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For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, Third Century
Much of the knowledge about Cecilia is based on tradition. We do know, however, that a strong devotion to Saint Cecilia began toward the end of the fifth century.
Cecilia (or Cecily) was born in Rome, the daughter of patrician parents, and was raised as a Christian. When of a suitable age, she was married against her will to Valerian. After their marriage, she converted Valerian and his brother, Tiburtius, to Christianity. Valerian and Tiburtius devoted themselves to good works until they were arrested by the Roman prefect, Almachius. They were martyred, together with Maximus, a Roman official, who had been so impressed by their witness to Christ that he too became a Christian. These three martyrs are also saints.
Cecilia buried the three and was, in turn, arrested and called upon to renounce her faith. Instead she converted the people who came to convince her to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Pope Urban visited her in her home while she was awaiting trial and baptized more than four hundred of the converts who were influenced by Cecilia.
When Cecilia was called into court, Almachius tried to convince her to give up her beliefs. Unable to shake her faith, he sentenced her to death by suffocation. When her death in this manner was miraculously prevented, a soldier was sent to behead her. The soldier struck her neck three times then left her for dead.
Legend tells us that Cecilia lived for three days following her beheading and, in that time, turned her house over to the pope to be used as a church. Gordian, a high-ranking Roman official who was one of Cecilia’s converts, established the church in her house which Pope Urban later dedicated in her name.
Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians and singers and is often portrayed with an organ or viola. A memorial celebrates the life of this saint on November 22.
Cecilia's message today: Only a very strong faith could withstand the pressures and threats that faced Cecilia and the martyrs of her time. Instead of caving in to those pressures, Cecilia, her husband, and brother-in-law brought more converts into the Church. By word and by example, we too can both strengthen our faith and bring others to Christ.