November 22 – Michael of Tver; Cecilia

Michael of Tver (1272–1318), son of Yaroslav III Yaraslovich and nephew of Alexander Nevsky (Nov 23), was raised a good Christian lad by his good Christian mum (St.) Xenia of Tarusa, later a nun in Novgorod. From his youth, Michael figured he’d wind up either a monk or a martyr, and it turned out he was half right (as we’ll see if we’re patient). Like his father and brother before him, he became Prince of Tver, and like his cousin before him, he became Prince of Novgorod the Great. (It was still really great in those days, too.)

While Michael was out meeting the newly-khanified Uzbeg (does “Uzbeg” sound like the name of an Orc, or what?), his uncle Yuri nabbed Novgorod. Michael decided not to pursue war, but war pursued him, and Yuri attacked Tver, too. Yuri lost, and Michael took his (Yuri’s) wife, Konchaka, sister of the Orc, hostage. When she died in captivity (everybody nowadays agrees Michael was blameless), he was called to the Khan’s court and condemned to (eventually) die. He was placed in the stocks, was attended by local priests, and was able to read the Psalms thanks to a lad who turned the pages for him. While he was thus imprisoned, a crowd of Yuri supporters (which may or may not have contained Yuri) rushed into his cell and stabbed him to death. His body was thrown to the wolves, but the wolves wouldn’t touch it, and that night two radiant clouds shone over it (I don’t know how far this was from present-day Chernobyl). His remains were collected and sent to Moscow; they now reside in Tver.

In 1606 an army of Poles and Lithuanians besieging Tver was put to flight by a ghostly horseman on a white steed. Later, after seeing an icon of Michael, they (some of them, anyway) affirmed under oath that it was he.

Cecilia (d. 280) was born to noble, Roman, secretly-Christian parents. She decided while young to preserve her chastity, but neglected to tell her parents, so they arranged a marriage for her, to which she consented. She sang at her own wedding, which is why she’s the patron of music and musicians. (She is also blamed for inventing of the organ, but it was really St. Wurlitzer.) After the wedding, she explained to her husband Valerian that she couldn’t consummate their marriage, as an angel watched over her to guard her chastity. “I don’t see any angel,” said he. “You must be purified,” said she. “Go talk to St. Urban at 1 Catacomb Way” (the vanity address tells you Urban was Pope). Valerian went, and returned damp[1].

The angel placed woven crowns of heavenly and (this is important) out-of-season flowers on their heads. “Ask for any one thing,” the angel said to Valerian. (Unlike genies, angels only grant one wish.) “I wish for my brother Tiburtius to be baptized,” he replied. “That’s a good wish,” the angel said, and before you knew it, Tiburtius was standing in the room, asking, “Where’d you guys get the out-of-season flowers?” Cecilia explained that and the gospel, then sent him to St. Urban; he too came back dripping1. The three of them went on to undertake (heh) the good work of burying unburied Christians (funeral parlors wouldn’t touch them).

When the brothers were caught and executed, Cecilia buried them side by side. She too was caught, arrested, brought before the governor, and ordered to worship the pagan gods. Her refusal was so eloquent that forty people from the audience rushed forward and declared themselves Christians. “What are you?” the judge raged. “I’m a noble Roman,” she replied. “I mean what’s your religion?!” “You blind fool, you know that already,” she said. She was boiled alive, and almost beheaded, but she lived for three more days, long enough to give away all her stuff and sing a lot. Then she was buried with her husband and brother-in-law.


[1] Let the reader understand.