These holy martyrs have always been held in singular veneration in the church, as appears from the ancient calendar of Fronto, the sacramentary of St. Gregory, St. Jerome”s Martyrology, that of Thomasius. Valerian was espoused to St. Cecily, and converted by her to the faith; and with her he became the instrument of the conversion of his brother Tiburtius. Maximus, the officer appointed to attend their execution, was brought to the faith by the example of their piety; and received with them the crown of martyrdom, in the year 229.The theater of their triumph seems to have been Rome, though some imagined they suffered in Sicily. They were interred in the burying place of Praetextatus, which, from them, took the name of Tiburtius. It was contiguous to that of Calixtus. In that place pope Gregory III repaired their monument in 740; and Adrian I. built a church under their patronage. But pope Paschal translated the remains of these martyrs, of St. Cecily, and the popes SS. Urban and Lucius, into the city, where the celebrated church of St. Cecily stands. These relics were round in it in 1599, and visited by the order of Clement VIII, and approved genuine by the cardinals Baronius and Sfondrate. The Greeks vie with the Latins in their devotion to these martyrs.
Most agreeable to the holy angels was this pious family, converted to God by the zeal and example of St. Cecily, who frequently assembled to sing together, with heavenly purity and fervor, the divine praises. We shall also draw upon ourselves the protection, constant favor, and tender attention of the heavenly spirits, if we faithfully imitate the same angelic exercise. Mortification, temperance, humility, meekness, purity of mind and body, continual sighs toward heaven, prayer, accompanied with tears and vehement heavenly desires, disengagement of the heart from the world, a pure and assiduous attention to God and to his holy will, and a perfect union by the most sincere fraternal charity, are virtues and exercises infinitely pleasing to them.
The angels of peace are infinitely delighted to see the same perfect intelligence and union, which makes an essential part of their bliss in heaven, reign among us on earth, and that we have all but one heart and one soul Happy are those holy souls which have renounced the world, in order more perfectly to form in their hearts the spirit of these virtues, in which they cease not, day and night, to attend to the divine praises, and consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ, by employing their whole life in this divine exercise. Their profession is a prelude to, or rather a kind of anticipation of, the bliss of heaven.
The state of the blessed indeed surpasses it in certain high privileges and advantages. First, they praise God with far greater love and esteem, because they see and know him much more clearly and as he is in himself. Secondly, they praise him with more joy, because they possess him fully. Thirdly, their praises have neither end nor interruption.
Yet our present state has also its advantages. First, if our praises are mingled with tears, compunction, watchfulness, and conflicts, they merit a continual immense increase of grace, love, and bliss for eternity. Second. if our praises cost labor, difficulty, and pain they are a purgatory of love; those of the blessed the reward and the sovereign bliss. Thirdly, we praise God in a place where he is little loved and little known: we celebrate his glory in an enemy”s country, amidst the contradiction of sinners. This obliges us to acquit ourselves of this duty with the utmost fidelity and fervor. A second motive to excite us to assiduity in this exercise is, that it associates us already to the angels and saints, and makes the earth a paradise: it is also, next to the sacraments, the most powerful means of our sanctification and salvation. With what delight do the holy angels attend and join us in it! With what awe and fervor, with what purity of heart, ardent love, and profound sentiments of humility, adoration, and all virtues, ought we in such holy invisible company to perform this most sacred action! We should go to it penetrated with fear and respect, as if we were admitted into the sanctuary of heaven itself, and mingled in its glorious choirs. We ought to behave at it as if we were in paradise, with the utmost modesty in silence, annihilating ourselves in profound adoration with the seraphim, and pronouncing every word with interior sentiment and relish. From prayer we must come as if we were just descended from heaven, with an earnest desire of speedily returning thither, bearing God in our souls, all animated and inflamed by him, and preserving that spirit of devotion with which his presence filled us at prayer.
(Adapted from Butler’s Lives of the Saints)