Nov 22 – Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr
Cecilia (d. 117) was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. She told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favour; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.
The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn, they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at their villa on the Appian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods, and when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.
She was suffocated for a while and when that didn’t kill her, she was beheaded. Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. The tomb was opened in 1599 and her body was found to be incorrupt.
The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.
– Patron Saint Index
2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31
There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. But the mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord. Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them, ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.’
Antiochus thought he was being ridiculed, suspecting insult in the tone of her voice; and as the youngest was still alive he appealed to him not with mere words but with promises on oath to make him both rich and happy if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors; he would make him his Friend and entrust him with public office. The young man took no notice at all, and so the king then appealed to the mother, urging her to advise the youth to save his life. After a great deal of urging on his part she agreed to try persuasion on her son. Bending over him, she fooled the cruel tyrant with these words, uttered in the language of their ancestors, ‘My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in my womb and suckled you three years, fed you and reared you to the age you are now (and cherished you). I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way. Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.’
She had scarcely ended when the young man said, ‘What are you all waiting for? I will not comply with the king’s ordinance; I obey the ordinance of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses. As for you, sir, who have contrived every kind of evil against the Hebrews, you will certainly not escape the hands of God.’
While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”
‘Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities.” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
‘“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’
When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
“Prove yourself worthy of your brother, and make death welcome.”
My son has been blessed to be an altar boy for the past year and one of the duties he recently started performing was to be one of the torch bearers. Before the gospel is proclaimed by the priest, the torch bearers accompany him on a small procession to the lectern.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) shows that the vocation of humanity is to show forth God’s image and also to be transformed into the image of our Lord Jesus. Observing my son one day, it occurred to me that we are like the torches illuminating the Gospels — our faith (and Church) and our faith community demands it.
One of the initial personal hurdles I faced when I first started going to the Catholic Church was actually identifying as a Catholic. Even when saying grace, I was afraid others might see me making the sign of the Cross!
The change came when I realized that it was the same as being in a close relationship with my spouse. If I truly loved my wife, why would I hide my feelings for her? How would she feel if she knew that I was ashamed of expressing my true feelings? More importantly, what would it say about my true relationship with her?
In the first reading of today, the mother of the seven sons recognises this truth, and the truth of eternal life and encourages him to make the right choice, as she knows that all of them would reunite ultimately in God’s kingdom.
May we, too, learn to understand and remember this truth. We are due to spend eternity in God’s kingdom and our few earthly decades is a miniscule portion of eternity. Let us live our lives as torches and to also be proud to be Christians.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Help us to always live our lives as a reflection of our faith values. We pray that we may be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Thanksgiving: We thank You Father God, for Your gift of faith.