Nov. 25, 2018





This is she who knew not the bed in sin: she shall have the fruit of her virtue in the reward of holy souls.


The virgin is scourged, loaded with chains, tormented with hunger; but while she remains shut up in prison a heavenly light shines around.



Prayer (Collect).

O God, who gavedst the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and wonderfully translatedst, by the ministry of thy holy Angels, the body of blessed Catherine, thy Virgin and Martyr, to the same place; mercifully grant, by her merits and prayers, we may safely come to the holy mount, which is Christ. Who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.


St. Catherine was born at Alexandria, of pagan parents. She was gifted with great personal beauty, and possessed so extraordinary a mind, that she mastered all the sciences which, at that period, nourished in her native city. The only science of which she had no knowledge was that of eternal salvation; but this, too, she at last obtained in the following manner: It seemed to her, in her sleep, that the Queen of Heaven was standing before her in wondrous beauty, carrying her divine Son in her arms. But the latter, turning His face from her in displeasure, said that Catherine was ugly, because she had not been baptized. Catherine awoke, and, while thinking over her dream, she was inspired by Heaven to resolve to become a Christian. When sufficiently instructed, she received holy baptism, after which the Blessed Virgin again appeared to her with Christ, who, looking tenderly at Catherine, placed a ring on her finger, as a sign that He had chosen her for His bride. On awaking, she found a ring on her finger, and, without delay, determined to consecrate her virginity to the Lord, and to become a more zealous Christian.

Maximin, the emperor, had appointed a certain day to celebrate a public sacrifice in honor of the false gods, and all the inhabitants of the city were commanded to take part in it. Catherine was deeply grieved to see that the people should thus honor the devil, and not have any knowledge of the true God. Arming herself with courage, she went fearlessly into the temple, where the emperor personally assisted at the sacrifice, and, addressing him with Christian freedom, she represented to him his blindness in worshipping idols, and endeavored to convince him of the truth of Christianity. The emperor was greatly surprised that a maiden should dare to speak thus to him, but was, at the same time, fascinated by the appearance and eloquence of Catherine. No sooner had he returned to his palace, than Catherine again appeared before him, and spoke so forcibly of the falsity of the heathen gods, and of the truth of the Christian religion, that the emperor knew not what to reply. What he was unable to do, he thought others could do for him; therefore he summoned some of the most learned men into his presence, to answer Catherine's arguments, and persuade her to renounce the Christian faith. But the Almighty, who, by a feeble maiden, could bring to naught the wisdom of the pagan sages, inspired St. Catherine with such eloquence, that she succeeded in convincing them of their error so completely, that they publicly renounced it, and proclaimed the Christian faith as the only true one. The emperor, enraged at so unexpected an issue, ordered these new confessors of Christ to be immediately executed. He then endeavored to win Catherine from her faith by flatteries and promises; and when he found that his words made no impression on the mind of the virgin, he began to threaten, and finally sent her away to be tortured. She was scourged so cruelly and so long, that her whole body was covered with wounds, from which the blood flowed in streams. The spectators wept with pity; but Catherine, strengthened by God, stood with her eyes raised to heaven, without giving a sign of suffering or fear; After this cruel treatment she was dragged into a dungeon, and, by the command of the emperor, was left without food, in order that she might slowly pine away. But God sent an Angel, who healed her wounds and filled her heart with indescribable comfort. The Lord Himself appeared to her, encouraged her to fight bravely, and promised her the crown of everlasting glory. Some writers add, that the empress, having heard much of Catherine's wonderful learning, eloquence and fortitude, had deep compassion upon her, and secretly went at night with Porphyrius, the captain of the guard, to visit her in her dungeon. When she beheld Catherine's wounds healed, and the virgin resplendent with more than human beauty, she was speechless with surprise. Catherine made this miracle an occasion to speak to her of the omnipotence of the Most High, and of the falsity of the heathen gods. She spoke with such overwhelming eloquence, that the empress, as well as Porphyrius, promised to embrace Christianity.

Some days later, when the emperor was informed that Catherine was not only still alive but in better health than ever, he had her brought before him, and again assailed her with promises and menaces. Finding, however, that she was as firm as before, he gave orders that she should be bound to a wheel studded with sharply-pointed spikes and knives. The Christian heroine was not horrified at this inhuman order, but called with unwavering trust on God. When the executioners had seized her, and bound her on the wheel, the Almighty sent an Angel, who loosened the fetters and broke the wheel to pieces. Many of the spectators, on beholding this miracle, cried aloud: “Great is the God of the Christians! He alone is the true God!” Maximin remained blind, and was thinking of new torments, when the empress came forward, reproached him with his barbarity towards a weak and innocent maiden, and boldly confessed that she herself recognized and worshipped no other god but the God of the Christians. The tyrant, hearing these words, lost all control over himself, and ordered the empress and Porphyrius to be immediately beheaded, and Catherine, as an enemy of the gods, to be taken to the public market-place and put to death by the sword. The fearless virgin went joyfully to the appointed place, exhorted all the people who had come to witness her death to abandon idolatry, prayed to God for their conversion, and then received the stroke that sent her soul to heaven [adorned with the double crown of virginity and martyrdom]. Ancient authors testify that milk flowed from the body of St. Catherine instead of blood, as had formerly happened at the death of St. Paul. Her body, they add, was miraculously carried by angels and buried on Mount Sinai, in Arabia.



The virgin is scourged, loaded with chains, tormented with hunger; but while she remains shut up in prison a heavenly light shines around.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.

