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Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia (Sanca Caecilla) was born into a noble family of Rome, sometime during the 100's AD (a second account places her around 200 AD) who converted to Christianity early in her life and had taken a vow of virginity. Her parents, non-Christian, arranged a marriage to a nobleman named Valerian who was likewise not Christian and forced her to go through with the marriage. During the marriage, Saint Cecilia sat away from the crowd, choosing to sing hymns to God in her heart rather than willingly participate in the ceremony.

That night, her now husband Valerian came to her to consummate the marriage. Saint Cecilia told him that an Angel watched over her, sent from God and if he forced her to break her vow of chastity the Angel would punish him severely. Likewise, if he honored her vow, he would be loved and respected by the Angel. Not believing her, he asked to see the Angel in person. She said to him:

"you cannot see the Angel because you do not know the true God. You will not be able to see the Angel until you are cleansed of the impurity of unbelief."

Saint Cecilia told him that if he went to the third milestone on the Via Appia and was baptized by Pope Urban I, he would be able to see the Angel. He did, and the moment he was baptized he could see an Angel standing next to Saint Cecilia, placing a chaplet of roses and lilies upon her head. He likewise placed a crown upon Valerian's head, saying

"Guard these wreaths by keeping your hearts pure and your bodies undefiled. I have brought them from Paradise, and no one can see them unless they, like you, are lovers of chastity. God sent me to you, Valerian, because you have agreed to preserve your purity. He wants you to have what you desire."

Valerian replied saying:

"No one is dearer to me than my brother Tiburtius. I ask the Lord to deliver him from the worship of idols, and convert him, as he converted me."

When Valerian entered the home of his brother, he immediately could smell roses and lilies. Soon afterwards, Tiburtius was baptized by Pope Urban and the two brothers soldier their possessions, gave the proceeds to the poor and secretly helped Christian's bury martyrs. Eventually, word of these burials reached Almachius, the Eparch of the city (burying Christian martyrs was illegal at this time) and he had the two brothers arrested and tortured. Since neither would recant their faith or offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, they were both executed. Maximus, a soldier who accompanied the martyrs to their executions was so moved by the two brothers love of Christ that he too was converted. After the brother's deaths, Maximus (who like the brothers would become a Saint) swore in official documents that he saw their souls ascend to heaven after their deaths. The Romans beat him to death.

Saint Cecilia was soon arrested and tortured just as her brother's had. In an especially terrible torture, tradition holds that she was locked into an over-heated bathhouse and left to die from the heat and steam. When the Romans found her alive inside (protected by God), she was ordered to be beheaded. The executioner swung his sword three times but she did not die. Laying gravely wounded, she lived for three days longer, converting many visitors and offering encouragement to Christians who came to see her. She died on the third day, laying on her right side with three fingers extended in her right hand and one finger on the left - her profession of faith in the Holy Trinity. She asked the Pope to convert her home into a church.

Saint Cecilia was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus and in 1599, her body was found to be still fully incorrupt. She is venerated as the patron saint of Hymns, musicians, pets and many others.

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