Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Many roads served the ancient city of Rome. On one, well beyond the old city walls, you may still see on both sides Roman era tombs; beyond the decaying pagan monuments, there are now large areas of manicured gardens, clipped hedges, and flowering trees. These cover a great expanse of tunnels, galleries, and chambers on four levels carved from the soft volcanic tufa by early Christians: the Catacombs of Saint Callistus. The followers of Christ used this hidden network for prayer, liturgies, and burial when Christianity was proscribed by Roman law. Four years ago, our parish pilgrimage to Italy led by Father John Thomas Lane SSS was blessed and privileged to visit this holy place.
After centuries of neglect, these catacombs were reopened in modern times. The precious remains were reverently removed from the first two levels and taken to lower ones. Among those identified was the body of Cecilia, a Roman woman revered as a martyr and saint. Our guide, Father Dom from Vietnam, showed us the burial place, now holding a stark white marble or plaster effigy of her body as it was found: resting on her side, curled as if asleep, both hands visible. One hand has the index finger extended, and the other has the thumb and little finger folded, the other fingers extended. Even in death, Cecilia proclaimed her unassailable faith: one God in three Divine Persons!
The first reading tells of the cruel martyrdom of the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother, who refused to forswear their Jewish faith and were tortured and killed by their Greek overlords centuries before Christ. May these paragons of faith, Cecilia and the Maccabee family, inspire in us the daily affirmation of God’s everlasting love and mercy and the great gift of the Holy Eucharist.
Let Us Pray:
Dear God, we ask your blessing on all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, like Cecilia and the Maccabees. In a particular way, we remember in prayer your servant John Fitzgerald Kennedy, taken from us sixty years ago this day. Amen.