Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memorial of St Catherine of Alexandria

"Catherine was a noble maiden of Alexandria, who from her earliest years joined the study of the liberal arts with fervent faith, and in a short while came to such an height of holiness and learning, that when she was eighteen years of age she prevailed over the chiefest wits.  When she saw many diversely tormented and haled to death by command of Maximinus, because they professed the Christian religion, she went boldly unto him and rebuked him for his savage cruelty, bringing forward likewise most sage reasons why the faith of Christ should be needful for salvation.

Maximinus marvelled at her wisdom, and bade keep her, while he gathered together the most learned men from all quarters and offered them great rewards if they would confute Catherine and bring her from believing in Christ to worship idols.  But the event fell contrariwise, for many of the philosophers who had come to dispute with her were overcome by the force and skill of her reasoning, so that the love of Christ Jesus was kindled in them, and they were content even to die for his sake.  Then did Maximinus strive to beguile Catherine with fair words and promises, and when he found it was lost pains, he caused her to be hided, and bruised with lead-laden whips, and so cast into prison, and neither meat nor drink given to her for the space of eleven days.

At that time Maximinus' wife and Porphyry the Captain of his host, went to the prison to see the damsel, and at her preaching believed in Jesus Christ, and were afterwards crowned with martyrdom.  Then was Catherine brought out of ward, and a wheel was set, wherein were fastened many and sharp blades, so that her virgin body might thereby be most direfully cut and torn in pieces, but in a little while, as Catherine prayed, this machine was broken in pieces, at the which marvel many believed in Christ.  But Maximinus was hardened in his godlessness and cruelty, and commanded to behead Catherine.  She bravely offered her neck to the stroke and passed away hence to receive the twain crowns of maidenhood and martyrdom, upon the 25th day of November.  Her body was marvellously laid by Angels upon Mount Sinai in Arabia."

-- From the Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

** Painting by Tiziano Vecellio

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