In the heart of Transtiber Rome, entered by way of a Baroque gateway portal and a cheerful courtyard, towers the splendid church of St. Cecilia, in which is buried St. Cecilia, the virgin-martyr. In the fifth century, this church was one of the most celebrated churches in Rome.
On Ash Wednesday, the church was St. Sabina, the martyr-matron. On Wednesday of the first week of Lent, we visited St. Mary Major. On this third Wednesday, it is again a womanthe virgin-martyr and "glory of the early Church," St. Cecilia, who leads us to "the Son of Man, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
One reason why Christians often are lacking in joy and holy enthusiasm is their lack of purity. We know how the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The two cannot live in the same house. One of the two must go. St. Cecilia knew no compromise. Her baptismal garment was never stained by impurity.
Let us pray: O God, the restorer and lover of innocence, turn towards Thee the hearts of Thy servants; that being inflamed with the fervor of Thy Spirit, they may be found both steadfast in faith and fruitful in good works. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Day XV. Wednesday, Week II
"The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, who will condemn him to death. They will turn him over to the Gentiles, to be made sport of and flogged and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised up" (Gospel for today - Mt 20:18-19).
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Through prayers and good example, Saint Cecilia converted her husband, St. Valerian, and her brother-in-law, St. Tiburtius, to Christianity. As a result, all three were condemned to death (230). They tried unsuccessfully to suffocate St. Cecilia in her own bath by steaming her alive. Witnesses heard her singing songs to God throughout the ordeal (that is why she is the patron saint of music). They then tried to
behead her. By Roman law, the executioner only had three attempts to severe the head.
The executioner, unsuccessful, ran away leaving her to slowly bleed to death. During the next few days, many were converted by her preaching. She died in a pool of her own blood, her fingers outstretched to proclaim her faith in the Triune God.
The bodies of this holy family were transferred to this church in 821 by Pope Paschal I (817-824). (See the mosaic depicting Paschal (with square nibus) giving the church to St. Cecilia who introduces him to St. Paul. Jesus in the center and next to him is Ss. Peter, Valerian, and Agatha. Below are the 12 lambs approaching Christ the Lamb of God from Bethlehem and Jerusalem.) In 1599, her tomb was opened and her body was found to be incorruptible. The sculptor Moderno was there, drew what he saw, and later made the famed statue (see photo). It' is located below the main altar.