Saint Spotlight: Catherine of Alexandria

The name Catherine means “pure.”

I chose it for my Confirmation because it’s a family name (but I chose to spell it differently).

Now I like to associate my Confirmation name with St. Catherine because I’m inspired by her story.

This Saint Spotlight is dedicated to: Catherine of Alexandria.


Life

Most of the information we have about St. Catherine comes from legend and tradition.

She was born around 287 in Alexandria, Egypt – a prestigious city and center of learning, culture and faith.

Born into a noble family, she enjoyed learning and was an intelligent young woman.

She became a Christian at age 14 after having a vision of the infant Jesus and Mary.

When Catherine was 18, Emperor Maxentius began to persecute Christians. She bravely confronted him to tell him the error of his ways.

First, the emperor sent 50 philosophers to debate Catherine. They could not stump her and many converted to Christianity. The emperor ordered the converts to be killed.

Then, the emperor arrested Catherine. But no matter how much she was tortured, she never abandoned her Faith.

During her time in prison, she was visited by over 200 people. Many converted to Christianity because of her powerful witness.

Maxentius made one last attempt to break Catherine by proposing marriage to her. Catherine refused; she was consecrated to Jesus Christ and belonged only to Him.

He ordered Catherine to die a slow, painful death on the spiked wheel, but when she touched the wheel, it was miraculously destroyed!

She was then beheaded around the year 305.

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Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem, Israel. Photo from a friend

Legacy

One legend states that angels carried Catherine’s body to Mount Sinai in Israel, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Emperor Justinian built a monastery there in honor of Catherine, and it’s one of the oldest in the world.

Another legend says that around the year 800, her hair was still growing and a constant stream of oil was flowing from her body. None of her remains exist today.

Saint Catherine is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church as an early Christian martyr.

She was widely known and honored in the early Church. She is one of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers” – a group of early saints invoked with special confidence because of their powerful intercession.

Images of St. Catherine show her holding a spiked wheel.

She is the patron of apologists, librarians, students, and unmarried girls.

Her feast is celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church on November 24th and the Roman Catholic Church on November 25th.


Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us!

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