℣. The Spouse loves his bride and visits her as a Savior.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

*A sweet fragrance fills the air, and hosts of heaven are there singing praises.


Another account of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

A.D. 305

St. Catherine, whom the Greeks call Ӕcatherina, glorified God by an illustrious confession of the faith of Christ, at Alexandria, under Maximinus II. Her acts are so much adulterated that little use can be made of them. The Emperor Basil, in his Greek Menology, relates with them that this saint, who was of the royal blood, and an excellent scholar, confuted a company of the ablest heathen philosophers, whom Maximinus had commanded to enter into a disputation with her, and that being converted by her to the faith, they were all burnt in one fire, for confessing the same. He adds, that Catherine was at length beheaded. She is said first to have been put upon an engine made of four wheels joined together, and stuck with sharp pointed spikes, that, when the wheels were moved, her body might be torn to pieces. The acts add, that at the first stirring of the terrible engine, the cords with which the martyr was tied were broke asunder by the invisible power of an angel, and, the engine falling to pieces by the wheels being separated from one another, she was delivered from that death. Hence the name of St. Catherine's wheel.

The learned Joseph Assemani thinks that all the account we have of the particulars relating to this saint, upon which we can depend, is what we meet with in Eusebius, though that historian mentions not her name. His relation is as follows: “There was a certain woman, a Christian, and the richest and most noble of all the ladies of Alexandria, who, when the rest suffered themselves to be deflowered by the tyrant (Maximin), resisted and vanquished his unbounded and worse than beastly lust. This lady was most illustrious for her high birth and great wealth; and likewise for her singular learning: but she preferred her virtue and her chastity to all worldly advantages. The tyrant, having in vain made several assaults upon her virtue, would not behead her, seeing her ready to die, but stripped her of all her estates and goods, and sent her into banishment.” Maximin, not long after, declared war against Licinius, and, after several engagements, was at length defeated by him in 313. Having lost his empire after a reign of five years, he fled to Tarsus, and there died in extreme misery. The body of St. Catherine was discovered by the Christians in Egypt about the eighth century, when they groaned under the yoke of the Saracens. It was soon after translated to the great monastery on the top of Mount Sinai in Arabia, built by St. Helen, and sumptuously enlarged and beautified by the Emperor Justinian, as several old inscriptions and pictures in Mosaic work in that place testify. Falconius, Archbishop of San-Severino, speaks of this translation as follows: “As to what is said, that the body of this saint was conveyed by angels to Mount Sinai, the meaning is that it was carried by the monks of Sinai to their monastery, that they might devoutly enrich their dwelling with such a treasure.—It is well known that the name of an angelical habit was often used for a monastic habit, and that monks, on account of their heavenly purity and functions, were anciently called ‘Angels’.”

From that time we find more frequent mention made of the festival and relics of St. Catherine. St. Paul of Latra kept her feast with extraordinary solemnity and devotion. In the eleventh age, Simeon, a monk of Sinai, coming to Rouen to receive an annual alms of Richard, Duke of Normandy, brought with him some of her relics, which he left there. The principal part of the mortal remains of this saint is still kept in a marble chest in the church of this monastery on Mount Sinai…

From this martyr's uncommon eradition, and the extraordinary spirit of piety by which she sanctified her learning, and the use she made of it, she is chosen in the schools the patroness and model of Christian philosophers. Learning is, next to virtue, the most noble ornament, and the highest improvement of the human mind, by which all its natural faculties obtain an eminent degree of perfection. The memory is exceedingly improved by exercise; those who complain that in them this faculty is like a sieve, may, especially in youth, render it by use retentive of whatever is necessary, and particularly adapted to be a storehouse of names, facts, or entire discourses, according to every one's exigency or purposes. But nothing ought to be learned by heart by children but what is excellent or absolutely necessary. To load a mind with other men's lumber, and to make it a magazine of errors, trumpery, or toys, is to pervert all the purposes of this faculty, and a certain proof of the sloth, ignorance, and stupidity of a master. As the understanding is the light of the soul, so is it plain how exceedingly this is enlarged both by exercise and by the acquisition of solid science and useful knowledge. Judgment, the most valuable of all the properties of the mind, and by which the other faculties are poised, governed, and directed, is formed and perfected by experience and regular well-digested studies and reflection; and by them it attains to true justness and taste. The mind by the same means acquires a steadiness, and conquers the aversion which sloth raises against the serious employment of its talents. It is doubtless the will of the Creator that all his works be raised to that degree of perfection of which they are capable, and, where our industry is required to this, it becomes a duty incumbent upon us. This is in nothing so essential, and important as in our own mind, the dignity of our being, and the masterpiece of the visible world. How much its perfection depends upon culture appears in the difference of understanding between the savages (who, except in treachery, cunning, and shape, scarce seem to differ from the apes which inhabit their forests) and the most elegant civilized nations. A piece of ground left wild produces nothing but weeds and briars, which, by culture would be covered with corn, flowers, and fruit. The difference is not less between a rough mind and one that is well cultivated. The same culture, indeed, suits not all persons. Geniuses must be explored, and the manner of instructing proportioned to them. Conditions and circumstances must be considered. Generally the more sublime theological studies suit not those who are excluded from teaching, though women, upon whom the domestic instruction of children in their infancy mainly depends, ought to be well instructed in the motives of religion, articles of faith, and all the practical duties and maxims of piety. Then history, geography, and some tincture of works of genius and spirit may be joined with suitable arts and other accomplishments of their sex and condition, provided they be guided by, and referred to religion, and provided books of piety and exercises of devotion always have the first place both in their hearts and in their time.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.


St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.