FEAST DAY: 25 NOVEMBER
Patron Saint of Philosophers and Young Girls
Catherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, and her mother was a secret Christian.
Possessed of uncommon beauty and intellect, Catherine was educated in the sciences in her youth and, at the age of fourteen, was converted to Christianity by a vision and renounced the worship of false gods.
Four years later, Catherine came to the attention of the Emperor in a most surprising way.
The Emperor Maximinus, who was violently persecuting the Christians at the time, was astounded when the young maiden presented herself to him and boldly admonished him for his cruelty and persecution, and endeavoured to prove to him by the strength and logic of her arguments how iniquitous was the worship of false gods.
Completely taken aback by Catherine’s audacity but unable to counteract any of her arguments himself, the Emperor summoned numerous scholars to the imperial palace to compel the young girl, by sophistic counter arguments and devious subterfuges, to apostatize against the Faith.
However, not only did Catherine emerge from the contest victorious, but she conquered several of her adversaries by the eloquence and resounding veracity of her words.
Declaring themselves won over to the Christian Faith, these new adherents were immediately put to death by the enraged Emperor and Catherine was most brutally scourged and imprisoned.
The Empress Augusta, meanwhile, curious to see the remarkable young girl for herself prevailed upon the military-commander Porphyry to accompany her to the prison with a detachment of soldiers. They in turn yielded to the strength of Catherine’s words, embraced the Faith and were baptized as Christians. They immediately won the martyr’s crown at the command of the furious Maximinus.
Seeing his best attempts to make the young noblewoman renounce her Faith come to naught, and her words converting many of those who came in contact with her, the Emperor condemned her to die on a spiked wheel. However, when it was brought before her, this instrument of torture was completely destroyed at her touch. Now enraged beyond all control, the tyrant issued orders for her immediate execution. She was summarily beheaded.
Over eleven hundred years after her glorious martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified St. Catherine of Alexandria as one of the saints who appeared to her and gave her counsels concerning her mission for France.