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Friday, 24 November 2017
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St Catherine of Alexandria

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Catherine was the daughter of the governor of Alexandrian Egypt, Constus, during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital - the centre of Hellenistic (Greek) knowledge - and being very beautiful and of great intellect, Catherine received a splendid education, studying the works of the finest philosophers and teachers of antiquity.

Converted to Christianity through a vision, Catherine confronted the Emperor, while on a visit to Alexandria, for his persecution of Christians. Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom denounced the errors of the pagans. Her beauty captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor gave orders to gather 50 of the most learned men (rhetoricians) of the empire, but the Saint got the better of the wise men, such that they themselves came to believe in Christ. They were burned to death by order of the emperor.

Maximian, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of a royal marriage, riches and fame. Having received an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. During an absence of the Emperor, the Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the saint, decided to visit her in prison. She, accompanied by a detachment of soldiers, went to the prison and was impressed by the strong spirit of Saint Catherine and her radiance. Catherine explained the Christian teaching to all, and they believed and were converted to Christ.

Later in 310 AD under the threat of being broken on the wheel, Catherine was again urged to recant from the Christian faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and as she approached the spiked wheel it miraculously broke into pieces. Seeing what had happened, the empress Augusta with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Catherine too was soon beheaded.

In the 6th Century, through a revelation, the head and left hand of the saint were found and transferred with honour to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the emperor Justinian (527-565). There they are venerated today.

Catherine is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers. St. Catherine's was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Maximian's blind fury against St. Catherine is symbolic of the anger of the world in the face of truth and justice. A life lived in truth and justice can expect opposition from the forces of evil. However, perseverance in good, has eternal consequences.