Almost nothing is known of this Roman martyr of the 3rd century and it could be that she never existed. However, it seems that those who suffered similar martyrdom with her did exist.
She is the patroness of musicians, because of the pious tradition that as she was being martyred, she sang a song of praise to Almighty God.
Pious tradition has it that she was a Christian virgin, who was forced to betroth a pagan named Valerian. She had previously taken vows of celibacy wishing instead to remain married to Our Lord. When she refused to consummate her marriage, claiming that a guardian angel protected her virginity, Valerian vowed he would respect her request if he himself saw the angel. He did, leading to his conversion. However, he along with his brother, Tibertius, who himself became a Christian, were martyred shortly thereafter for their conversion to the Faith. Cecilia was martyred later as well.
What we know today is that many gave their lives for their faith in Christ in the early period of the Church. May God give us the grace to risk all out of love for Him if we are called to do so – even giving our life for God’s greater glory.
The painting which accompanies this article is an oil on canvas by Guido Reni (1575-1642), and is on display at the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, CA.
“I will speak of thy testimonies also even before kings, and will not be ashamed: and my delight shall be in thy commandments, which I have loved exceedingly.” (Ps. 119). (The day’s introit, page E 137, The People’s Anglican Missal)