Cecilia, an early woman saint, page four

A strong woman who found herself

Cecilia was buried in the catacombs of St. Callistus, but about the year 820 her remains were removed by Pope Paschal I and re-interred in her church in Trastevere. When the church was rebuilt in 1599, her tomb was opened and her body was found incorrupt. The body lay in state in the church and many Romans viewed it; however, it disintegrated fairly quickly through contact with the air.

Fingers of St CeciliaAt the time, the sculptor, Maderna, made a life-size marble statue of the body (illustration above) 'lying on the right side, as a maiden in her bed, her knees drawn together and seeming to be asleep.' Her hands (drawing at right) depict Cecilia's declaration of faith. The forefinger of the left hand is extended to signify her belief in one God. Three fingers of the other hand are extended to signify the Trinity. Today this statue rests under the main altar of the church. A replica is in Cecilia's original resting-place in the catacombs of St. Callistus.

Cecilia's example is a challenging one, even today. She found herself, not in possessions or social position or even in a husband, but in Christ. And no one could take Christ away from her. Her story makes us turn to ourselves and ask: how much could we lose and still be whole?

A member of the communion of saints for a long time, Cecilia is still worth getting to know, especially by women. The communion of saints is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But interwoven with his story are the stories of countless other women and men who live in vastly different ways the Spirit's call to discipleship. We should not forget their heroic lives for they enable us to see gospel values lived in various situations and inspire us to do the same.

Someone like Cecilia could be a good friend and teacher to women especially, young or old. She was a strong woman who found herself by centering her life in Christ.

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