Faithful Friday: Catherine of Alexandria

By T.K. Wilson (Rated G)

The mysterious legend of St. Catherine of Alexandria begins during the persecutions of Emperor Maximinus. Catherine was of the noble classes, either the daughter of the governor or a princess, and a great scholar on top of it. Converted at fourteen, she appeared to the Emperor four years later at eighteen to reprimand him for his persecution. At first, the Emperor was merciful and sent all his finest philosophers to debate her- most of them converted on the spot! The Emperor then ordered Catherine to be tortured, but not even this would convince her to leave her faith. Finally, Maximinus offered her marriage, impressed with her beauty and courage. Catherine refused, having dedicated her virginity to Christ. This was the last straw, and the Emperor ordered her execution. She was sentenced to the breaking wheel, which itself broke when she touched it. Ultimately, Catherine was beheaded.

In the middle ages, Catherine was a very popular saint and was given patronage over unmarried girls and female students. She was also one of the three saints who appeared to Joan of Arc. Upon leaving the medieval period, doubt was cast on Catherine’s historicity, due to the number of fantastical happenings in her hagiography. A number of scholars believe that Catherine might not have existed by that name, but she may be a combination of several female martyrs of the time, or that she did exist, just that the details were exaggerated. We may never know for sure, but the testimony of her courage resounds all these years later. 

May we all aspire to the courage of St. Catherine. 


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