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November 24 Saint of the Day – Catherine of Alexandria

On this day in 1971, Dan “D.B.” Cooper parachuted over southwestern Washington State from a Northwest Airlines 727 with $200,000 in cash, and has never been found. Nobody believes the Ariel, Washington, shop owner who claims to have sold him a Bigfoot costume.

Catherine of Alexandria IconCatherine of Alexandria (ca. 282 – ca. 305) was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria (later traditions make him a king), and given a top-notch education in the pagan philosophy of the day. What she knew about Aristotle would make Thomas Aquinas blush, and she was well-formed in Plato, too. Her parents were determined to marry her off, and she was not unwilling, but did not find any of her suitors to her liking. This one was too poor, that one was too ugly, the other one was too far down the social pecking order, and every fourth one was too unlearned (or downright stupid). No, this beautiful, learned, rich, highly intelligent and well-born woman wasn’t about to marry someone who was not as all-those-things as she.

One night Catherine and her secretly-Christian mother had the same dream. A beautiful lady showed them, as in a runway show, all the rulers, wise men, rich men, etc., of the earth. Catherine looked them all over but could find no suitable suitor. Then the emcee (who was — shhh, don’t tell anyone — the Blessed Virgin herself!) brought forth her Son. “That’s him!” said Catherine, not knowing who he was. “I won’t marry her,” said the Lord. “She’s a pagan.”

Catherine of Egypt by CaravaggioCatherine awoke devastated, and her mother suggested they go visit the local hermit, Ananias. He taught her about the Gospel, and gave her the Scriptures to read, and before long she was as learned in divine theology as she was in “profane” philosophy (she had the unexpurgated edition of Epicurus). She was baptized, and had another dream, in which Jesus gave her a wedding ring. (A nice one, too, not something from a gumball machine like I gave my wife.) When she woke up, she still had it. It was a treasured relic for many centuries but if it’s still extant my sources do not say where it is.

When she heard that the government was torturing and killing Christians, she went to Emperor Maximian (who was in town for some festival), scolded him for his cruelty and impiety, and argued the True Faith to him. Unable to refute her, he called his fifty top philosophers (why our leaders no longer keep fifty philosophers on retainer, this philosophy major simply doesn’t understand), who were also unable to refute her (unless it’s this). Max had them killed, and Catherine tortured. When they put her on the wheel, a delightful torture device long beloved of Christians and pagans alike (alas), it burst asunder. Upon seeing this, 200 audience members, including the Empress, professed faith in the Savior.

Evlogia from St. Catherine's, Mt. SinaiFinally, our brave philosopher was beheaded, and her relics were removed by the angels (or their representatives) to Sinai, where a monastery, which is still there, was soon to be founded. The relics were rediscovered in the ninth century, and the monastery is now unofficially named after the greatest female thinker in the history of Christendom (I mean Catherine, not Marie Antoinette, in case you were confused). Pilgrims to St. Catherine’s are given a ring as an evlogia (blessing). Kind of like a souvenir, only holier.

Catherine was one of the most popular saints of the middle ages (she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers), and was one of those who appeared to Joan of Arc. She (Catherine, not Joan) is the patroness of philosophers, lawyers, librarians, archivists, potters and spinners (get it?), numerous towns, and the University of Paris. Sadly she was removed in 1969 from the General Roman Calendar of saints, but she was restored in 2002 as an optional memorial, so that’s cool. Oodles (to use the technical term) of cities, churches, and girls are named after her, as well as a popular firework (Catherine wheels). Some people think she never existed. Some men feel threatened by smart women. Coincidence? You make the call.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
This Day in History for 24th November
D. B. Cooper (Wikipedia)
St. Catharine of Alexandria – Main source
Catherine of Alexandria (Wikipedia)
Greatmartyr Catherine of Alexandria (OCA)
Saint Catherine of Alexandria (SQPN)
Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Wikipedia)
Caravaggio’s Saint Catherine of Egypt (detail), ca. 1598, from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Madrid via Wikimedia (public domain)
Icon of Catherine (detail) via Wikimedia (public domain)
Photo of Evlogia ring from St. Catherine’s at Sinai by Wikimedia user Testus used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license . Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use.

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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