St. Cecilia Our Patron Saint

“The Passion of St. Cecilia”

St. Cecilia There is debate as to the date of St. Cecilia’s martyrdom, but based on the discovery of her tomb in the Catacomb of St. Callixtus, it is likely to be somewhere between the latter part of the second century AD and the middle of the third century.

The Church of St. Cecilia in Rome dates back to the fifth century and was built over the site of the saint’s house. The present Church owes its existence to pope Paschal 1 who in 821 AD located the tomb of St. Cecilia in the catacombs and moved her body to its present location. He discovered the tomb after St. Cecilia appeared to him in a vision and directed him to its location where the body was discovered incorrupt.

According to the “Passion of St. Cecilia,” Cecilia was born into a noble family in Rome and became a Christian early in her life. However her family arranged a marriage to a pagan nobleman named Valerian. Cecilia had vowed virginity to the Lord but agreed unwillingly to the marriage.

The association of Cecilia with music comes from a line in her “Passion” which speaks of Cecilia singing a song to God in her heart – in which she asked divine help in preserving her chastity.

The legend speaks of the wedding couple retiring to their bedroom, where Cecilia tells Valerian of her vow to virginity and asks him to respect it. She added that an angel guarded her virginity. Valerian asked to see the angel and Cecilia sent him out to the third milestone on the Via Appia, where instead of an angel he met Pope Urban 1st. who converted him and baptized him.

On returning to his wife now a Christian, an angel appeared to them both. Valerian then attempted to convert his brother Tiberius and won him over to the Christian faith. They came to the notice of the pagan authorities and were condemned to death. Even the executioner Maximus refused to kill them and he also embraced Christ and was himself martyred.

Cecilia after burying the three martyrs was herself condemned to death and she was ordered to be suffocated in her own bathhouse which was a steam room. The room was sealed and heated to its highest point. The next day after opening the door Cecilia was not only alive, but fresh and radiant, kneeling in prayer.

Outraged, the governor ordered her beheaded. The executioner approached the victim with reluctance knowing that she had survived the first attempt on her life. He struck her neck three times with the axe, which was the maximum allowed, but failed to sever her head. Cecilia lay dying for three days, praying and offering encouragement to her fellow Christians. Leaving her possessions to the poor she asked that her house be dedicated as a Church. She died on November 22nd, which is her feast day and was buried by Pope Urban in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.