St. Cecily Virgin and Martyr
THE name of St. Cecily has always been most illustrious in the church, and ever since
the primitive ages is mentioned with distinction in the canon of the mass, and in the
sacramentaries and calendars of the church. Her spouse Valerian, Tiburtius, and
Maximus, an officer, who were her companions in martyrdom, are also mentioned in
the same authentic and venerable writings. St. Cecily was a native of Rome, of a good
family, and educated in the principles and perfect practice of the Catholic religion. In
her youth she by vow consecrated her virginity to God, yet was compelled by her
parents to marry a nobleman named Valerian. Him she converted to the faith, and
soon after gained to the same his brother Tiburtius. The men first suffered
martyrdom, being beheaded for the faith. St. Cecily finished her glorious triumph some
days after them. Their acts, which are of very small authority, make them
contemporary with pope Urban I., and consequently place their martyrdom about the
year 230, under Alexander Severus; for, though that emperor was very favorable to
the Christians, sometimes in popular commotions, or by the tyranny of prefects,
several martyrs suffered in his reign. Ulpian, the prefect of the praetorian guards and
prime minister, was a declared enemy and persecutor; but was at length murdered by
the praetorian troops which were under his command. Others, however, place the
triumph of these martyrs under Marcus Aurelius, between the years 176 and 180.
Their sacred bodies were deposited in part of the cemetery of Calixtus, which part
from our saint was called St. Cecily's cemetery. Mention is made of an ancient church
of St. Cecily in Rome in the fifth century, in which pope Symmachus held a council in
the year 500. This church being fallen to decay, pope Paschal I. began to rebuild it;
but was in some pain how he should find the body of the saint, for it was thought
that the Lombards had taken it away, as they had many others from the cemeteries of
Rome, when they besieged that city under king Astulphus, in 755. One Sunday, as this
pope was assisting at matins, as he was wont, at St. Peter's, he fell into a slumber,
in which he was advertised by St. Cecily herself that the Lombards had in vain sought
for her body, and that he should find it; and he accordingly discovered it in the
cemetery called by her name, clothed in a robe of gold tissue, with linen cloths at her
feet, dipped in her blood. With her body was found that of Valerian, her husband, and
the pope caused them to be translated to her church in the city as also the bodies of
Tiburtius and Maximus, martyrs and of the popes Urban and Lucius, which lay in the
adjoining cemetery of Praetextatus, on the same Appian road.
This translation was made in 821 Pope Paschal founded a monastery in honor of these
saints, near the church of St. Cecily, that the monks might perform the office day and
night. He adorned that church with great magnificence, and gave to it silver plate to
the amount of about nine hundred pounds, -- among other things a ciborium or
tabernacle, of five hundred pounds weight; and a great many pieces of rich stuffs for
veils, and such kinds of ornaments, in one of which was represented the angel
crowning St. Cecily Valerian, and Tiburtius. This church, which gives title to a cardinal
priest, was sumptuously rebuilt, in 1599, by cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew to
pope Gregory XIV., when Clement VIII. caused the bodies of these saints to be
removed from under the high altar, and deposited in a most sumptuous vault in the
same church, called the Confession of St. Cecily. It was enriched in such a manner by
cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati as to dazzle the eye and astonish the spectator. This
church of St. Cecily is called In Trastevere, or, Beyond the Tiber, to distinguish it from
two other churches in Rome which bear the name of this saint.

St. Cecily, from her assiduity in singing the divine praises, (in which, according to her
Acts, she often joined instrumental music with vocal,) is regarded as patroness of
church music. The psalms, and many sacred canticles in several other parts of the holy
scripture, and the universal practice both of the ancient Jewish and of the Christian
church, recommend the religious custom of sometimes employing a decent and grave
music in sounding forth the divine praises. By this homage of praise we join the
heavenly spirits in their uninterrupted songs of adoration, love, and praise. And by
such music we express the spiritual joy of our hearts in this heavenly function, and
excite ourselves therein to holy jubilation and devotion. Divine love and praise are the
work of the heart, without which all words or exterior signs are hypocrisy and mockery.
Yet as we are bound to consecrate to God our voices, and all our organs and faculties,
and all creatures which we use; so we ought to employ them all in magnifying his
sanctity, greatness, and glory, and sometimes to accompany our interior affections of
devotion with the most expressive exterior signs.
St. Chrysostom elegantly extols the good effects of sacred music, and shows how
strongly the fire of divine love is kindled in the soul by devout psalmody. St. Austin
teaches that "it is useful in moving piously the mind, and kindling the affections of
divine love." And he mentions that when he was but lately converted to God, by the
sacred singing at church, he was moved to shed abundance of sweet tears. But he
much bewails the danger of being too much carried away by the delight of the.
harmony. and confesses that he had sometimes been more pleased with the music
than affected with what was sung, for which he severely condemns himself. St.
Charles Borromeo in his youth allowed himself no other amusement but that of grave
music, with a view to that of the church. is to music as an amusement, too much time
must never be given to it, and extreme care ought to be taken, as a judicious and
experienced tutor observes, that children be not set to learn it very young because it
is a thing which bewitches the senses, dissipates the mind exceedingly, and alienates
it from serious studies as daily experience shows. Soft and effeminate music is to be
always shunned with abhorrence, as the corrupter of the heart, and the poison of
Lives of the Saints