Saint Catherine, Bride and Martyr for Christ

Wikipedia.org

Saint Catherine, a true heroine for Christ, was born in the year 287 in the illustrious city of Alexandria in Egypt, in one of the key centres of learning, culture and faith the world has ever known. She was devoted to learning, but also a mystic, having a vision at the age of fourteen of Mary and the infant Jesus, an unforgettable experience which prompted her to embrace Christianity once and for all.

Catherine was a bold teenager. She used her intelligence together with her other gifts to try to persuade Maxentius, the emperor, to stop persecuting Christians. Instead of heeding to her appeal, Maxentius wanted to humiliate her. Thus, he chose fifty orators and philosophers to ridicule her faith and intellectual gifts. Nevertheless, Catherine stood her ground strongly. Aided by the Holy Spirit she spoke so much persuasively that several of the pagans who were present at this debate promptly converted to Christianity. Seeing himself ridiculed by this young girl, Maxentius spilled his cruelty by executing these newly converted Christians without mercy.

Then, the humiliated emperor, who was incapable of defeating her intellectually returned to the vile means of torture and imprisonment. After having Catherine arrested, scourged and tortured by every possible means he thought that she might succumb to his wish. The more Catherine suffered, the more adamant she became in her faith, the strength of her witness such hat some 200 people who visited her were converted, including Valeria Maximilla, Maxentius’ wife!

The last attempt Maxentius did was to try to convince Catherine to marry him. Such a proposal would certainly make her a powerful empress within the empire. But Catherine rejected at once Maxentius’ proposals. Instead she told him that Jesus Christ was her real and only spouse, and had dedicated herself only to Him.

 At this reply Maxentius was so infuriated that he ordered that Catherine be executed on a breaking wheel. This meant that her limbs would have been threaded among the spokes as well as her bones be shattered by an executioner by means of a heavy rod. However, this brutal punishment which resulted in a slow and most excruciating painful death did not deter Catherine from abandoning her faith. Quite the contrary, she was more empowered to keep her faith in Jesus till the end.

Her story says that when Catherine was brought before the wheel what she did was to touch it and, miraculously, the wheel simply was smashed. Being ridiculed for the third time Maxentius had no other way then to have her beheaded. Some say that the angels took her body to Mt Sinai. The great Emperor Justinian ordered that a monastery be erected and had to bear her name. Up to this very day this famous monastery draws many pilgrims from around the world, and is one of the oldest monasteries in the world.

Let us remember the great words St Pope John Paul II preached during his homily at the Celebration of the Word at Mount Sinai on Saturday 26 February 2000:

How many have come to this place before us! Here the People of God pitched their tents (cf Ex 19, 2); here the prophet Elijah took refuge in a cave (cf 1 Kgs 19, 9); here the body of the martyr Catherine found a final resting-place; here a host of pilgrims through the ages have scaled what St Gregory of Nyssa called “the mountain of desire” (The Life of Moses, II, 232); here generations of monks have watched and prayed. We humbly follow in their footsteps, to “the holy ground” where the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob commissioned Moses to set his people free (cf Ex 3, 5-8).

The great St Catherine intercedes for us to be free from sin and closely connected to Christ and His and Our Mother Mary. With what great joy, love and devotion the Eastern liturgy commemorates St Catherine of Alexandria, especially thanks to the Akathist dedicated solely and purposely to her! For thirteen times she invokes her solemnly: Rejoice, O Catherine, most wise bride of Christ!

In this great feast let us make our own the Second Prayer to this great martyr of Christ:

O holy great martyr Catherine, chosen vessel of purity, pillar of [True Faith], our intercessor of good cheer, struggler for the law, saint who sleepest a holy sleep on the holy mountain! Because thou thyself hast revealed to Christians that they should ever pray to thee, we earnestly entreat thee: looking down from on high, hearken unto the sound of our supplication, mercifully regard the misfortunes of us sinners, visit the gloom of our minds, cause us to think of heavenly things and not of those of earth. By thine intercessions make haste to overcome the lusts of our flesh, our passionate attachment to the world and the wiles of the evil spirits who with malice wage war against us; that by thine intercession we may be shown to be free of their malicious assaults in the days of this life and from their aerial interrogations after our departure. O all-wise virgin, grant us all that we ask which is profitable, for thou canst ask many things of thy beloved Bridegroom, Christ our God. We know that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much when it worketh with the goodness of the merciful God, to Whom be glory, honor and thanksgiving, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.