(3rd Century AD), virgin and martyr
Patron of the UST Conservatory of Music
Feast Day: November 22
Apart from the fact of her martyrdom, Cecilia’s life is practically undetermined. However, according to a long-standing tradition, she was a young Christian girl of pagan parents who lived during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius. According to custom, her parents arranged her marriage with a young patrician named Valerian. On her wedding night, she resolutely explained her vow of virginity to Valerian, whose initial anger and confusion were transformed into faith. She bequeathed her possessions to the poor and her home to the Church to be used as a house of worship.
Upon Cecilia’s arrest, the Roman prefect attempted to persuade her to renounce her faith, but she refused. After a failed attempt to suffocate her in an extremely heated bath in her own home, an executioner was sent to behead her. Three blows mortally wounded Cecilia leaving her almost decapitated, yet she persisted for three days, offering the witness of vibrant faith, hope and charity that can never die.
Though there are some literary inaccuracies, Cecilia has been honored as patroness of Music since the 14th and 15th centuries. Arguably, on her wedding day (or on the day of her martyrdom), she heard the ‘organ’ making melody (or the instruments of torture, not the musical instrument), and she sang in her heart, only to God, saying: “O Lord, I beseech You that my heart and body may be cleansed so that I may not be confounded.” When the Academy of Music was founded in Rome (1584), she was made patroness of the institute, whereupon her veneration as patroness of Church music became more universal. Cecilia’s music is the eternal heavenly call, which resonates in the soul despite the noise and pressures of the world, inspiring the faithful to an enduring vow of love even unto death. Cecilia joins the angels and saints in heaven, “singing a new hymn before the throne” of God (Rev 14:3). She is the patroness of the UST Conservatory of Music.
- Voragine, Jacobus (1275), and Caxton, William (1483; trans.), Legenda Aurea, Ch. 169.
- Baring-Gould, Sabine, The Lives of the Saints, Edinburgh, 1914.