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
The sparrow herself finds a home.
Whenever I think of sparrows in the bible, the imagery that always comes to my mind is from Matthew 10. This is where Jesus tells us that we are worth more than many sparrows. In Matthew, Jesus assures us that there is nothing for us to worry about.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm also uses the imagery of a sparrow. Here, the author tells us that even sparrows find their homes. It made me think how many of us are looking for a place we can call home. Some of us may be in transitional life stages: we are in jobs which don’t feel right, we are restless where we stay because we could be somewhere else, we are in a relationship which may not be working out fully. This time can really cause a lot of anxiety. I hope that today’s verses will lessen the anxiety in our hearts.
When looking for a place to call my home, basically when I’m just searching for directions in life, I ask God to help me have a bird’s eye view of things. So, in my prayers, I ask God to take me on eagle’s wings. God says we’re worth more than sparrows, so I believe that means God can take us higher than where the sparrows can fly. So let’s ask God to take us on eagle’s wings as we search for our homes together with God. I’d like to imagine that the ride will be a lot more beautiful than a magic carpet ride!
Next, we all know that looking for homes take time. The sparrow would have to fly around for some time. Well, even Abraham had a long journey, and let’s remember how long it was before the Israelites found their home. So, when we are in a period of transition, it’s good to be ready to for a possible long haul. And if we think of the journey of the Israelites, we also need to be ready for detours. Let us not despair when we feel like we are not yet at home. Let us believe that like the Israelites, we are where we are supposed to be. Like Abraham, let’s continue to believe that God will definitely take us home. After all, even the sparrows find their homes.
One more thing, let us remember to enjoy the sights along the way. Maybe the reason why we have not reached our homes yet is because there are still many beautiful things that God wants to show us, or God still wants us to experience many of the wonderful emotions that help us grow.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)
Prayer: Lord, please help me keep on believing that I am where I am supposed to be, and that you have made a home for me.
Thanksgiving: Thank you, God, for making sure that I find my place in this world.
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