Saint Cecilia’s Story
Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honor being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545.
According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence, Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.
Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.
Like any good Christian, Cecilia sang in her heart, and sometimes with her voice. She has become a symbol of the Church’s conviction that good music is an integral part of the liturgy, of greater value to the Church than any other art.
Saint Cecilia is the Patron Saint of:
Basilica of St. Cecilia in Rome
Ordinary Time: November 22nd
Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr
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Old Calendar: St. Cecilia
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr. St. Cecilia is one of the most famous and most venerated of Roman martyrs. Her body was discovered in 822 and transferred to the title church that bears her name in Trastevere in Rome. It is difficult to determine the date at which she lived. The legend which recounts the Saint’s martyrdom and that of her husband St. Valerian, as also of St. Tiburtius, her brother-in-law, places her martyrdom in the pontificate of Urban I (222-230); but the authenticity of this account cannot be established, nor can we be sure of the persons who suffered with her nor of the date of her martyrdom.
Cecilia was so highly venerated by the ancient Roman Church that her name was placed in the Canon of the Mass. Already in the fourth century there was a church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, erected on the site where her home had stood. Her martyrdom probably occurred during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus, about the year 230. In 1599 her grave was opened and her body found in a coffin of cypress wood. It lay incorrupt, as if she had just breathed forth her soul. Stephen Maderna, who often saw the body, chiseled a statue that resembled the body as closely as possible. Since the Middle Ages, Cecilia has been honored as patroness of Church music, a practice having its source in a false application of a passage from the Office (cantantibus organis).
Apart from the fact of her martyrdom, we know practically nothing about her that is historically genuine. Among other details the breviary offers the following:
Cecilia led a life of prayer and meditation and had vowed lifelong virginity, but a youth by the name of Valerian, relying upon the approval of her parents, hoped to marry her. When the wedding night arrived, she confided to Valerian, “There is a secret, Valerian, I wish to tell you. I have as a lover an angel of God who jealously guards my body.” Valerian promised to believe in Christ if he would be enabled to see that angel. Cecilia explained how such was impossible without baptism, and Valerian consented to be baptized. After he was baptized by Pope Urban and had returned “He found Cecilia in her little room lost in prayer, and next to her the angel of the Lord was standing. When Valerian saw the angel, he was seized with great terror.” The angel handed to them a bouquet of fiery red roses and snow-white lilies as a reward for Cecilia’s love of chastity, a bouquet that would not wither, yet would be visible only to those who love chastity. As a further favor Valerian besought the conversion of his brother Tiburtius.
Upon arriving to congratulate the newlyweds, Tiburtius was astounded by the unspeakably beautiful roses and lilies. As soon as he was informed regarding their origin, he too asked for the waters of baptism. “St. Cecilia said to Tiburtius: Today I acknowledge you as a brother-in-law, because the love of God has made you despise the idols. Just as the love of God gave me your brother as a spouse, so it has given you to me as a brother in-law.” When Almachius, the prefect, heard of the conversions, he ordered Maximus, his officer, to arrest and imprison all of them. Before being put to death, they instructed Maximus and his family, and baptized them during the night preceding execution.
At dawn Cecilia roused the two brothers to struggle heroically for Christ, as the glow of morning disappeared, Cecilia called: “Arise, soldiers of Christ, throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Cecilia pursued her victory as the soldiers willingly listened, “We believe that Christ is the true Son of God, who has chosen such a servant.” Led before the prefect, she professed her faith in Christ, “We profess His holy Name and we will not deny Him.”
In order to avoid further show, the prefect commanded her to be suffocated in the baths. She remained unharmed and prayed, “I thank You, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, that through Your Son the fire was extinguished at my side.” Beheading was next in order. The executioner made three attempts (the law prohibited more) and let her lie in her blood. She lived for three days, encouraging the poor and dedicating her home into a church.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Albi, France; composers; martyrs; music; musicians; musical instrument makers; archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska; poets; singers.
Symbols: Holding a lute; playing the organ; holding roses.
Things to Do:
- Read and discuss the Church documents on music and liturgy. Read the Fitting Role of Sacred Music in the Liturgy by John Paul II. Adoremus has a collection of the most important music documents. Although these documents cover over a century, all of the recent documents on the liturgy and music pull from these original documents. Very little has changed in the directives on music, even with Vatican II.
