Notebook

St Cecilia

On pilgrimage in Rome in 1887, Thérèse Martin (whom we think of as St Thérèse of Lisieux), paid a visit to the abbey of St Cecilia in Trastevere. She had assumed that Cecilia was patron of music because she had sung prettily. She discovered that, no, the reason was another: the proclamation had been made ‘in remembrance of the virginal song of praise she sang to her Divine Spouse hidden in her heart of hearts’. At once Thérèse felt for her ‘the tenderness of a friend’ (A 61 verso).

The story of Cecilia, one of the Church’s early martyrs, has inspired countless works of art. Dear to me is this song, which I first heard recorded by La Trova de Las Faez. The composer, Manuel Corona, was a bohemian. The text is not very devout. But it shows how the legacy of a saint can saturate the consciousness of a culture in such a way that it becomes the obvious prism through which to imagine, consider, and interpret deep experience.