St. Catherine of Alexandria – (287 – 305)
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, ad dressing 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. 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.
St. Catherine, Virgin and Martyr
INTROIT – Psalm 118: 46-47, 1
Loquebar de testimoniis tuis in conspectu regum, et non confundebar: et meditabar in mandatis tuis, quæ dilexi nimis. Ps. Beati immaculate in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. Gloria Patri.
I spoke of Thy testimonies before kings, and I was not ashamed: I meditated also on Thy commandments, which I loved. Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.
O God, Who didst give the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai and by means of Thy holy angels didst miraculously place there the body of blessed Catherine, Thy Virgin and Martyr: grant we beseech Thee, that, by her merits and intercession, we may be able to come unto the mountain which is Christ. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – Ecclus. 51: 1-8; 12
I will give glory to Thee, O Lord, O King, and I will praise Thee, O God my Saviour. I will give glory to Thy Name, for Thou hast been a helper and protector to me, and hast preserved my body from destruction, from the snare of an unjust tongue, and from the lips of them that forge lies; and in the sight of them that stood by Thou hast been my helper. And Thou hast delivered me, according to the multitude of the mercy of Thy Name, from them that did roar, prepared to devour; out of the hands of them that sought my life, and from the gates of afflictions which compassed me about: from the oppression of the flame which surrounded me, and in the midst of the fire I was not burnt: from the depth of the body of hell, and from an unclean tongue, and from lying words, from an unjust king, and from a slanderous tongue. My soul shall praise the Lord even unto death: because Thou, O Lord our God, deliverest them that wait for Thee, and savest them out of the hands of the nations.
GRADUAL – Psalm 44: 8
Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness.
ALLELUIA – Psalm 44: 15, 16
Alleluia, alleluia. After her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbours shall be brought to Thee with gladness. Alleluia.
GOSPEL – Matthew 25: 1-13
At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of Heaven shall be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride. And five of them were foolish, and five wise; but the five foolish having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Now, whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answering said: Amen I say to you, I know you not. Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 44: 15-16
After her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbours shall be brought to Thee with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King, the Lord.
Receive, O Lord, the gifts which we bring Thee, on the feast of blessed Catherine, Thy Virgin and Martyr, by whose patronage we hope to be delivered. Through our Lord.
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: through Christ our Lord. through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, Dominations worship, Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise…
COMMUNION – Psalm 118: 78, 80
Let the proud be ashamed, because they have done unjustly towards me: but I will be employed in Thy commandments and in Thy justifications, that I may not be confounded.
May the Mysteries which we have received, help us, O Lord; and by the intercession of blessed Catherine, Thy Virgin and Martyr, may we ever enjoy their protection. Through our Lord.