SATURDAY, November 22, 1997
Saturday, November 22:
The Feast of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
First Reading: 1 Maccabees 6: 1-13
Psalms: Psalm 9: 2-4, 6, 16, 19
Gospel Reading: Luke 20: 27-40
Born into a Patrician family in Rome and raised a Christian, Saint Cecilia still was afforded all the luxury of a family of wealth in pagan Rome. Though she had disgarded this way of life,l vowing herself to virginity, her father thought otherwise and forced her to marry a young pagan man by the name of Valerian. During the pagan nuptial ceremony songs of merriment and sensuality were played, but Cecilia didn't hear it for her heart was dedicated to God alone and that was her song as the Acts of of St. Cecilia proclaim, "While instruments were playing (at her wedding feast) profane music, Cecilia sang rather to God in her heart." Because of this she has been chosen patron saint of music and musicians. On their wedding night Cecilia disclosed her vow to her new husband and rather than going into a rage, Valerian, who loved her dearly, was converted by a vision of St. Cecilia's guardian angel and forever honored her vow of virginity, not consummating their marriage. He became so enraptured with Christianity that he converted his brother Tiburtius. Both dedicated their lives to carrying for the survivors of loved ones who had been martyred as well as burying the martyrs. Caught by the Roman guards burying the martyrs they were arrested by the prefect Almachius who ordered them to sacrifice to the gods. When they refused both Valerian and Tiburtius were beheaded along with Saint Maximus who was converted on the spot, so impressed by their faith and determination. When Cecilia brought the three bodies back to her villa along the Appian Way to be buried there, she, too, was arrested. The guards tried to suffocate her in her room, but she miraculously survived. When brought before the prefect, Almachius tried to dissuade her from her ideals as he did with her husband, but Cecilia would have nothing to do with the world, the flesh and the devil. He then ordered that she also be decapitated, but the executioner bungled the job and Cecilia was not killed instantly, but rather lingered in pain for three days before expiring around September 16, 235. Dates vary among historians, some placing it as early as 230, others 250 but research shows Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus died during the end of the reign of the Roman Emperor Alexander who ruled between 222 and 235. Therefore the most accurate date would be 235. Commemoration of St. Cecilia began in the 600's after they discovered facts about her inscribed on the walls of the catacomb of Saint Callistus. Pope Paschal I dedicated the basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome in 824 where he transfered her relics and commissioned a mosaic depicting Cecilia standing between Valerian and Tiburtius.