Biography of Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Our parish is named for St. Catherine of Alexandria.   Not much is known about this early Christian martyr.  In fact, there is even question about her existence. Tradition tells us she was an intelligent young woman who confronted the Roman Emperor Maximinus for violently persecuting Christians.  Astounded by her audacity he summoned numerous scholars to talk some sense to Catherine.  Incredibly, these philosophers were conquered by her eloquence and then declared themselves Christians!

The emperor was furious and had her scourged and imprisoned.  She spoke to the empress and troops from her dungeon and they too were baptized.  The emperor, now further enraged, had her tortured on a spiked wheel, which was miraculously destroyed.  Finally, the emperor had her beheaded and crowned with martyrdom.

Tradition has it that her body was immediately carried by angels to Mt. Sinai where later a monastery was built in her honor.  Catherine of Alexandria became one of the most popular saints, especially in the Middle Ages.  Her statue was found in nearly all churches of Europe and Africa.  Her intercession and patronage was implored by theologians, philosophers, teachers, librarians, lawyers, preachers and wheel-makers.  She was reported to be one of the divine advisors to St. Joan of Arc.

At one time her feast day, November 25, was a holy day of obligation in France.  The monastery built at Mount Sinai in her memory is the oldest continuously occupied monastery in Christendom.

Although we may not know much about the historic life of St. Catherine it is the meaning which we find in her stories and what they “say” to us that is important. We pray that her charisms impact our lives, so that we may speak out against the violence of persecution that exists in our society, stand up for truth and justice, and convert the hearts of others by a spirit of service.  “So Catherine continues to inspire and illuminate us with her edifying story, like a light from a distant star which no longer exists.” (Ellsberg, All Saints, p. 514)