Saint Brigid Religious Education
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St. Cecilia

Feast day: November 22

A Roman maiden of noble family, devoted to prayer, she was given in marriage against her will to a pagan youth named Valerian. On the wedding day 'while the pipes (organs) were praying' for the festivities, 'she sang in her heart' to Christ, praying that her virginity might be preserved intact.

A misunderstanding of these words as meaning that she sang to the accompaniment of an organ has made Cecilia the patroness of music. Alone with her husband in the bride-chamber she informed him that an angel was keeping guard over her, and, if he attempted to consummate the marriage, he would experience God's punishment. If he respected her maidenhood he would be rewarded by divine grace. Valerian asked to see the angel which alone would convince him. He could see the angel, she told him, only if he were instructed and baptized, for which she sent him to Pope Urban.

On his return he saw the angel offering Cecilia and himself floral crowns. They converted her brother-in-law Tiburtius who was also baptized by Urban. The brothers were condemned to death for their faith by the prefect Almachius. They converted the soldier on guard, his family and the executioner, who were all baptized by night by priests brought by Cecilia. Next day all were beheaded. Almachius proceeded to arrest Cecilia, whose eloquence converted more than four hundred. He ordered her to be taken back to her house in the Trastevere, now St. Cecilia's Church, and burned in her bathroom. When the attempt failed he sent a soldier to behead her. After three blows he failed to decapitate her, but left her mortally wounded. At her prayer, death was delayed three days to give her time to have her house consecrated as a church.

The date of her death is unknown. Her body is alleged to have been concealed from the Lombard invader Aistulf in 756, discovered in consequence of a dream by Pope Paschal I, 817-824, who enshrined it where it is now venerated, in her titular church. The latter statements rest on contemporary evidence.

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