Cecilia, an early woman saint, page three

Why kill a woman?

Ordinarily, only men were required to perform the rite of burning incense in honor of the emperor. Women had no public role in Roman society; everything they did was considered a private act. Women would be held publicly accountable for their behavior only if they stepped out of the private world of home and family and acted in the public sphere. So what did Cecilia do to be considered a threat to Roman order?

She must have continued to practice her Christian faith publicly. The Christian community must have continued meeting in her home. She must have continued providing for the poor of Trastevere, earning their love and respect, threatening the hold of the Roman State, source of bread and circuses, on their loyalty. Whatever her public activity, she became such a threat that the Roman prefect sent a detachment of soldiers across the Tiber River and through the narrow, winding streets of Trastevere to arrest her in her house. When she refused to sacrifice to the gods she was sentenced to be suffocated in her own bathroom.

The way Cecilia was martyred, in her own house, seems to indicate that people held her in high regard. Otherwise, why kill her in secret? Wealthy Roman homes often had three private baths in their homes: a calidarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium. Cecilia was locked in the calidarium or steam room for three days, but she survived. She was then beheaded right in her own home. The private execution was to prevent public demonstrations in her favor. (illustration above: Cecilia receives her martyr's crown, from an illuminated manuscript)


a strong woman who found herself


The first Christian martyrs Cecilia, an early saint Lawrence, the deacon
Sebastian, the soldier saintact with Compassionfront page

Sign of the Passion

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