Because of the persecution of Christians, the Pope took refuge in the catacombs. A young noblewoman came to him and asked to be baptized. The young woman was Saint Cecilia, a virgin and martyr.
Newsdesk (22/10/2021, 15:35, Gaudium Press) During the pontificate of St. Urban I (222-230), there was the martyrdom of a virgin who marked the history of the Church. She was from a noble family and her name was Cecilia.
Apparitions of your Guardian Angel
Because of the persecution of Christians by Emperor Alexander Severus, the pope was hiding in a catacomb. One day, the young Cecilia came into his presence and asked him to baptize her. Soon after receiving the sacrament, she took a vow of virginity, and to keep it steadfastly, she had recourse to her Guardian Angel, who often appeared to her.
When she was twenty years old, her parents forced her to marry a very rich young man named Valerian. But on the wedding day, Cecilia called him and told him:
– I have an Angel who watches over my body, which is consecrated to God; woe to you if you dare to profane it!
Valerian answered her:
– I will only believe what you tell me if I see the Angel of which you speak to me.
– To see this Angel you must purify yourself and believe that there is only one living and true God.
Valerian having expressed a desire to purify himself and to know God, Cecilia recommended that he go to a catacomb located under the Appian Way, where he would meet an old man named Urban.
Conversion of Valerian and Tiberius
Valerian hurried to the catacomb, and Saint Urban welcomed him with great kindness. He expounded all that Cecilia had told him to the Pontiff, who gave thanks to God and began to address to those present inspired words.
While he was speaking, Valerian was addressed by St. Paul the Apostle, who said to him, “Read the book I give you! If you have Faith you will be purified and you will see the Angel that Cecilia told you about.”
Trembling, Valerian opened the book and read these words, “There is one God, Father of all things, Lord of all things, who rules us all.”
– Do you believe what you have read?” asked St. Paul.
– Yes, and in this I firmly believe, replied Valerian.
The Apostle disappeared; then Saint Urban instructed Valerian in the mysteries of Religion, baptized him, and, after they had spent the night in prayer, told him to return to see Cecilia.
Valerian found her praying, having at her side the Angel in human form, who had in his hands two crowns ornamented with roses and lilies; he placed one of them on Cecilia’s head and the other on Valerian’s, saying to them:
-Work, young people, to preserve these crowns with purity of heart and holiness of life. I brought them from the garden of Paradise and these flowers will never wither. And to you, Valerian, I declare from Jesus that whatever you ask will be granted.
– Angel of God, exclaimed Valerian, I ask you for the conversion of my brother Tiberius.
– What you ask will be granted, replied the Angel; just as Cecilia converted you to the Faith, you will convert Tiberius, and both of you will attain the palm of martyrdom. And he disappeared.
Valerian went to his house, told Tiburcio the wonders he had seen, and then led him to Saint Urban, who instructed him in the Faith and baptized him.
Maximus and his family are baptized
When he heard the news of Valerian and Tiberius’ conversion, the Prefect of Rome summoned them and ordered his advisors to take them to the temple of Jupiter, where they were to offer incense to the idol; if they didn’t, they would be beheaded.
Maximus, the Prefect’s secretary, accompanied them to the indicated place with an escort of soldiers; but when he saw those noble young men going to their death with such pride and joy, as if they were going to a great feast, he wished to embrace the Faith.
Christians who were there took him into their home and instructed him in the true Religion. The grace of God worked in such a way that Maximus, his family and other pagans who heard the explanations believed in Jesus Christ. As night fell, Saint Urban arrived at this residence with other priests and Saint Cecilia. The Pope, seeing that all were well instructed, arranged for them to be baptized.
While this was going on, the executioner appointed to kill Valerian and Tiberius arrived at their place and, with a rage of fury, cut off their heads. That same day Maximus received the crown of martyrdom.
Bathed in blood, the virgin exhorts the faithful
Drunk with hatred, the Prefect sent his henchmen to Saint Cecilia’s house to arrest her; many pagans accompanied them. When they entered her residence, she spoke to them in such a way that converted them. She sent for St. Urban, who administered the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Thus, almost four hundred people became members of the Church.
When the Prefect learned of the conversion of his own emissaries, he had Saint Cecilia brought before him. In the face of his dire threats, she spoke forceful words, full of Faith and contempt for paganism.
The mayor, to avoid rioting among the people who loved St. Cecilia very much for her charitable works, ordered her to be killed secretly in her house. They threw her into a well-heated stove to make her die of suffocation, but she came out unharmed. Then they were ordered to cut off her head. The executioner struck three blows, but could not separate her head from her torso, and St. Cecilia remained on the ground bathed in her own blood.
The poor who had enjoyed her benefits, as well as many other Christians, without caring about the danger they were exposing themselves to, went to visit her, and the Saint exhorted them to remain firm in the Faith.
Having been warned, Saint Urban I hurried there with all haste, in order to assist her during those terrible and prolonged sufferings. On seeing him, she exclaimed:
– “Most Blessed Father, I give thanks to God that in His great mercy He has deigned to hear my prayer. I had asked Him to give me still three days of life, so that I could be consoled by your presence, and at the same time recommend some things to you. I ask you, therefore, to take care of my poor little ones, give them everything you can find in my house, and then turn it into a church so that the faithful can gather there to sing the glories of the Lord.”
After saying these words, her soul flew to Heaven. St. Cecilia’s house became a chapel, where you can still see today the greenhouse inside of which they wanted to suffocate her. Her venerable body, which is incorrupt, is in the Church of St. Cecilia beyond the Tiber, in Rome. She is the patroness of music. Her memory is celebrated on November 22; that of Sts. Valerian, Tiberius, and Maximus on April 14.
By Paulo Francisco Martos
Compiled by Camille Mittermeier
(in Notions of Church History – 29)
Cf. SAINT JOHN BOSCO. Historia Ecclesiástica. Sao Paulo: Salesiana, 1960, p. 59-62.