Ordinary Time: November 22nd
Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr
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).
- 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.
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