25 November, Thursday — Signs of Life

Nov 25 – Memorial for St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin, martyr

St. 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

Dan 6:12-28
Lk 21:20-28

“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars…your liberation is near at hand.”

Have you ever wondered what the end of the world would look like? What would we be doing when judgment day finally comes? Will we be prepared? Will we panic? Will we be frightened, or overjoyed?

In the Gospel today, Jesus talked about the signs to come when the Son of Man, our Lord Himself, come in full glory to the earth. Before things get better, chaos and persecution will run amock. But we need not fear, for when the going gets tough, we can hold our head up high, keeping our eyes on the Lord, because He is not far.  

He will come in full glory to liberate us from the last vestige of our slavery to sin. It will be painful, but like anything worthwhile in this life — no pain, no gain. If you want to get fit, you must exercise. If you want to be healthy, you must eat nutritious foods. If we want to be purged of the impurities that remain in our heart and soul, we must go through refinement of the spirit; like the clay that turns into porcelain in the kiln; like the gold that gets purified in the fire. We will not be consumed but refined, reborn a new creation.

Sounds too good to be true or sounds too sci-fi for our modern minds? Sounds too apocalyptic or fear-provoking? By now, we should know that some of Jesus’ teachings are hard — hard to understand, hard to digest, hard to follow. But one thing’s for sure, Jesus never lies nor embellishes. He always tells the truth. So when our Lord tells us that He will be coming with “power and great glory” and will defeat all the evil in this world, we should have full confidence that He will do as He says.  

As Christians, we should have great hope in the Second Coming. Instead of being fearful, we should be joyful. Jesus, I trust in You.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Our most powerful and merciful Lord, we look forward to Your coming again for the final judgment and to liberate us from this valley of tears.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Your love and mercy, for loving Your children so much that You grant us eternal life.


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