22 November, Monday — Giving from the little we have

Nov 22 – Memorial for St. Cecilia, virgin, martyr

St. Cecilia (d. 117) was a cultivated young patrician woman, whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. She told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized. Returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favour; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn, they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at their villa on the Appian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods, and when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

She was suffocated for a while and when that didn’t kill her, she was beheaded. Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. The tomb was opened in 1599 and her body was found to be incorrupt.

The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.

  • Patron Saint Index

Dan 1:1-6,8-20
Lk 21:1-4

“… but she from the little she had has put in all that she had to live on.”

In the past, I had found this passage meaningful for its message that each of us had a part to contribute in serving others, and that the ‘quality’ of our contribution mattered more than the quantity. However, reading it now in the light of the current pandemic makes me feel rather uneasy. It is the same feeling I get whenever I read about someone coming forward to help those severely affected by the pandemic. These stories usually leave me feeling humbled by the selflessness and determination they display, and guilty that I have not tried to join in or do something similar especially since I have been fortunate to be able to work from home. But then I remember that I live with elderly and frail (and anxious) parents, which makes me worry about every time I have to go out. In the end, I try to say more intercessory prayers and donate (hopefully regularly), which seems woefully inadequate in the midst of the immense suffering around us. Then again, I also wonder why I feel compelled to help – whether it is out of genuine compassion, or a sense of social obligation, or because of peer pressure, or a combination of all three…

But, reading this passage again, I am struck by how it may be calling me to give in other ways, to people I had not considered before. Jesus praised the widow for giving “from her poverty”. The past few months have been extremely hectic, and there have been many instances when I felt like I was running out of time, energy and patience with everyone around me – and unfortunately showed it, especially to my family. Thankfully the worst of the peak period is over (or hopefully it will be by the time this post is published), but now I wonder if these times had been chances for me to look beyond myself and at least try to be a little more generous. But why is it always so difficult to give of myself to those who are closest to me, especially when it requires me to give up my plans and/or ‘me time’?

Considering giving from this angle should not make me overlook the importance of serving the poor and needy in whatever way possible. But perhaps this passage can help me to ponder my own attitude towards and reasons for charity, especially as we approach the season of giving.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)

Prayer: Lord, you loved us so much that you gave us your Son. Help us to learn how we can give of ourselves to those around us.

Thanksgiving: Jesus, thank you for knowing us better than we know ourselves. Thank you for acknowledging our every attempt and action, even when what we do may not be appreciated or turn out the way we expected.

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