OpinionsEye OpenerA tale of unyielding faith

A tale of unyielding faith

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Dumaguete celebrates its fiesta every November 25 and attributes such celebration to St. Catherine of Alexandria.

While we, residents of Dumaguete City, have been observing this traditional festival for many decades now, not so many of us, know who St. Catherine of Alexandria really was.

I am not a church scholar, nor do I claim to know a lot about her and her life. But considering that I have been a devout Catholic all my life, and religiously observe church’s teachings and practices, I know a few things about her and the happenings that surrounded her life when she was still alive.

Allow me to introduce the Patroness Saint of Dumaguete City and allow me to share a few things about her —

The story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is a tale of unwavering faith and unparalleled courage.  She was a luminous figure whose existence, though obscured by the sands of time, persists in the hearts of the faithful even now.

Born in the lap of luxury around the year 287, Catherine’s life unfolded against the backdrop of Alexandria, a city that stood as a paragon of knowledge, culture, and faith in the ancient world. As a member of the nobility, she was not only privileged but also educated, a scholar of exceptional acumen.

Yet, destiny had woven for her a path divergent from the opulence that surrounded her.

 

The vision

It was a vision that changed the course of her life. At the tender age of fourteen, Catherine beheld a profound apparition of Mary and the infant Jesus, an encounter that ignited the flame of her Christian devotion. In a city where persecution loomed over the followers of Christ, Catherine’s fervor defied the shadows cast by the emperor Maxentius.

When the emperor’s cruelty knew no bounds, Catherine confronted him, denouncing his persecution of Christians. Instead of silencing her with a swift execution, Maxentius, perhaps intrigued by her intellect, summoned fifty orators and philosophers to engage in a debate. Little did he anticipate the eloquence that would flow from Catherine’s lips, guided by the unseen hand of the Holy Spirit. Her words, a testament to her unyielding faith, not only thwarted her demise but also led to the conversion of several pagans who were promptly martyred.

 

Unwavering spirit

Undeterred by rhetorical defeat, Maxentius resorted to brutality. Catherine faced imprisonment and torture; her unwavering spirit inspiring over two hundred visitors. Legends speak of the emperor’s wife, Valeria Maximilla, embracing Christianity through Catherine’s influence, a conversion that might have cost her life at the emperor’s hands.

In a final attempt to break Catherine’s resolve, Maxentius proposed marriage, offering her power and eminence. However, Catherine’s commitment to her faith surpassed earthly temptations. She declared herself wedded to Jesus Christ; her virginity consecrated to Him alone.

 

The execution

Frustrated and infuriated, Maxentius ordered a grotesque execution – the breaking wheel, a method of torture reserved for the gravest of criminals. Yet, as Catherine approached this instrument of torment, a miracle unfolded. The wheel shattered at her touch, denying the emperor the satisfaction of her agonizing demise. Foiled in his attempts, Maxentius resorted to the ultimate act of cruelty – beheading the resolute saint.

The narrative takes an ethereal turn, as one account suggests angels carried Catherine’s body to Mount Sinai. Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century, commemorated her memory with the establishment of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a testament to her enduring legacy. Yet, mysteries abound – tales of her hair still growing and a perpetual stream of oil from her body, remnants lost to time.

 

Revered figure

Despite uncertainties surrounding her existence, Saint Catherine of Alexandria remains a revered figure. The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates her as a Martyr, while Roman Catholics uphold her as one of the early Church’s great virgin saints. In medieval times, her aura transcended the earthly realm, inspiring artists during the Renaissance and earning her a place in the hearts of the devout.

Her name echoes through the ages, and the spiked wheel, a poignant symbol of her martyrdom, endures in the annals of religious iconography. Each year, on November 25th, the faithful honor her memory, recognizing her as the Patroness Saint of diverse professions and causes – students, philosophers, lawyers, apologists, nurses, librarians, secretaries, unmarried girls, and countless others around the globe.

In the world of saints, Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s story is a thread of unwavering faith, a testament to the enduring power of belief in the face of persecution. Her life, shrouded in the mists of time, continues to illuminate the path for those who seek solace and inspiration in the embrace of their faith.

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Author’s email: [email protected]

 

 

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