Memorial of St. Cecilia

Today is the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and musicians. She is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs with her name being recounted in the Litany of the Saints. She is also a saint, for whom her story was passed on in oral narrative and not compiled until the fifth or sixth centuries. But not is not uncommon given the ongoing persecutions of Chrisitians in the last centuries of the Roman Empire.

It is popularly held that Cecilia was a noble woman of Rome, who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier named Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus. The relationship between Cecilia, Valerian, Triburtius and Maximus has some historical foundation. While there is no record of Cecilia in the Depositio Martyrum, there is a record of an early Roman church founded by a Roman noble woman, Cecilia, in the Rome district of Trastevere.

One of the most often told legenda about Cecilia revolves around her wedding and marriage to Valerian. Cecilia had taken a vow of virginity to dedicate herself to the love of God in Jesus. Nonetheless, her parents betrothed her to a pagan nobleman, Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians. When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he forced himself upon her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.

Cecilia was buried in the catacomb of St. Callistus, near Rome. At the beginning of the 9th century, Pope Paschal I discovered her incorrupt (undecayed) relics in the catacomb of St. Praetextatus and had them moved to Rome, to a basilica in Trastevere that now bears her name.

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