From simple to sublime – that was Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Early in her life, she had a transformative vision of Mother Mary with Baby Jesus, which sparked her conversion into Christianity, elevating and guiding her intellect, will and passions to be in communion with the Lord’s. From then on, her beauty, brain and heart enthralled, challenged and enraged those around her.
Residing in Alexandria during the Hellenistic period, the hub of learning and culture, Catherine loved to read and was very studious. She had a rich mind that contemplated and sought truth with courage.
One day, while word spread about Catherine’s immaculate beauty and intelligence, Roman Emperor Maxentius was intrigued by what he had heard, and immediately ordered his servants to bring her to him. Upon meeting her, he was bewitched and proposed marriage to her despite already having a wife. Catherine rejected him because she could not marry someone like him and could only truly love Christ. This infuriated Maxentius. In an attempt to win Catherine, he invited pagan philosophers and teachers to persuade Catherine out of Christianity so that she may renounce Christ. Maxentius failed. As she listened and responded to each point made by the teachers and philosophers with conviction, reason, and confidence, these men were blown away by her wit and converted. Catherine was one of the earliest defenders of the Christian faith, and she delighted in this task of being a skillful apologetic. The conversion of the pagan philosophers and teachers was disturbing to Maxentius, as he knew he could lose his power and empire to her if his people no longer worshipped Roman gods. And so, he commanded that Catherine be bound to the spiked wheel and silenced. As soon as Catherine was tied to it, however, the wheel broke and its blades flew off hitting and injuring her executors. This miracle gave her the name and title: Saint Catherine of the wheel. To end her life, Catherine’s executors decapitated her soon after the failure of the spiked wheel method. Beloved and beautiful, God sent His angels to pick her body up and bring her to Heaven.
May Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s story serve as an important reminder for all of us to strengthen the marriage between our rationality and faith as we continue to grow in communion with the Lord. By holding a habitual and firm disposition in Christ, she embodies faith and works in the gifts that God gave her: eloquent speech and persuasive delivery. Her conversion was uniquely propelled by one event, her divine vision of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, whereas for me, it is more of a process wherein several encounters with the Lord refuels me with new senses of wonder allowing room for God’s spiritual creativity to take over and manifest in my dialogues and written works.
Patience, passion, and credibility are what Saint Catherine had. She was honest and courageous with those who disagreed with her. That is what I strive to be with those who question and attack the Catholic faith moving forward: to be a bold and loving defender of the Lord.
“Be a bold and loving defender of the Lord”
Known as the virginal spouse of Christ, Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of students, teachers, philosophers, unmarried women, and apologists. Pray to her for strength and courage in unleashing the Lord’s truth and grace!
Feast Day: November 25th
This reflection was written by Kate Cabigao, a 24-year-old Filipina. She is a graduate of NYU Steinhardt’s Education Studies program with a specialization in Global and Urban Education. She loves to write about her thoughts, feelings and experiences, ranging from the silly and mundane to the serious and profound. Her dream is to encourage millennials to make the most of their decisions and actions in life, as well as discover and capitalize on their strengths moving forward.