by J. S., a high school student in Northern Virginia
were the early martyrs? They were people who freely suffered punishment or
extreme sacrifice even to the point of death as they firmly professed their
belief in the Faith. It required strength in the mind, heart, soul and
Though some of us think we sacrifice much for someone or for a cause in a day, would we be willing to sacrifice our life to proclaim our love for God? While we may falter before answering with a definite 'yes,' the saint Cecilia had no doubt in her mind.
Cecilia, who was also known as Cecily or Celia, was quite a special woman. Because her date of birth and direct origin was unknown, very little is known abut her except for the famous story surrounding her martyrdom. Every religious thought that came from Cecilia most likely would have originated from her influential Christian background. Born as the daughter of a noble patrician in Rome, Cecilia used to wear coarse garments beneath the clothes of her rank, fasted several days a week, and was determined to remain a maiden for the love of God. Because of her values, those of her pagan parents sometimes conflicted with her own religious values. This was mainly because her father disapproved of her beliefs and required her to marry in spite of her choice to remain a virgin.
Beside the domestic conflict, there were also problems outside of Cecilia's home. During this time, many Romans were suspicious of Christians because they did not worship the pagan gods. Some rulers even started religious persecutions of Christians. These events moved Cecilia on the path to martyrdom and eternal life with God.
Because her father wished her to marry a young pagan patrician that he knew, she was faced with a personal trial. Would she obey her father's wishes, or would she stand by her religious vow? Because she absolutely could not disobey her father, Cecilia consented to marry the young man, but she had her own plan. On the night of the wedding, she revealed her secret. She said to him, "I have a secret to tell you. You must know that I have an angel of God watching over me. If you touch me in the way of marriage he will be angry and you will suffer; but if you respect my maidenhood he will love you as he loves me." With this, Valerian said he would respect her wishes.
After time, he and his brother Tibertius converted to the Faith. Later, these two and another friend were discovered while they were burying the bodies of martyrs and were killed. This left Cecilia alone to face the pagan Romans who desired both her death and her property.
The days before her summons, she disposed of her property and asked the nearly four hundred persons whom she had led to conversion to pray for her. With courage and conviction she calmly turned the insults and accusations of the investigator to show the emptiness of the pagan religion. She refused to sacrifice to the gods and deny her Lord. Cecilia was sentenced to death by suffocation in the heat and steam of her bathroom. After this attempt failed, an executioner was summoned to behead the poor girl. Swing after swing, the sharp sword seemed too dull to cut through Cecilia's neck. When the third swing did not accomplish its work, Cecilia was left to die with part of her neck gashed and bleeding. Throughout the last few days of her life, many friends came to visit, including Pope Urban who had helped her convert her friends into the Church. After the third day, Cecilia was finally allowed to enter the gates of heaven. Her body was buried next to that of St. Callistus, an early pope.
Cecilia was able to endure her martyrdom because of the guidance and aid that God gave her. Her angel protected her in marriage to Valarian. From the prayers and sons sung at her weeding, to the prayers at her execution, Cecilia never was without heavenly protection. Faith and trust in God played key roles in her survival, and her passion to be able to devote her body to God motivated her to accomplish all that she did.
Saint Cecilia is still admired and remembered by many today for her complete devotion and self-sacrifice to God. Because of this, many people struggling to fight against temptations to offend God can keep Cecilia's story in mind and realize that the sacrifice is worth the reward.