Life of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1866


The Church offers, in every age, in her Saints, Apostles, and Martyrs, brilliant examples of virtue, zeal, and heroic courage. While all are holy, there are still some, whose lives present features, at once so touching and sublime, that time can detract nothing from the interest which attaches to their names in every Catholic heart. Pre-eminent among these, is St. Cecilia, the gentle queen of Sacred Song, distinguished alike for her attachment to holy Virginity, her apostolic zeal, and the unfaltering courage by which she won the martyr's crown. --Preface


Exerpt from Chapter VI
(pages 59 - 60)

Cecilia was not at liberty to refuse the testimonies of affection lavished upon her by Valerian. Full of esteem for the noble qualities of this young Pagan, she could have loved him as a brother; but she was betrothed to him, and the wedding-day was rapidly approaching. Who can conceive the anguish of the young virgin? The irresistible command of her parents, the high spirit of the young man, chilled her blood with fear, and she had no other resource, than to bury deeper in her soul, the chaste secret of that love which reigned supreme in her heart.

She knew that her angel watched over her, but she would soon be forced to contend for herself; it was time to prepare for combat. Under a magnificent dress, embroidered with gold, she wore a hair shirt, seeking thus to mortify her innocent flesh, and bring it into subjection to the spirit, that it might not recoil, when she would be called upon to pay with her blood, the signal honor of being the chosen bride of heaven. Condemned to live in the midst of patrician effeminacy, she took every precaution to deaden by voluntary suffering, that attraction to pleasure which tyrannizes over the children of Eve, and too frequently reveals to an imprudent and negligent soul, the deep corruption of the human heart.

If, following the example of the widow of Bethulia, Cecilia concealed under her garments the instruments of her penance, like David, she also weakened her flesh by rigorous fasts. According to the custom of the first Christians, when they wished to appease heaven, or obtain some signal favor, she abstained from food two, and sometimes three days, only taking in the evening a slight repast necessary to support life. This courageous preparation by means of which she hoped to insure victory, was rendered still more efficacious by her continual and ardent prayers. With heartfelt earnestness she recommended to God the dreaded hour! With tears and sighs she implored the assistance of the celestial spirits who cooperate in our salvation, of the holy Apostles, patrons and founders of Christian Rome, of the blessed inhabitants of heaven who protect our combats.

The favor which Cecilia so fervently solicited, was granted; but her celestial spouse was pleased to try his noble bride, that her virtue might be strengthened and purified. Was she not soon, in return for so much suffering, to enter into the possession of eternal happiness? Moreover, the approaching conflict which was to crown her with so much glory, was but the prelude to those combats in the midst of which, she would require a manly courage, not yet sufficiently developed in her heart by divine love . . . . .




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