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Tortured on a wheel

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Birthplace: Egypt

Feast Day: Nov. 25

Claim to fame: Tradition says Catherine of Alexandria was born to non-Christian, aristocratic parents. After speaking with a hermit one day, she converted to Christianity. Soon after, Catherine dreamed she was the bride of Christ and woke up wearing his ring. At this time, Christians were being persecuted by Emperor Maximinus. Catherine went to him and rebuked him for his cruelty, offering intelligent reasons for embracing Christianity. Instead of responding, Maximinus had 50 pagan philosophers debate her. Aided by the Archangel Michael, Catherine out-reasoned them and converted all of them. Enraged, the emperor ordered the philosophers to be killed. Yet, he was highly impressed with Catherine and asked her to marry him. She refused and was beaten and thrown into prison.

Why she is a saint: Catherine is considered one of the 14 holy helpers in heaven. Many legends circulate about her, many of which cannot be substantiated. For example, it is said that upon her death, milk flowed from her veins instead of blood. Catherine is also said to have been one of the divine voices who advised Joan of Arc. The bravery and intelligence of young Catherine of Alexandria continue to provide inspiration.

Best quote: Catherine was among the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. The story of her life prompted much song and poetry. Adam of Saint-Victor wrote a magnificent poem in her honour: Vox Sonora Nostri Chori.

How she died: Many pagans visited Catherine in prison, including 200 of the emperor’s soldiers. Catherine converted them all to Christianity. Maximinus, determined to stop Catherine once and for all, ordered her to be tortured to death on a spiked wheel. However, at her touch, the wheel shattered miraculously. Catherine was then beheaded. Legend has it that angels whisked her remains to Mount Sinai, where a church and monastery were later built.

Prayer: O God, Catherine devoted her life to spreading the news of your love. Through her intercession, may we learn to love one another as she did and to preach your Good News. Amen.