This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22 -- Feast of Saint Cecilia

Casting aside all objections about the veracity of the legend, let us celebrate Cecilia, the patron of music and inventor of the pipe organ!

That's a big organ you have there, lady. 
Cecilia came from a long, distinguished line of Roman nobility.  She had already (privately) promised celibacy to God when her folks announced her betrothal to that nice young man, Valerian of Trastevere.  You could do a lot worse than Valerian, you know.  He's not bad looking, young enough to still be virile, if you know what I mean (and you'd better not know, young lady!), and he's got enough money to keep you comfortable.  That's more important than you think, and if you don't believe me now, wait until we're not around and you're hungry and homeless and wishing you had listened to us.  No go upstairs to your room until you are done crying and ready to be a grown-up about the whole thing

Cecilia went through with the wedding, but she sang hymns in her heart until the profane wedding music was over.  I mean, she sang them out loud, so loud, in fact, that no one could hear the secular music and many were inspired to convert to Christianity.  I mean, she sang loudly and played the pipe organ, which she had just invented, despite all archeological evidence to the contrary, but which you can clearly see in the stained glass window. 

Her husband, full of connubial expectations, brought her home, whereupon she told him that her virginity was guarded by an angel who would blast him if he tried to fulfill said expectations.  He asked why he couldn't see the angel.  She told him if he got himself baptized, he'd be able to see the angel.  He went downtown, found Pope Urban, got baptized, and returned home.  Damned if he didn't see an angel, hard at prayer, beside Cecilia.  [Except of course he wasn't damned because he had just been baptized.] 

Sometime soon after, Valerian's brother Tiburtius stopped by to see how the newlyweds were getting along.  Upon hearing this miraculous story, he too scampered down the Appian Way to get baptized by Pope Urban.  Then the two brothers set about gathering up the mortal remains of Christian martyrs for proper burial and veneration as martyrs.  This was dangerous work, as it outed them as Christians.  They were soon busted, but before their executions, they converted a Roman magistrate named Maximus.  The three men were executed together, an event for which there is ample historical evidence.  Any connection to Cecilia and her organ rose centuries later. 
Dying Cecilia

It didn't take long for the Christian hunters to come after Cecilia herself.  She promptly confessed her faith, so they tried to drown her in her bathtub. Some sources say "smother" but they also say "bathroom."  I figure drown makes more sense.  Anyway, that failed so they tried to behead her.  That didn't go much better -- she lived three days after the cut and is generally depicted with her head still on, as in the sculpture at left. 

Of course, November 22 is also the day of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first (only) Roman Catholic president of the United States.  I don't know if you'd call it a martyrdom and I think we'd be hard-pressed to call him a saint, but I reckon it wants recollection.  Maybe a prayer, if you are so inclined. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice story, even it if can't be proved.

    The lines from a song come to mind: "Does you're mother know you're out, Cecilia?"

    Wonder if anyone thought to ask her that as they forced her to confess her faith.