Thursday, 12 January 2012

St. Catherine the Great, Alexandria

Icon, St. Catherine the Great, Martyr, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
 I am well aware that most scholars consider the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria to be nothing but a pious legend.  I disagree.  She was always there to intercede for me during my years of preparing for and working in the library world, and while there may be just a touch of exaggeration in the account of her martyrdom, she was, indeed, a convert in the early Church, she was martyred and she is now in Heaven with her Divine Spouse forever.  You can take my word for it!  She is the saint of attorneys, educators, librarians, mechanics, philosophers, preachers and libraries.

Since not all of your may know the wonderful story of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Egypt), let me tell you a few of the highlights. Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine was born c. 282 and died c. 305.

According to the traditional narrative, Catherine was the beautiful daughter of the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella, who governed Alexandria. Though raised a pagan, she became an ardent Christian in her teenage years, having received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, in which the Blessed Virgin gave Catherine to Jesus in mystical marriage.

As a young adult, she visited her contemporary, the Roman Emperor Maxentius, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians for not worshipping idols. The emperor arranged for a plethora of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, hoping that they would refute her pro-Christian arguments, but Catherine won the debate and succeeded in converting all of them to Christianity, for which the philosophers and orators were executed by an enraged Maxentius.

Catherine was then scourged and put in prison, during which time over two hundred people came to see her, including Maxentius' wife the empress, all of whom converted to Christianity and were therefore martyred.

Wheel for torture which came
to be known as Catherine's Wheel
 Upon the failure of Maxentius to make Catherine yield by way of torture, he tried to win the beautiful and wise princess over by proposing marriage to her, at which point in time the Saint declared that her spouse was Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity. The furious emperor condemned Catherine to death on the spiked breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. The wheel was miraculously destroyed, however, in answer to St. Catherine's prayer, and so Maxentius had to settle for beheading her.

According to a Christian tradition dating to about 800, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where, in the 6th century, the Eastern Emperor Justinian had established what is now known as Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai.

Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counseled her. The Orthodox Church venerates her as a Great Martyr, and celebrates her feast day on 25 November.  In the Catholic Church, after some years of being ignored, St. Catherine is now listed as an optional memorial for the 25th of November.


The Deep of Winter

I understand from our ever-dependable weather forecaster that we are supposed to be getting our first real snowstorm of 2012 soon.  Thus, I felt it appropriate to share with you some of my collection of winter photos.  These are not my photos, but ones I have collected over time because they appealed to me for one reason or another.  I hope they have some appeal for you as well. 

Just the faintest bit of sunlight

Some strange light source shows at the top of the photo

Light from a full moon
sallie and suki

Both Suki and I are doing reasonably well.  At the moment, she is sleeping (surprise) while I work away on this posting.  I am thinking seriously about stopping this soon and going for my morning coffee at which time I would expect Suki to suddenly arise from sleep, give a big yawn accompanied by a great stretch leading to a rather plaintive "meow" (translation:  "is it time to eat?")

My brother-in-law holding the
Christmas gift I prepared for
him, Christmas 2011

Here is a photo of my brother-in-law, Tom, taken sometime after the opening of Christmas gifts, 2011.  Tom is holding the icon of St. Michael I made for him, using a similar icon from an online company.  Tom is the one, you may recall, who has been a volunteer firefighter since he was in high school.  Wherever he and my sister have lived, Tom has always been helping out the local fire station in one capacity or another.  And, as you also may recall, St. Michael is the patron saint of firemen, police, etc.

Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)
foundress of the Sisters of the
Congregation of Notre-Dame


Sometimes Scripture truly strikes you with such an impact that it almost leaves you breathless.  This is what happened to me this morning when I was reading the "alternate Sanctoral Readings".  These are the special readings that the Church provides for solemnities, feasts, or memorials and particularly when there are proper texts for such celebrations.  The Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys is celebrated on this date in Canada and so there are alternate readings provided for those parishes wishing to use them.  One of these alternate readings is from the Book of Sirach where the inspired author says:  "Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient.  For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in Him and He will help you; make your ways straight and hope in Him." (Sirach 2:2ff).  This passage was the means by which God spoke to me powerfully today and I am so grateful.


Meanwhile, I just want you to know that I misjudged Suki.  I did, indeed, get up to make myself a cup of coffee.  Suki did, indeed, stretch, yawn and meow; however, her meow said "I am going back to sleep" instead of the usual "feed me".  At this point she has gone back to sleep in her "crow's nest" and seems to be sleeping soundly.  We should never think that we have cats figured out -- they will always prove us wrong!
Now, may the peace of God be with us all and may St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys pray for us in the days ahead.

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