Learn more about this holy woman who is named in the prayers at Mass
Born into a noble Roman family, Cecilia privately became a Christian and made a vow of virginity to Christ at a young age. Her parents nonetheless forced her to marry a young nobleman named Valerian. She spent the time before her wedding in fasting and penance, begging God to protect her virginity. On her wedding day, she trusted totally in God, so that tradition tells us she sat apart singing to God in her heart, confident in his merciful providence.
What could have been a disastrous situation (one thinks of St. Agnes, whose vow of virginity brought her great suffering) fortunately turned out for the best. Valerian was a good man who respected Cecilia’s wishes, and actually converted to Christianity on their wedding night, thanks to her example. Together they worked to spread the good news of the Gospel; tradition tells us Cecilia’s preaching converted over 400 people in her lifetime. Her and Valerian’s inspiring relationship of married chastity and holy works was recorded in Greek writings from the 500s.
Cecilia’s role as the patron saint of music came both from the stories about her wedding day and from the circumstances of her martyrdom. She was arrested for her beliefs and condemned to death, but when an executioner came to cut off her head, three blows left her bleeding but alive. She lived for three more days, during which time she preached to the crowds who came to see her, and sang hymns of praise to God. Her body, exhumed in 1599, is among the incorruptible saints. She remains one of the most popular Catholic saints to the present day.
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