The 22nd November is the feast of St Cecilia, patron of music and musicians. For many people, that amounts to quick prayers shot up asking for her intercession before performances and recitals. But it was music that allowed people to witness the devotion and love for the Lord that Cecilia had.
Cecilia was born into a rich Italian family around the year 200 AD. When she came of age, she was given in marriage against her wishes to a nobleman called Valerian.
But Cecilia’s devotion ran deep.
She had committed to give her life and virginity to the Lord and news of the marriage led to intense fasting and prayer asking the angels and saints to guard her.
During the wedding ceremony, Cecilia sang in her heart to the Lord, in petition and worship and heard heavenly music, before telling her husband she had taken a vow of virginity, and telling him that there was an angel protecting her. Valerian asked to see this angel as proof that this was so, to which Cecilia told him that he would have eyes to see it once Pope Urbanus baptised him.
So it was that when he returned from his baptism, Valerian found his wife, Cecilia, and an angel at her side.
On hearing this news, Valerian’s brother came to the Lord and the two brothers dedicated their lives to burying martyrs. As it was strictly forbidden in that time, the two brothers were arrested and brought before the prefect. They were executed after they refused to make a sacrifice to the Gods.
Cecilia also remained steadfast. She continued to serve the Lord through her preaching and was known to convert over 400 people in the city, offering her life day after day in worship before the Lord, as a vessel for truth and grace.
Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to death.
As the fires burned around her and the heat stoked up to an incredible level, Cecilia remained in a disposition of peace and did not even break a sweat.
Hearing this, the prefect ordered Cecilia’s execution by beheading. But the executioner botched the job and left Cecilia bleeding for another three days.
The crowds which she had loved, preached to and served, collected her blood even while she continued to preach and pray for them. When she finally died, she was buried by Pope Urban.
When you hear of her incredible witness to faith, the link between Cecilia and music seems to fade somewhat. Yet it remains useful in reminding us of the disposition of worship that carried her throughout her life.
In St Cecilia’s conviction of her call from the Lord, to be set apart for him, we see an example of giving our lives and our hearts in songs of petition, worship and thanksgiving. It is when we trust the Lord that he is given space to move powerfully.
Daisy currently works for a London based think tank on UK policy. She is a trustee for the Catholic Student Network and currently lives in Twickenham at the Loretto HOME. Get in touch with her at email@example.com For more on the Catholic Student Network, go to https://www.catholicstudentnetwork.co.uk/.
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