22 November – 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 Apprian 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
I, John, saw that in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne there was a scroll that had writing on back and front and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a powerful angel who called with a loud voice, ‘Is there anyone worthy to open the scroll and break the seals of it?’ But there was no one, in heaven or on the earth or under the earth, who was able to open the scroll and read it. I wept bitterly because there was nobody fit to open the scroll and read it, but one of the elders said to me, ‘There is no need to cry: the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and he will open the scroll and the seven seals of it.’
Then I saw, standing between the throne with its four animals and the circle of the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been sacrificed; it had seven horns, and it had seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits God has sent out all over the world. The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, and when he took it, the four animals prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty-four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints. They sang a new hymn:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll
and break the seals of it,
because you were sacrificed, and with your blood
you bought men for God
of every race, language, people and nation
and made them a line of kings and priests,
to serve our God and to rule the world.’
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem and came in sight of the city he shed tears over it and said, ‘If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace! But, alas, it is hidden from your eyes! Yes, a time is coming when your enemies will raise fortifications all round you, when they will encircle you and hem you in on every side; they will dash you and the children inside your walls to the ground; they will leave not one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise your opportunity when God offered it!’
“…you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it.”
I had originally planned to do another Camino this year before my other half suggested we join a pilgrimage led by one of our parish priests as well as a tour leader whom she had traveled with before. When I asked about the itinerary, I immediately said ‘Yes’ once I heard that Santiago was going to be one of the towns we would be stopping in.
To be honest, being on a bus with 39 other pilgrims is not exactly my idea of a great holiday. However, we had planned to go into Paris earlier and meet up with the group, then extend our stay in Lisbon for another few days. After all, we were already there so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and take in the sights.
And what a glorious 3 weeks it was. Even for me, the 13 days spent on the road visiting various Marian shrines and paying tribute to a few saints with incorrupt bodies was probably as close as I could get to discovering more about Marian spirituality. And by the time we reached Santarem, the last stop on the pilgrimage where we were honoured to venerate the miraculous bleeding host after mass, I was filled with joy and awe as He welcomed me quietly with three words, “Welcome, my son.” My heart was bursting with joy as we left the group at Lisbon airport and made our way into the city.
Brothers and sisters, more often than not, we try and plan to the very last detail how our holidays should be like. And while my pilgrimage was indeed planned, I learnt to surrender and stop trying too hard to control everything. I believe that the many opportunities I had to get close to our blessed Mother – in Lourdes and, even more so, in Fatima – proved to me that in order to get closer to God, one needs to be docile and be prepared to say ‘Yes’ at any opportunity without any second thought.
Because if we keep trying to second-guess and ask too much, we will end up missing the chance to truly discern what He wants for us. The various encounters I had even after the pilgrimage was over served to remind me that it is our heavenly Father who always wants the best for us; so that we get to bask in His everlasting glory. Indeed, life has a tendency to hurry us on instead of allowing us to sit and soak. Which is why we should always look forward to mass and Holy Hour, for that is when God truly reveals His glory to us gathered around Him. How often do we keep reciting our rosaries or saying our prayers that we lose out on hearing what He truly wants to say to us?
Let us not allow what others deem important to drown out His call to us. Instead, let us always set aside time and the disposition to listen out for Him; so that we do not lose our connection to Him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always keeping us close to your heart.