Monday, November 22, 2010

Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin & Martyr - Le renouveau charismatique d'Ottawa - "Condom Controversy"

Today, the Church celebrates a memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin-martyr of the early church.

St Cecilia is one of the seven women saints, besides Mary, mentioned in the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer) of the Mass, showing that these saints were venerated in 5th century Rome. Patrick Duffy ( tries to unravel what the stories say about St Cecilia and how she became patron of music:

The 5th century Acta of St Cecilia tell of events in the early 3rd century. A Christian Roman maiden from a patrician family wanted to dedicate herself to God as a virgin, but her father had arranged her marriage to a young man named Valerian. After the marriage ceremony, she told Valerian about Jesus, adding that her virginity was protected by an angel. She said he could choose between serving the angel if he respected it and being being punished by the angel if he tried to consummate the marriage.

Perplexed, Valerian went off to find Pope Urban I (222-230), who was living among the poor along the Appian Way, and asked to be baptised. On his return, he found the angel standing beside his wife, and they both received a crown of flowers. Then his brother Tiburtius arrived, was told the story, and also went off to be baptised. The two then devoted themselves to good works and were arrested for burying bodies of martyred Christians. Refusing to recant, they were beheaded outside Rome, together with an official named Maximus, who was converted by their example. Cecilia then buried their bodies.

A crowd then gathered at her house, and Pope Urban baptised some 400 people there, one of whom established that house as a church - the detail which probably accounts for the origin of the story. Cecilia was condemned to be suffocated in her bathroom. The attempt failed. Then she was beheaded, but this was bungled, so she lingered for three days. She was buried in the catacomb of San Callisto.

Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus were actual martyrs, historically identifiable and buried in the catacomb of Praetextatus. Mention is made of an ancient Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere in the fifth century, where Pope Symmachus held a council in the year 500. In 821 Pope Paschal I wished to restore this church which had fallen into decay, and had their remains moved there to be together with her supposed body, which he had been told in a dream was there and not in San Callisto. He had this enclosed in a cypress coffin in a marble tomb. Pope Paschal founded a monastery in honour of these saints, near the Church of St. Cecilia, that the monks might perform the office day and night.

Another restoration under Cardinal Sfondrati in 1595 led to their tombs being opened. Cecilia's body was found to be incorrupt, and remained so for some days, long enough for a graphic altar sculpture of St. Cecilia to be made by the late-Renaissance sculptor Stefano Maderno (1600), before contact with the air caused the body to disintegrate. It was seen by many people, and full descriptions were written of it by the reputable historian Cardinal Baronius. The statue depicts evidence of decapitation, thus helping to confirm the identity of the saint. Incorrupt bodies are not a feature of earlier stories of saints, and no mention was made of it in 821; by the 16th century they had become quite "fashionable", and this discovery was seen as a great coup for the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

Up to this stage there had been no association between Cecilia and music. Till then, those regarded as the patron saints of music were: Pope St Gregory I, credited with originating the style of liturgical singing known as Gregorian chant; from the Old Testament, King David, a fabled harpist and a composer of psalm tunes and texts and Job, who in Job 30:31 says: ''My harp is turned to mourning, my flute to the sound of weepers.''

The Acta of St Cecilia telling how she converted her husband Valerian, her brother-in-law Tiburtius and the Roman official Maximus and her death set out the basis for her sainthood (= canonisation). How she became the patroness of music and musicians can be traced to a misunderstanding of the account of Cecilia's prayer during her wedding as reported in the Acta. What the Acta say is: "So at the ceremony, while musical instruments played around her, she prayed that she might remain as pure in body as she was in spirit". Her prayers were answered when she converted Valerian to Christianity.

But by the 15th century the Vespers antiphon for her feast day highlighted the words: Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino leaving out the words in corde suo (in her heart) and the content of her prayer from the Acta account of the wedding. This led to an interpretation of Cecilia as actually herself singing and playing the organ. By Handel's time, Cecilia, as well as being a virtuoso performer, had become a great appreciator of music!

Soon Cecilia is depicted in paintings as singing and playing the organ and is declared as the patron of music by musicians’ guilds. This led to an extraordinary growth in her popularity, especially when Palestrina helped set up the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1584. She was even said to have invented the organ.

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O God, who gladden us each year with the feast of St. Cecilia, grant, we pray, that what has been devoutly handed down concerning this handmaid of yours may offer us examples to imitate and proclaim the wonders worked in his servants by Christ your Son.  Who lives and reigns with you.

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Samedi, c’était ma rencontre annuelle avec les représentants du renouveau charismatique dans l’archidiocèse et la région. 

Nous avons partagé louange et prières, chants et danse, la sainte messe et un repas. Je n’ai pas pu assister aux sessions de l’après-midi à cause d’une célébration de confirmations à l’église St. Joseph, d’Orléans pour les étudiants de l’école Les Voyageurs.

Aucune photo des confirmations, mais voici quelques photos de la réunion du matin.

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Leak of Condom Statement from Pope's Book Overshadows Consistory

Between a meeting with charismatics, some Confirmations and a diaconal ordination Saturday and three Confirmation celebrations yesterday, I have not had much time to peek into the news coming out of the Vatican regarding what the new papal interview said about a rare use that might be permitted for a condom.

Too bad the media feeding frenzy overshadowed the significant homily and addresses the Pope gave on the occasion of creating twenty-four new cardinals in his third consistory.

I have not seen the book of Peter Seewald's interview with the Holy Father, but the blogosphere has been full of commentary by those who have not read the book,  as well by those who have but, even under media pressure, have decided to observe the embargo which is set to end at noon (Rome time) tomorrow or 6 o'clock tomorrow morning in Ottawa.

One who has seen the book and will comment on it once the embargo is lifted is the American Catholic commentator Amy Welborn whose blog "Charlotte Was Both" ( yesterday roasted the Pope's newspaper for violating publication convention; she also gives a hint as to what we can expect, including more surprises:

What’s most unbelievable about today is who broke the embargo – L’Osservatore Romano that’s who. With a mistranslated section that’s what.

(I think – I’m assuming. The Italian translation had a feminine article with prostitute and the English version that I read ... is specific about male prostitute.)

The point? No the Pope did not have a “condom conversion” as Ruth Gledhill so idiotically put it on Twitter. What he said – whether he should have said it or not is another issue – but whatever the case it really is nothing new and has nothing to do with the Church’s teaching on contraception either.

It’s an articulation of his concern for and interest an individual’s moral progress – ironically enough.

Here’s what I’m going to say – this whole conversation is going to be flipped on its head when the rest of the interview comes out and the people who are either crowing about or mourning the Pope changing the Church’s teaching on contraception or sexuality or something are really not going to know what to say next.

Interesting days ahead...!

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour Monseigneur Prendergast,
    Nous ne venons pas souvent dans votre "blog" mais il est très impressionant. Toutes ces activités et ses écrits que vous nous partagez. Merci pour tout de que vous faites pour notre diocèse. Le Seigneur est à l'oeuvre! Merci pour votre présence à la journée du 20 novembre, Renouveau diocésain. Que nous puissions vraiment laisser nos coeurs s'embraser du feu de l'Esprit Saint pour mettre le feu de l'Amour autour de nous. Nous le petit troupeau qui marchons à la suite du Berger.Que le Seigneur vous bénisse et vous garde....
    Madeleine et Gérard