Dominican Saints 101: St. Catherine of Alexandria

November 24, 2011

“O Jesus, good King, I await the sword for Thy sake; do Thou deign to receive my spirit, and to show mercy to those who honor my memory.” “Come, My chosen one, come; enter into the bridal chamber of thy Spouse.  Thou hast obtained the grant of thy petition, and it shall be well with them that praise thee.” These words were the final plea of St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 282 – c. 305, feast – Nov. 25; Co-Patroness of the Order of Preachers) before her martyrdom.  The Lord’s response was not only a comfort to her, but is also a comfort to us. As a young woman, she had embraced the faith, and been mystically espoused to Christ in a vision.  She then proceeded to defend the teachings of the Church, in the face of death, and bested Emperor Maximin’s 50 philosophers.  It was because of this and her ardent continued defense of Christianity that she was martyred.  The first attempt was with a spiked wheel.  But when that did not work, the old-fashioned, sword-to-the-neck beheading was employed, and Catherine entered the comfort of the promised “bridal chamber” of her Spouse. We too, who celebrate her feast this day, should take great solace in the prayers of such a wonderful patron and protectress.  She is the patron of philosophers because of the wisdom and reasoning with which she spoke in defense of the faith.  Aptly, this is the main reason the Dominican Order has chosen her as its patroness. Yet, there is more.  Tradition has it that she appeared twice in visions during the early days of the Order, plus again in the 16th century.  She was one of the Virgins (along with St. Cecilia) who accompanied the Blessed Virgin Mary when she gave Bl. Reginald the scapular.  She also accompanied the Blessed Virgin in the vision in which St. Dominic saw the Virgin Mary sprinkling the brethren while they slept.  Lastly, she again accompanied the Blessed Virgin, along with St. Mary Magdalene (co-patroness of the Order), in preparation for the painting of the miraculous image of St. Dominic in Soriano.  It might seem that not only has the Dominican Order chosen her as patroness, but you might even be able to say that she herself has chosen to watch over the Friars Preachers in a special way. O God, you gave the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai, and through your holy angels, wonderfully put in that same place the body of the blessed Catherine, your virgin and martyr; grant, we beseech you, that by her merits and intercession, we may reach that mountain which is Christ.  Through Christ our Lord.

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