Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 25: St. Catherine of Alexandria, V., M., III Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr.  The feast is III Class, so the ordinary office is prayed according to the rubrics.

Prior to the mid-20th Century revisions of the calendar, her feast was celebrated as a Totum Duplex with an octave (December 2), and her office contained a partial set of propers (the office did not include proper antiphons for the psalms of Matins, and only included three of the original nine responsories).  The antiphon at 1st Vespers for her feast in the 1909 Breviarium S.O.P. was "Hail! O Catherine, thou gem of virgins.  Hail!  O glorious spouse of the King of kings."

Due to the circumstances of her martyrdom, as one defending the Faith against pagans, and the fact that she is reputed to have been a philosopher, she has traditionally been referred to as one of the two "protectresses" of the Order, the other being St. Mary Magdalene.  In a future post, I will give the account of their intervention in the miracle of St. Dominic at Soriano.

Last year, I humbly proposed that the Order begin the process of formally declaring St. Catherine as a protectress of the Order, during the Jubilee Year?  Is there a more fitting role model of courageously proclaiming Truth to power in the retinue of saints?  A lone woman, armed only with the intellectual tools of philosophical and theological truth,  (and the grace of God of course) standing up to none other than an Emperor with absolute power.  I see her as a perfect role model for Christians today, particularly those in academia, who are battling our cultural "emperors" on all fronts, primarily over issues of the natural moral law, who wield unfettered cultural power.  Christians are losing their livelihoods and their families for refusing to give their ascent to so-called same-sex "marriage", abortion, contraception, no fault divorce and a host of other social and moral ills that stem from poor philosophy and metaphysics.
Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Egypt

On College campuses, the Order could create confraternities in her name, to promote the study of philosophy and the life of virtue among women.  She could be a model for women who enter fields like moral philosophy, medical ethics, etc., who will be on the front lines of our cultural battlefields.  Under her patronage, the Order could promote societies which would lobby for, and promote a return to the natural moral law in government.

As all three branches of our Order engage the philosophical errors of our day, shouldn't we call on St. Catherine to aid us and to give us courage?  This poem, composed by none other than St. Theresa of Avila, pretty much sums up the spiritual value of our devotion to this courageous saint.  It also calls us to an unflinching fearlessness, if we dare to call upon her for assistance in this life:

O thou gentle lover
Of the Lord so fair,
Day-star all resplendent,
Take us 'neath thy care.

As a tender maiden
Thou thy Souse didst choose,
Full of loving fervor
Thy repose didst lose.
None whose courage fails him
Should approach to thee
If his life he prizes
And from death would flee

Let the timorous coward
Gaze upon this maid,
Blind to wealth and beauty,
When he is afraid.
Persecutions met her,
War was everywhere,
But she suffered bravely
With a courage rare.

Absent from her Bridegroom,
Life her soul opprest,
But the fiercest tortures
Brought her peace and rest.
So, in this rejoicing,
How she long'd for death,
For she liv'd no longer
Though she still drew breath!

Friends, if we are eager
Like her to be blest,
Let us never struggle
For our peace and rest,
For there's not a lover
In this life of grief
Who by self-deception
Ever finds relief.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.


O God, you gave the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai, and through your holy angels, wonderfully put in that same place the body of the blessed Catherine, your virgin and martyr; grant, we beseech you, that by her merits and intercession, we may reach that mountain which is Christ.  Who lives and reigns with you…