St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr Heroine of the Early Church
Family, the Lord has given the Church many heroes and heroines down through the centuries, and each person He gives us is for a special reason for that time, not only for that time but for all time. The time of St. Cecilia is a perfect example of that. The Church suffered greatly during that century, but the Lord, knowing we needed Him to be at our sides to assure that He could keep His promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. We have a saying which you may have read in any one of our books:
In times of Crisis, God sends us special grace. This grace may come from Eucharistic Miracles, Apparitions by Our Lady, and Saints and other Powerful Men and Women in the Church. It may come in the form of Angelic intercession. It will come from anywhere the Lord deems necessary. There is only one thing of which we can be assured; it will come. He will use whatever or whoever it takes, whenever it is needed, to protect us from anything or anyone, who would bring us anywhere near the brink of hell. Very often, even if it means protecting us from ourselves. In the centuries following the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, there was a great deal of fervent zeal for our Church and all things related to God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, in short the Trinity. However, the power of each Person of the Trinity was manifested in every instance where a zealot for the Faith called upon that Person, especially the Holy Spirit, and was rewarded with signal grace and courage to stand up for, and die for their love for and belief in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
A very charismatic figure for that time, and for our time as well is St. Cecilia, a beautiful child of Jesus, physically as well as spiritually, who was not only willing to give up her life for her beliefs in our Faith, but by her glowing example, encouraged others to do the same, in this instance, her husband Valerian and his brother Tibertius. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let us begin with the birth and early life of this powerful woman of the Church.
Cecilia was born of a noble Roman family, all of whom had embraced Our Lord Jesus and our Church. She was beautiful outside as well as inside, all through her life. She was a perfect example of a fine Christian girl, and was a tremendous influence on everyone she came in contact with. She had a great love for Jesus, and vowed her virginity to Him. She asked for protection from anyone or anything that would jeopardize her virginity. She has been called a “heavenly lily of modesty for her virginity.” She was given an Angel to watch over her and aid her in keeping her vow of virginity. She carried a copy of the Gospel in her bosom and prayed night and day.
She was very desirable as a wife, and when the Lord presented her with Valerian, a suitor who was acceptable to her, her family and our Lord Jesus, she prayed that he would understand her vow of virginity. On their wedding night, after the festivities had ended, and she and her husband retired to their wedding chamber, she shared a secret with him. She said:
“O sweetest and most loving young man, I have a secret to confess to you, on condition that you swear to keep it a secret. ” He agreed with her. You have to understand, he was deeply in love with her. We can’t think of anything she could have asked him that he would have refused her. She shared that she had a lover, an Angel, who watched over her body, her virginity.
She said to Valerian, “If my Angel feels you are touching me with lust in your heart, he will strike you and you will lose the flower of your gracious youth. If however, he knows that you love me with sincere love, he will love you as he loves me, and will show you his glory.”
Now Valerian truly loved her, and could accept that she was a virgin, and wanted to protect her virginity until the day she would wed. He really wanted to believe that she had an Angel to protect her virginity, but he need to be sure that this was true. He asked to see the Angel. He said: “If I see that he is truly an Angel, I will do as you ask. But if I find that he is another man, and that you are in love with him, I will finish you both with my sword.”
Cecilia instructed Valerian to go to the third milestone from the city on the Appian Way, and say to the poor people there, “Cecilia has sent me to have you show me an old man named Urban, because I carry secret orders for him which I will pass on to him. When you see this Urban, and tell him all that I have told you, he will purify you and you will be able to see the Angel.”
Now, keep in mind, this is their wedding night. How much did he have to love her to get up, leave the house, travel to the Appian Way by horse or carriage, and look for this man? He really did love her. He did what she asked. He spoke to the poor people, who pointed him to the direction of the old man. He met Urban the bishop, who wept, and prayed over Valerian. Suddenly, an old man, dressed in a white garment, holding a gold book, appeared before them. Valerian fell to the ground, for fear of his life. The old man picked him up, and had him read from the gold book. “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all and through all and in all of us.” The old man asked him, “Do you believe, or do you still doubt?” Valerian responded, “There is nothing else under Heaven that could be more truly believed.” The old man disappeared; Urban baptized Valerian, and when he returned to his wedding chamber, he saw the Angel with Cecilia.
The Angel gave both of them crowns of roses and lilies, and told them to preserve this gift they had been given by the Lord.
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