SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA
by Meredith Oesch
Today we are going to be learning about Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Saint Catherine of Alexandria was born in 287. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt. When Saint Catherine was born Alexandria was a center for culture, learning, and faith as well as being one of the finest cities in the world. Historians believe that she was some sort of noble woman, maybe a princess. Since she was born into a noble, wealthy family she was able to access a strong education and was said to be a strong, strong scholar and enjoyed learning with a fiery passion.
It is said that when she was 14 years old, she had a life changing, moving vision of Mary, and baby Jesus. After this she decided to become a Christian and devote her life to Christ. After devoting her life to Christ, Emperor Maxentius, who was the emperor of Rome at the time, started persecuting Christians in Rome, she decided to go to him and denounce his cruelty and actions towards her fellow Christians.
Upon her visit, Catherine was pardoned from an execution for being a christian while Emperor Maxentius summoned fifty orators and philosophers to debate her. During the debates Catherine was moved by the power of the Holy Spirit and spoke strongly and intelligently in defense of Christ, the faith, and those who had died in his name. Her words were said to have moved multiple pagans and they immediately converted to Christianity. They were immediately executed.
Since Emperor Maxentius was unable to tear her away from her faith, the cruel emperor dictated for her to be imprisoned and tourchered. Saint Catherine of Alexandria was then arrested and scourged. Throughout her tourcher she never once did she abandon her faith. During her imprisonment, due to the word spreading about her strong and moving faith, she was visited by 200 people. According to legend, the emperor's wife, Caleria Maximilla visited Catherine and was converted by her. Not according to legend though the emperor's wife was executed not long after Saint Catherine due to her conversion to Christianity. They just are not sure how the empress was converted.
After her imprisonment, Maxentius made one last attempt to persuade Saint Catherine of Alexandria to abandon her faith. This attempt was by proposing marriage. This offer would have made her a powerful empress in the eyes of the world. But saint Catherine knew that the eyes of God are the only ones that truly matter. Knowing this Saint Catherine refused his offer, she said she was married to Jesus Christ and her virginity was dedicated to him.
After the rejection from Saint Catherine he ordered her execution on a breaking wheel. A breaking wheel is an ancient form of torture where a person’s limbs are treaded among the spokes and thier bones are shattered by an executioner with a heavy rod. It is a very slow and painful death, reserved for the worst criminals.
When Saint Cathierine was presented before the wheel, she laid a hand on it and it immediately shattered. Clearly a miracle of God. After this the emperor ordered her to be beheaded.
On one account, it was claimed that an angel took Saint Catherine’s body to Mount Sinai. After her death in the sixth century, the Emperor Justinian, a christian, ordered a monastery to be established in her name. This monastery is, to this day, one of the oldest in the world.
Around the year 800, a legend started that her body had been found with her hair still growing and a constant stream of oil coming from her body. No one today has any record or proof of her body or remains being found.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria is venerated in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as a Martyr. Her feast day is November 25th. She is the patron of students, unmarried girls, and apologists.
I think that Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s story is extremely important and inspiring in many different ways. I certainly took away the power of standing for right, and Jesus. I also learned the importance of not being passive in the persecution of Christians, and to face it head on. I learned the power of growing in knowledge of this beautiful faith and church we have been gifted from God! I pray that we are all able to grow in knowledge and to not be passive in the face of persecution!