25 Nov – Memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Apocryphal. Born to the nobility. Learned in science and oratory. Converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. When she was 18 years old, during the persecution of Maximinus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximinus had her scourged and imprisoned. The empress and the leader of the army of Maximinus were amazed by the stories, went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximinus ordered her broken on the wheel, but she touched it and the wheel was destroyed. She was beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.
Immensely popular during the Middle Ages, there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe, and she was reported as one of the divine advisors to Saint Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libaries, librarians, teachers, archivists, and anyone associated with wisdom or teaching. Her debating skill and persuasive language has led to her patronage of lawyers. And her torture on the wheel led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
While there may well have been a noble, educated, virginal lady who swayed pagans with her rhetoric during the persecutions, the accretion of legend, romance and poetry has long since buried the real Catherine.
– The Patron Saint Index
Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, with some of the furnishings of the Temple of God. He took them away to the land of Shinar, and stored the sacred vessels in the treasury of his own gods.
The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to select from the Israelites a certain number of boys of either royal or noble descent; they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, trained in every kind of wisdom, well-informed, quick at learning, suitable for service in the palace of the king. Ashpenaz himself was to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldaeans. The king assigned them a daily allowance of food and wine from his own royal table. They were to receive an education lasting for three years, after which they were expected to be fit for the king’s society. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were Judaeans. Daniel, who was most anxious not to defile himself with the food and wine from the royal table, begged the chief eunuch to spare him this defilement; and by the grace of God Daniel met goodwill and sympathy on the part of the chief eunuch. But he warned Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king: he has assigned you food and drink, and if he sees you looking thinner in the face than the other boys of your age, my head will be in danger with the king because of you.’ At this Daniel turned to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He said, ‘Please allow your servants a ten days’ trial, during which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king’s food; go by what you see, and treat your servants accordingly.’ The man agreed to do what they asked and put them on ten days’ trial. When the ten days were over they looked and were in better health than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table; so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. And God favoured these four boys with knowledge and intelligence in everything connected with literature, and in wisdom; while Daniel had the gift of interpreting every kind of vision and dream. When the period stipulated by the king for the boys’ training was over, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king conversed with them, and among all the boys found none to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they became members of the king’s court, and on whatever point of wisdom or information he might question them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’
But she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on
Early this morning, a friend of mine called from the U.S. to share about a troubling experience he had recently. He had gotten a phone call last night from his mother (they’re both living in different states), and to his surprise, she suddenly broke down crying. He felt so lost all of sudden. His mother had always been the strong one in the family and it shocked him to see her so vulnerable all of a sudden. It pained him to see her helpless, and it was one of those situations that there was nothing he could do to help it. All he could do was to listen.
Looking back on today’s verse, it made me think about the conversation that I had with my friend. And it made me think about how often we encounter situations in life, when we feel helpless, especially when we see our loved ones suffer. People whose pain we can’t alleviate, no matter how hard we try. It makes us feel angry and frustrated at times, because of the situation they are in and our inability to make it any better. We wish we can help them alleviate the pain but we know that there’s nothing we can do to make it better because it’s something that’s ultimately beyond our control. And all we can do is to stand at the side, and offer them our ears, our words of comfort, our time or even our finances.
Today’s Gospel however reminds me of an important message. That maybe at the end of day, it’s our hearts which we’re called to give. We may not have the ultimate solution to making things better, but what we’re called to do is to give whatever little we have, with all our hearts, to our loved ones and surrender the rest to God, even if we think it’s small, e.g. a listening ear, a gentle word, a kind gesture, a simple meal or even just our affection.
After all, the woman gave all that she had, even though it was just two coins, and it made a difference to God. Let us persevere and continue in works of kindness and goodness, even when we think that they’re small.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cassandra Cheong)
Prayer: Dear Father, we pray that you may bless those who are feeling helpess and alone in their suffering. Grant them your peace and your light through this time of darkness.
Thanksgiving: We thank you Father for blessing us with your love through the tiny acts of goodness and kindess from others, especially those who we may have taken for granted.