St Cecilia

virgin and martyr (entered heaven probably in the third century)

Dear Ophelia,

Your sadness is understandable, but unnecessary and self-indulgent.  Feeling inferior to the “aristocratic” type of student that seems to populate your college is a case of false humility.  OK, maybe that college does cater to America’s unofficial aristocracy, but what does it matter? You may have grown up in the slums, but you are the daughter of the King of kings!  You have not just earthly royal blood flowing through your veins, but heavenly royal blood: the divine life itself. And that’s the truth. And knowing that will help you act in accordance with what ought to be the true standards of nobility: honorable, Christian behavior, not fancy pedigrees and rich parents.  Today’s feast day can inspire you to leave behind your false inferiority complex and start again your efforts to live in accordance with your true identity. Cecilia was noble both by birth and by behavior, so she can help teach you also to be noble both by baptism and behavior.

She was of a noble Roman family, and she grew up Christian in a time when Christians were frequently and violently persecuted.  She was notably devout and vowed her virginity to Christ when she was still a teenager. Of course, her father had other plans for her and insisted on her marrying an up-and-coming nobleman by the name of Valerian.  She couldn’t do anything to avoid the wedding, but during the festivities, as the families were feasting and dancing, she stole away by herself and sang to her heavenly spouse in the silence of her heart (which is why she is the patroness of music).  That night, when she and Valerian withdrew to their nuptial quarters, she took her courage in her hands and told her husband that she was a Christian, and that she had a guardian angel who would protect her virginity, and that if he (Valerian) were to touch her in the way of marriage, the angel would be displeased and make him suffer, but if he respected her, the angel would love and protect him as well.  Valerian expressed his doubts and asked to see the angel. Cecilia promised that if he believed in the one true God and was baptized, the angel would appear to him. So he went to the bishop (Pope Urban, probably) to be baptized, and when he returned, sure enough, he saw the angel standing beside his wife. The angel crowned them both with wreaths of roses and lilies. Soon thereafter, Valerian’s brother, Tibertius underwent a similar sequence of events, and they were both called before the civil magistrates and ordered to worship the pagan gods.  They refused and were martyred. Other officials were sent to induce Cecilia to give up her faith, but when she converted them the authorities ordered her as well to be executed, with a song of love for Christ upon her lips.

Some fashionable modern historians doubt the story’s historicity, but today the whole Church celebrates the memorial of St Cecilia, virgin and martyr, noblewoman by birth and even more noble by her purity, fidelity, and generosity.  So when the devil tries to make you sad by reminding you of your humble earthly origins, turn to St Cecilia, and together with her, sing to your royal, heavenly Spouse, and just watch the devil slink away.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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