, leaving the virgin soaked in blood. She lived for three more days, during which time she was able to make dispositions for the poor. She was buried in the Catacombs of Callistus among the bishops and confessors who were martyred for the faith.
St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. Many medieval pictures of Cecilia show her either holding a crown of martyrdom in her hand or playing the organ. While musicians played at her wedding, Cecilia sang in her heart to God. When the Academy of Music was founded at Rome in 1584, Cecilia was made patroness of the institute, whereupon her veneration as patroness of church music in general became more universal. Today, Cecilian societies (musical associations) exist everywhere, and the organ has become the primary attribute depicted in Cecilian art.
“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Praise the Lord with the lyre,
Make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song,
Play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”
— Psalm 33:1–3
What is my song of praise to the Lord today?
St. Cecilia, pray for us that we make music in our hearts to God and manifest our love for Him in our daily deeds. In the holy name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
image: Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons