St Catherine of Alexandria healing oil
Catholics and other Christians around the world celebrate today, Nov. 25, the memorial of St Catherine of Alexandria, a revered martyr of the fourth century.
St. Catherine the subject of great interest and devotion among later medieval Christians. Devotees relished tales of her rejection of marriage, her rebuke to an emperor, and her decision to cleave to Christ even under threat of torture. Pope John Paul II restored the celebration of her memorial to the Roman Catholic calendar in 2002.
Catherine’s popularity as a figure of devotion, during an era of imaginative hagiography, has obscured the facts of her life. It is likely that she of noble birth, a convert to Christianity, a virgin by choice (before the emergence of organized monasticism), and eventually a martyr for the faith.
Accounts of Catherine’s life also agree on the location where born, educated, and bore witness to her faith. The Egyptian city of Alexandria a center of learning in the ancient world, and tradition represents Catherine as the highly educated daughter of a noble pagan family.
Maxentius’ next stratagem involved an offer to make her his mistress. She not only rebuffed the emperor, but also reportedly convinced his wife to be baptized.
Enraged by Catherine’s boldness and resolve, the Emperor resolved to break her will through torture on a spiked wheel. Tradition holds that she miraculously freed from the wheel, either before or during torture. Finally, she beheaded.
Maxentius later died in a historic battle against his Co-Emperor Constantine in October of 312, after which he remembered disdainfully, if at all. St. Catherine, meanwhile, inspired generations of philosophers, consecrated women, and martyrs.
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