ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA Patroness of Young Women, Philosophers, Preachers, Theologians, Wheelwrights, Millers, and Other Workingmen

From the tenth century onwards veneration for St. Catherine of Alexandria has been widespread in the Church of the East, and from the time of the Crusades this saint has been popular in the West, where many churches have been dedicated to her and her feast day kept with great solemnity, sometimes as a holy-day of obligation. She is listed as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of mankind among the saints in Heaven; she is the patroness of young women, philosophers, preachers, theologians, wheelwrights, millers, and other workingmen. She was said to have appeared with Our Lady to St. Dominic and to Blessed Reginald of Orleans; the Dominicans adopted her as their special protectress. Hers was one of the heavenly voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.



Artists have painted her with her chief emblem, the wheel, on which by tradition she was tortured; other emblems are a lamb and a sword. Her name continues to be cherished today by the young unmarried women of Paris.

Yet in spite of this veneration, we have few facts that can be relied on concerning Catherine's life. Eusebius, "father of Church history," writing around the year 320, had heard of a noble young Christian woman of Alexandria whom the Emperor ordered to come to his palace, presumably to become his mistress, and who, on refusing, was punished by banishment and the confiscation of her estates. The story of St. Catherine may have sprung from some brief record such as this, which Christians writing at a later date expanded. The last persecutions of Christians, though short, were severe, and those living in the peace which followed seem to have had a tendency to embellish the traditions of their martyrs that they might not be forgotten.

According to the popular tradition, Catherine was born of a patrician family of Alexandria and from childhood had devoted herself to study. Through her reading she had learned much of Christianity and had been converted by a vision of Our Lady and the Holy Child. When Maxentius began his persecution, Catherine, then a beautiful young girl, went to him and rebuked him boldly for his cruelty. He could not answer her arguments against his pagan gods, and summoned fifty philosophers to confute her. They all confessed themselves won over by her reasoning, and were thereupon burned to death by the enraged Emperor. He then tried to seduce Catherine with an offer of a consort's crown, and when she indignantly refused him, he had her beaten and imprisoned. The Emperor went off to inspect his military forces, and when he got back he discovered that his wife Faustina and a high official, one Porphyrius, had been visiting Catherine and had been converted, along with the soldiers of the guard. They too were put to death, and Catherine was sentenced to be killed on a spiked wheel.

When she was fastened to the wheel, her bonds were miraculously loosed and the wheel itself broke, its spikes flying off and killing some of the onlookers. She was then beheaded. The modern Catherine-wheel, from which sparks fly off in all directions, took its name from the saint's wheel of martyrdom. The text of the of this illustrious saint states that her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai, where a church and monastery were afterwards built in her honor. This legend was, however, unknown to the earliest pilgrims to the mountain. In 527 the Emperor Justinian built a fortified monastery for hermits in that region, and two or three centuries later the story of St. Catherine and the angels began to be circulated.

Source: "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc

Catherine as a Model of the Spiritual Combat

The life of St. Catherine illustrates well the spiritual combat. She fought for God and won. We too have to fight for God, and we too hope to win this spiritual battle. We cannot avoid fighting against our enemies. The Holy Ghost told us, "none shall be crowned who has not fought well." Yes, life is a combat.

Our first enemy is the DEVIL who profits by our pride, our desire for independence from God. This is illustrated in St. Catherine's life by the pagan philosophers who tried to put false reasonings in her mind. But she defeated her enemies through HUMILITY. Let us imitate her when we practice obedience to God and to the persons over us to whom God gives His authority. Sometimes we think it is not so hard to obey God, but it is hard to obey the persons He puts in authority over us. But, by obeying them we draw humility from the meek and humble Sacred Heart Himself, and we crush the head of the devil.

Our second enemy is the WORLD which acts upon our selfishness, our desire for worldly success. Maximin attacked Catherine by flattering her passions. She overcame this enemy through PRAYER. Her soul was steeped in the interior life so she did not care for the world and all its riches. Let us imitate her by acquiring a good spiritual life. Practice some time of silence and recollection each day. This will be the best means to keep our mind turned toward the things of Heaven instead of getting wrapped up in the things of the world.

Our third enemy is our own FLESH, which draws us down through our desire for comfort. We hear the voice of our fallen nature, "Take it easy; don't be too hard on yourself. To become a saint is too difficult; God does not want you to go that far." Maximin tortured Catherine's body, but she was victorious through her LOVE for Our Lord. Let us imitate her in making an effort to be generous in our love for Jesus, rather than selfish in our love for ourselves. Love is the most powerful weapon against mediocrity. Love renders all things easy. To deny ourselves will not seem so difficult if we do it for Our Lord's sake.

So, during our life, let us be brave in the spiritual combat as St. Catherine was. Let us fight our enemies: the DEVIL, the WORLD, and OUR FALLEN NATURE with the weapons of HUMILITY, PRAYER, and GENEROSITY.

And if we pray to the Blessed Virgin often as her children, Our Lady ―Our Mother ―will give us the victory.


Prayer

Glorious Saint Catherine, virgin and martyr,
help me to imitate your love of purity.
Give me strength and courage
in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.

Help me to love God with my whole heart
and serve Him faithfully.
O Saint Catherine,
through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ,
help me to be loyal to my faith and my God
as long as I live. Amen.

Prayer for Students

O glorious Saint Catherine, wise and prudent virgin, thou who didst set the knowledge of Jesus Christ above all other knowledge, obtain for us the grace to remain inviolably attached to the Catholic faith, and to seek in our studies and in our teaching only the extension of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord and of His Holy Church both in ourselves and in the souls of others. Amen.

Novena to St. Catherine of Alexandria

Almighty and Eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following her example imitate, like her, the life of Thy divine Son. 

Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through her I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saying, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul.

Prayer in Honor of St. Catherine

O God, Who didst distinguish Thy holy virgin and martyr Catherine by the gift of great wisdom and virtue, and a victorious combat with the enemies of the Faith; grant us, we beseech Thee, through her intercession, constancy in the Faith and the wisdom of the saints, that we may devote all the powers of our mind and heart to Thy service. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Catherine

St. Catherine, glorious virgin and martyr, resplendent in the luster of wisdom and purity; thy wisdom refuted the adversaries of divine truth and covered them with confusion; thy immaculate purity made thee a spouse of Christ, so that after thy glorious martyrdom angels carried thy body to Mount Sinai. Implore for me progress in the science of the saints and the virtue of holy purity, that vanquishing the enemies of my soul, I may be victorious in my last combat and after death be conducted by the angels into the eternal beatitude of heaven. Amen.

Concluding Prayer

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

Feast Day: November 25


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