St. Cecilia was believed to be born in 2nd century Rome. She was an only child in a wealthy Roman family, was well-educated, and had been a devout Christian from early in her childhood. Cecilia had vowed her virginity to God, but she was promised in marriage to a pagan man named Valerian. She wore sackcloth, fasted, and prayed to the saints and angels hoping to keep her promise to God. On their wedding night, Cecilia informed Valerian that an angel guarded her body and that Valerian must not disrespect her vow of virginity. Her prayers were answered, and Valerian was willing to take her as his wife without forcing her to break her vow. Her husband wanted to see the angel that guarded her, but Cecilia told him that he would need to be baptized in order to do so. Valerian went to be baptized by Pope Urban, and returned to Cecilia as a Christian. When he returned, he saw Cecilia praying in her bedroom. Next to her was an angel with flaming wings, and he was holding two crowns of rose and lilies. He crowned both and them, and then vanished.
Shortly after their crowning, Valerian’s brother Tibertius had heard the story of how they had attained their crowns, and he also wanted to be baptized. After the two brothers were baptized, they dedicated themselves to burying the martyrs put to death daily by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius. In turn, they were arrested and brought before the prefect, and when they refused to sacrifice to the gods, they were sentenced to death and executed. An officer of Almachius was appointed to carry out the execution. Instead, he too was converted to Christianity and was martyred along with Tibertius and Valerian. At this time, Christianity was still illegal in Rome. In the meantime, Cecilia continued to make many conversions, and Pope Urban immediately baptized the new converts.
The officers of the prefect then wanted to have Cecilia arrested and killed as well. Before she was arrested, she arranged to have her home preserved as a church. They had condemned her to be suffocated by steam. The fires were turned up and the vents were sealed, making the heat unbearable. When the room was opened the next day, Cecilia was kneeling in prayer and not sweating. When Almachius heard that she had survived the fire, he ordered an executioner to behead her. The man struck her three times and did not succeed. Instead, she laid bleeding and praying.
Cecilia hung onto life for three more days after the strikes. During this time, she made many more conversions. While the crowds came to her to collect her blood with napkins and sponges, she preached or prayed with them. At the end of that period, she died and was buried at the Catacomb of Callistus by Pope Urban and his deacons.. Pope Urban founded a church in Cecilia’s honor, and in 1599, Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of St....