Lately I have been talking about relics and the incorruptables quite a bit. The other day I was listening to the SaintCast which had a great treatment of the incorruptables. He mentioned a book called "The Incorruptables" (is there an echo in here?) by Joan Carroll Cruz. I remembered that at the local used bookstore that I had seen that book and rushed up there to buy it! On a side note, I think I keep their religion section profitable.
I wanted to share a bit about St. Cecilia (a beautiful name that we might name a daughter some day), who was the first incorruptable, and I am borrowing heavily and citing her book.
St. Cecilia was one of the early martyrs of the Church. She died in 177 A.D (maybe even early enough to get in Foxe's Book of Martyr's - before the "evil Roman Catholic Church" took over and there were no saints until 1500 A.D.) Anyhow, she was a wealthy Roman who converted to Christianity. The emperor ordered her death because she would not sacrifice to the Roman Gods and they had to do it in private since a public death of a noble person would cause quite a stir. So, they sealed her up in her sauna room in her house and tried to gas her to death in a way. This didn't work, and she lived through it, so they sent in an Axe-man to chop off her head. He saw how beautiful and young she was and lost his gusto, so he tried to chop three times, and ended up not killing her...she slowly bled to death over the next few days in prayer and he ran as quickly as possible out of the house.
Of course, all this seems like such a legendary story, one that many would say was rediculous. Then, about 822 A.D., Pope Pascal I had a vision where the saint led him to her body. He moved it and had it placed in a Church. In 1599, her coffin was discovered during the remodeling of the Church. They opened it up, and there was St. Cecilia, preserved without any evidence of decomposition and EXACTLY how this 'legend' describes her death - with the axe marks and all. It was VERY heavily documented and several medical experts examined the body and wrote about it. You can read all about it in the book. So, (and despite the fact that many relics were taken of her blood soaked clothe and fragments of bone that were shattered onto her clothing by the axeman), they put her back in the tomb where it still is today, but beforehand they got a famous sculptor Stfano Maderno to come and sculpt her body. How beautiful she was!
The most amazing thing: St. Cecilia died in a position with one finger outstretched on her left hand and three on the right hand. Any clue? She was praying about the unity of God in the Trinity! (click on the picture for the full view)
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