- For more reading on sacred music, see Adoremus Bulletin on Music.
- If you are a parent spend some time thinking about how you can teach your children to practice the virtue of fortitude — read this article, Educating in Virtue, by James Stenson which offers some excellent advice.
- St. Cecilia’s body was found to be incorrupt in the Catacombs of Saint Callistus. Her body was later moved to St Cecilia in Trastevere. See Crypt of St. Cecilia for some more information on the catacombs. Every year there is a festival, Festa di Santa Cecilia on her feast day at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and Catacombs of San Callisto.
- Read the account from The Golden Legend by Jacob Voragine about the life and death of St. Cecilia to your children.
- One legend of St. Cecilia tells of “pipes” played at her wedding. Although these pipes were probably the bagpipes common throughout Europe, ancient translations rendered the word “organ pipes.” Consequently, St. Cecilia has often been portrayed near a pipe organ. Another legend calls her “the inventor of the organ,” while another says an angel fell in love with her because of her musical skill. This heavenly visitant gave both her and her husband a crown of martyrdom, brought from heaven. With such ample fable and long-standing tradition, she is considered the patron of music and musicians. Since St. Cecilia is the patron of music (her music was the outpouring of a heart filled with love for God), have a family night of singing or playing instruments, or if you are not graced with musical talent, listen to some of the beautiful traditions the Church has in Her sacred music, such as Gregorian Chant and Polyphony.
The Word Among Us
Meditation: Luke 19:45-48
Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Memorial)
My house shall be a house of prayer. (Luke 19:46)
When Jesus refers to “my house,” we can understand it in different ways. The Temple in Jerusalem was seen as the house of God. Indeed, Jesus declares these words while cleansing the Temple. Let’s see how else we can understand these words.
My house shall be a house of prayer.
Our families are part of the house of God. In fact, each family unit is said to be a “domestic church,” a church in miniature. Each family forms a unique environment where everyone can grow in holiness together. So it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity to do that—whether it’s praying together as a family, reading Scripture, participating in the sacraments, or serving the poor together.
My house shall be a house of prayer.
The wider people of God—the Church—is also a house in which God dwells. This includes our fellow parishioners, the people we work alongside in ministry, and the people we share fellowship with. They are all our brothers and sisters, so we should always show them the respect and honor they deserve. Even if they favor a different spirituality than we do, they remain precious in the eyes of the Lord. So pray with them and for them. Remember also that God wants to bring all people into his house, so treat everyone you meet as a potential “household member”!
My house shall be a house of prayer.
The physical structure in which you attend Mass every Sunday—or perhaps daily—is literally God’s house. It’s more than just a building. It is a holy place where you can find Jesus, present in the tabernacle. It is a sacred space, especially during Mass, when Jesus comes to us in the form of bread and wine. Your church may not be in the wealthiest neighborhood. The building may not be designed in the most elegant style. But whatever it looks like and wherever it is, Jesus is present there. Don’t ignore this incredible gift!
In prayer today, thank Jesus for all the different ways he is present to you. May we all treasure every “house of prayer” that Christ has given to us!
“Lord, thank you for coming to dwell with me!”
1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
(Psalm) 1 Chronicles 29:10-12
Marriage = One Man and One Woman Until Death Do Us Part
Daily Marriage Tip for November 22, 2019:
Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Choose a favorite hymn to sing together. If anyone in your family is musically gifted, encourage them to share their gifts with your family today.
November 22, 2019 – God’s House Is Holy
Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Father John Doyle, LC
Then Jesus entered the Temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’” And every day he was teaching in the Temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Alpha and the Omega. You have given me life and offer me eternal life with you. You deserve my honor, gratitude and love, and yet you never impose yourself upon me. Thank you for respecting my freedom so that I can offer myself to you. All that I have is yours; I return it to you.
Petition: Lord God, teach me greater reverence for your house.
