Nov 25 – Memorial for St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin, martyr
Catherine (d. 305) was a noble who was learned in science and oratory. After receiving a vision, she converted to Christianity. At the age of 18, during the persecution of Maximus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximus had her scourged and imprisoned.
The empress and the leader of Maximus’ army were amazed by the stories and went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximus ordered her broken on the wheel, but when she touched it, the wheel was destroyed. She was then beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.
Catherine was immensely popular during the Middle Ages, and there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe. She was reported as one of the divine advisors to St. Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libraries, 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 has led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. She is 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 Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints invoked with special confidence, because they have proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties. Though each has a separate feast or memorial day, the group was collectively venerated on Aug 8, until the feast was dropped and suppressed in the 1969 reform of the calendar.
They are invoked as a group because of the Black Plague which devastated Europe from 1346-1349. Among its symptoms were the tongue turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason, and killed within a few hours; many died without the last Sacraments. Brigands roamed the roads, people suspect of contagion were attacked, animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave, social order and family ties broke down, and the disease appeared incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging the intervention of the saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in Germany, and the tradition has remained strong there.
- Patron Saint Index
I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. He overpowered the dragon, that primeval serpent which is the devil and Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not deceive the nations again until the thousand years had passed. At the end of that time he must be released, but only for a short while.
Then I saw some thrones, and I saw those who are given the power to be judges take their seats on them. I saw the souls of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus and for having preached God’s word, and those who refused to worship the beast or his statue and would not have the brand-mark on their foreheads or hands; they came to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the book of life was opened, and other books opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged.
The sea gave up all the dead who were in it; Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the burning lake. This burning lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was thrown into the burning lake.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband.
Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’
Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, “That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.
When I was working as a commis chef in London, the menus, as with most restaurants, were dictated by what was in season at the time. In spring, we would have asparagus flans and French braised artichokes; in summer, we would have cherries with almost everything, and fresh figs in abundance. Usually, before the vegetables and fruit arrive, the head chef would be busy planning his menu ahead of time and testing his recipes to ensure that he made the most out of the produce at its freshest.
In today’s reading, Jesus tells his disciples about the coming of the Son of Man, saying that His coming would be preceded by several signs. He likened it to the sprouting of the first buds on a fig tree, signifying that summer was nigh. Likewise, Jesus tells us that these signs will be in the sun and moon, the seas and stars, and once we see these signs we should be in a position to meet our deliverance. It is not that when the time is upon us that we should start preparing; no, our preparation needs to begin before that. As with a chef, he does not start thinking up a dish at dinner service; he needs to have planned for it well in advance, so that it can be prepared and tested ahead of time.
What happens then, when the Son of Man comes? Jesus tells us that it will be judgment day for mankind, when the names of those written in the Book of Life will be revealed. If we had prepared ourselves for judgment day, we would be found to be like a healthy fig tree, bearing good fruit. For the ill-prepared however, a curse shall befall them. Jesus caused the barren fig tree to wither and die (Matthew 21:19), and so shall it be for those who have borne no fruit.
We don’t know the hour when Christ will come again. We don’t know when the judgment day will happen. It could be tomorrow or next year, or ten years from now. What we do know is that when it does come, we want to be ready for it. Recall the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), five of whom were wise enough to bring oil for their lamps, and five who were foolish to come unprepared. We want to be part of the joyous party that meets the bridegroom when the hour comes. We want to follow him to the wedding banquet, and partake in the feast that has been prepared. Are we prepared enough for the hour when Jesus comes? Let us strive to be, lest we have the door to the banquet shut in our faces.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, help us to have a better sense of urgency and priority and not to be complacent with the conduct of our lives. Let us be prepared for Your second coming, whenever that might happen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the signs and warnings that will precede Judgment Day. Thank you for the chance to redeem ourselves and to turn over a new leaf before the hour is too late for us.