Cecilia

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Wishing a very blessed feastday to our Oblate sister Cecilia of Rome in Connecticut!

A Veiled Face

I never tire of looking at the statue of Saint Cecilia which lies over the tomb in her church in Rome’s Trastevere. Cecilia is lying on her side, looking almost as if she had been flung there. Her lovely face is hidden and her head is covered with the veil of virgins. The slash of the cruel blade across her neck is visible.

Faith

Even in death Cecilia declares her Catholic faith: the finger of one hand is extended, signifying her faith in the one true God. With three fingers of the other hand she confesses the Most Holy Trinity. Her knees are drawn up, making her look like a sleeping child. Her dress falls in graceful folds about her body. The whole composition is marked by purity and grace.

Found Incorrupt

In 1599, when Pope Clement VIII disinterred Saint Cecilia’s body, it was found to be incorrupt. The Pontiff engaged Stefano Maderno to carve Cecilia just as she was discovered. The artist inscribed his testimony on the statue’s base: “Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body.”

A Masterpiece

Stefano Maderno was only twenty-three when he carved his Saint Cecilia; though he lived be forty, Saint Cecilia is his masterpiece. Reposing in death, Cecilia illustrates the truth of the psalmist’s words: “God gives to His beloved in slumber” (Ps 127:2).

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Thérèse

Maderno’s Saint Cecilia reminds me also of the young Thérèse Martin who lingered before it while on pilgrimage to Rome with her father in 1887. Later on, Thérèse was inspired to write this prayer:

Cecilia, lend to me thy melody most sweet:
How many souls would I convert to Jesus now.
I fain would die, like thee, to win them to His feet;
For him give all my tears, my blood. Oh, help me thou!
Pray for me that I gain, on this our pilgrim way
Perfect abandonment that sweetest fruit of love.
Saint of my heart! Oh, soon, bring me to endless day;
Obtain that I may fly, with thee, to heaven above!

April 28, 1893

2 Comments

Go raibh mille maith agat, Fr. Prior, for this unexpected greeting, the article and picture. They will be treasured. Humbly, Sr. Cecelia of Rome

Thank you for sharing the poem of St. Thérèse! It made me look up the original French, which is even more beautiful:

Cécile, prête-moi ta douce mélodie
Je voudrais convertir à Jésus tant de coeurs !
Je voudrais comme toi sacrifier ma vie
Je voudrais lui donner et mon sang et mes pleurs...
Obtiens-moi de goûter sur la rive étrangère
Le parfait abandon, ce doux fruit de l'amour.
O ma Sainte chérie! bientôt, loin de la terre,
Obtiens-moi de voler près de toi sans retour...

On October 20, 1893 she wrote to her sister Celine:

I cannot think without delight of that sweet saint, Cecilia. What an example she gives us! In the midst of a pagan world, in the very heart of danger, at the moment when she was to be united to a man whose love was so utterly of earth, it seems to me as if she should have wept and trembled with fear. But instead, “during the music of the marriage-feast Cecilia kept singing in her heart." What perfect resignation! No doubt she heard other melodies than those of this world; her Divine Spouse too was singing, and the Angels repeated in chorus the refrain of Bethlehem’s blessed night; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill.”
The Glory of God! St. Cecilia understood it well, and longed for it with all her heart. She guessed that her Jesus was thirsting for souls … and that is why her whole desire was to bring to Him quickly the soul of the young Roman, whose only thought was of human glory. This wise Virgin will make of him a Martyr, and multitudes will follow in his footsteps. She knows no fear: the Angels in their song made promise of peace. She knows that the Prince of Peace is bound to protect her, to guard her virginity, and to make her recompense…. “Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation!"

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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