Today is the Feast of Saint Cecilia. Several years ago, I chose her as my confirmation Saint, although I am loathe to admit that I chose her somewhat arbitrarily. My grandmother’s name is Cecilia, and for that reason, she inherited from her parents a beautiful painting that hung in her bedroom of the Saint at a piano, surrounded by angels. I haven’t seen the painting in years, but I assume that it probably is not as beautiful as I remember. The beauty came not from the skill of the artist, but from the holiness and serenity that emanated from the painting. When I chose my confirmation Saint, I did so in part because I knew that it would please my grandmother and in part because I was running out of time to choose and Saint Cecilia was one of the only female Saints I knew by name, but I also like to think that I did so with the image of that painting somewhere in the mind.
Until recently, I did not know much about the life and martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, and perhaps if I had done more research into the Saints before I had chosen one, I would have picked someone else. As a sophomore in high school, I probably wouldn’t have related well with a third-century virgin martyr. Yet, as I look at her life from my current situation, she gives me much inspiration and courage as I look to deepen my relationship with Christ. While she was canonized as a virgin martyr, Saint Cecilia was in fact married. When they married, her husband Valerian was a pagan, but through the prayers and persuasion of his wife, he and his brother were both baptized and dedicated their lives to aiding other Christians, specifically by burying the bodies of Christian martyrs, before they became martyrs themselves. What a model of Christian wifehood! Although I was called not to maintain my virginity but instead to motherhood within my marriage, I too am called to pray for my husband and to take a strong role in maintaining the holiness of my family and my home. Is there anything a man cannot do with a strong, faithful woman at his side?
While my own husband is a devout Catholic and perhaps does more to guide me spiritually than I do him, I call upon Saint Cecilia often to pray for those women (and men) whose spouses are not Christian or who do not practice their faith. I myself come from a mixed-faith family. My mother was raised Catholic by her Catholic mother and Jewish father (my grandfather finally converted last December after a lifetime of loving the Church from the outside!), and my brother and I were raised Catholic by her and my unpracticing Baptist father. I know that there are often difficulties that come from a mixed-faith marriage and I pray often for my parents in this respect. If you have a spouse who does not share your faith or if you know someone in that situation, take strength from Saint Cecilia’s example and pray:
Beloved Jesus, Saint Cecilia’s parents wed her to a pagan nobleman. Eager to convert her new husband, she told him about the angel that always escorted her. He wanted to see the angel too, so he asked for his soul to be purified by baptism. The next time Saint Cecilia prayed, her husband saw the angel place a crown on both of their heads. I ask her and my guardian angel to pray for the unconverted spouses in my family and circles of friends, and for the spouses who believe in You but are slow in spiritual growth. Lord, in Your perfect timing, help them to open up to Your friendship and purification. Saint Cecilia, pray for us. Amen.
(prayer found at http://www.marypages.com/PrayerstotheSaints.htm)