- Zeal for the Father’s House: Jesus was not an enemy of commerce. In fact, many times the Gospel makes references to buying and selling without any negative connotations at all. However, in today’s Gospel passage we find Our Lord irate for two principal reasons. First, business activity was taking place within the Temple area. This was, in a sense, a “profanation” of God’s house. The Temple of Jerusalem contained, veiled behind a massive curtain, the Holy of Holies, where God’s mysterious presence dwelled. Yet, paradoxically, Temple worshipers had first to cross what had the appearance of a marketplace to be able to worship before the Lord. Second, Jesus was indignant due to the fact that the temple merchants were dishonest. Am I always honest in my business dealings? Do I always respect God’s name and the things of God?
- Return to Reverence: Jesus was on fire with zeal for the house of his Father and determined that it be respected as a house of prayer. Silence, worship and prayer are elements that should be an essential part of every visit to a church, especially for Sunday Mass. In the tabernacle of every Catholic Church, Our Lord is present in the Eucharist as a prisoner of love waiting to enter into dialogue with us. We are never closer to heaven than when we are before Our Eucharistic Lord. Yet we can forget this truth. Our postures, chatter, and dress might contribute to a general “profanation” of God’s house. Do I try to remember every time I enter a church that I am standing before my Lord who made heaven and earth? Can others see that I believe Jesus is really present in the Eucharist? Is he the center of my attention? Can I put aside all distractions?
- Hanging on Jesus’ Words: The crowds are described as “hanging” on Jesus’ every word. Jesus showed a reverence for his Father’s house far greater than any external piety the Pharisees demonstrated. He spoke the truth and was never afraid to stand up for it, even when it was less than convenient to do so. He was unafraid of those who “were seeking to put him to death.” Jesus’ uprightness was the key to his effectiveness and the attractive power of his words. As Christians we are called by vocation to imitate the uprightness of Our Lord in our words and actions.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, many times I have entered Church distractedly and forgotten that you were present. I beg your forgiveness. I ask to be a zealous witness of your love, and I promise to show you greater reverence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Homily of the Day
November 22, 2019
In the first reading Judas Maccabeus, the leader of the Jews loyal to their covenant with Yahweh, with joyous celebrations restores proper worship at the Temple in Jerusalem which had been desecrated by invaders.
In the Gospel reading Jesus in anger drives out the merchants who were profaning the House of God with their active trade and business in the Temple area: “My house shall be a house of prayer: but you have turned it into a den of robbers.”
In the longer account in John of Jesus clearing the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus uses the occasion to predict his resurrection, “‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ . . . Actually, Jesus was referring to the temple of his body. Only when he had risen from the dead did his disciples remember these words.” (Jn 2: 19 – 22)
By his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus affirmed respect for the House of God, wherein the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant rested. Enraged, he drove out the merchants selling animals to be sacrificed or given as offering; he overthrew the tables of the money-changers. “Take all this away and stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace.” (Jn 2: 16)
One Bread, One Body
One Bread, One Body
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All Issues > Volume 35, Issue 6
|<< Friday, November 22, 2019 >>
|1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
|1 Chronicles 29:10-12
GIVE YOUR TRASH TO JESUS
|“Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.” �1 Maccabees 4:36
|Don’t you think you’d better clean house? There are some closets in your heart that haven’t been cleaned out for years. The film of sin has given your life a dingy appearance. And there’s the trash you’ve been thinking of taking out, but never got around to it.
I have good news for you. Jesus will handle your trash. He will cleanse the temple of your body and make it a house of prayer (Lk 19:45-46). Jesus will wash you in His blood. Accept Him as Lord and Healer. Confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus will wash you in the bath of His Word (Eph 5:26) and purify the gold of your life in His fire (1 Pt 1:7). You don’t even have to take out the trash. He’ll come in and carry it out Himself. How’s that for service?
However, you do have to give Him the keys to your life � the whole key ring. When He takes out your trash, He won’t leave, but stay. Jesus with the Father and the Spirit will dwell within you (Jn 14:23). You will not only be clean but pure as He is pure (1 Jn 3:3) and holy as He is holy (Mt 5:48). Come, Lord Jesus, come (Rv 22:20).
|Prayer: Jesus, here are all my keys. Do anything You want, any time You want.
|Promise: “It was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.” —1 Mc 4:54-55
|Praise: As a virgin and martyr, St. Cecilia epitomizes the profound piety of women who consecrate their lives to Jesus the Bridegroom.