FEast: Nov. 22nd
music, musicians, poets, songbirds
All we can know for sure about Cecilia and the other people mentioned in her story, unfortunately, is that they were early martyrs whose remains were marked in catacombs. Most of the traditional story comes from a later century in which romance stories were very popular and evidence shows that Christian writers were included in this trend.
Regardless, the story of St. Cecilia is an enduring one, and she has become very popular for many centuries.
It is said that Cecilia was born into a wealthy family in Rome. As was the custom of the time, since she was born, Cecilia had been promised to marry a man named Valerian. Cecilia, a Christian, who loved prayer and singing, did not wish to marry and instead wished to live for her faith. Despite this, she was made to proceed with the marriage. At the ceremony, she sang to God in her heart (her husband was a pagan as were most all in attendance and it was still a crime to be a Christian). She also heard heavenly music, a sign to her that this was part of the plan for her. When she and her new husband had left the ceremony, however, she revealed to him that she wished to remain celibate and that there was an angel with her always that guarded her.
Of course outraged at the shock of the revelations from his new wife, Valerian's love for her prompted him to ask only what he could do to understand. Cecilia told him to journey to the third milestone on the busiest Roman road and be baptized. Valerian took these instructions and, miraculously, at the third stop, found Pope Urbanus who baptized him. When he looked to Cecilia, he could finally see the angel that guarded her. The angel then crowned the both of them with flowers, and Valerian's brother also converted not long after. It is said that she loved him dearly after the encounter.
The three of them then began to work tirelessly to bury Christian martyrs who had been put to death and tortured for their faith. It wasn't long before the brothers were arrested and executed as well. Cecilia was busy preaching even after the death of her husband until she herself was arrested.
Her torture was decided - suffocation in the Roman bathhouses. Attendants built huge fires and then locked her inside - and Cecilia is said to have sung for an entire night and day. When they opened the bathhouse the next day, they found her inside, not even sweating. She was then struck with a sword three times in an attempt to decapitate her. Though she bled much, she did not die. The executioner ran in fright, was converted to Christianity, and was martyred also. Christians flocked to the spot to hear her speak and care for her as she preached, still bleeding, for three days until she passed.
In 1599, it was discovered that her body had not decomposed and smelled of flowers.
Concerts and music festivals have traditionally been held on her feast day for hundreds of years.
Your life was full of hard work. You were disbelieved, suffered loss, and had to surround yourself with suffering and death as you gave respect to humanity. However hard, your life was not without beauty. You always had music, both singing, and hearing the angels sing. Bless our lives when they get difficult with beauty and art and music also.
Usually pictured with more traditional instruments, I wanted my St. Cecilia to be an actual rockstar, equipped with guitar and pick. She looks away with a little fear, but mostly confidence as she chooses to live an uncommon life for her time. With the lily from her guardian angel in her hair and "flame-red" eyeshadow representing the fire of the baths, she also has a scarf around her neck to symbolize her final martyrdom from neck wounds.