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Saint Catherine Of Alexandria Essay Research Paper

Saint Catherine Of Alexandria Essay, Research Paper “Do anything you have a mind to do! You will find me prepared to bear whatever it is!” she retorted boldly when faced with her death by beheading. During the fourth century, an inspiring legend was born. Supposedly, a young woman by the name of Catherine lived eighteen years in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

Saint Catherine Of Alexandria Essay, Research Paper

“Do anything you have a mind to do! You will find me prepared to bear whatever it is!” she retorted boldly when faced with her death by beheading. During the fourth century, an inspiring legend was born. Supposedly, a young woman by the name of Catherine lived eighteen years in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. When challenged according to matters of her faith, she firmly held her ground. She converted hundreds of people that served her enemy, Maxentius, to Christianity. Proving that she was, in fact, a holy woman ordained by God, she summoned the help of her Lord when faced with adversity, and miracles were witnessed.

In this day and age, we have come to the realization that many of these phenomena probably never actually occurred. No documentation of any such events exists. Catherine’s legend consists of angels interfering in daily matters, and milk flowing from veins instead of blood. Highly unlikely? Perhaps. Whether one chooses to believe the story told about this young saint, however, is, in effect, irrelevant.

Whether she actually lived the pious life of a saint or not, Catherine nevertheless serves as a powerful role model for Christian women in a patriarchal religion. She may never have existed, but her story certainly lives on. For the last sixteen centuries, Catherine has inspired women to maintain and defend their faiths, even if it has meant their death. She continues to be a source of motivation for women even today, and it is doubtful that her memory will soon be forgotten.

While there is no actual proof of Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life, as a result of the numerous medieval cults that existed centuries after her death, her legend lives on.

The legend begins by describing the relationship between Constantine and Maxentius, two Roman rulers. They originally had an equal amount of power, but when Constantine renounced his position to govern France for a period, relations between the two grew hostile. Eventually, their opposition led them to battle, where Maxentius was overtaken and so fled to Alexandria. There, he established himself as king.

Meanwhile, Catherine, the daughter of late King Costus, was becoming a young woman. Her mother had also died during her childhood, and the young girl spent her life devoted to her own education. As a young girl, she too had had visions, one of which was also the Archangel Michael.

As the story goes, when Catherine was a young girl, the Virgin Mary appeared to a hermit in the desert, and told him to go to Catherine in Alexandria. While there, Catherine had a dream, in which Mary also appeared to her, holding the child Jesus. He, however, would not look at her. When his mother questioned him as to what Catherine could do to please him, he told her to go and see the hermit. After waking, she told her dream to the hermit, who instructed her in the Christian faith, and baptized her. Again, she had a vision, in which the young savior marries her with a ring. Later in her adolescence, counselors suggested that she marry, she declined, saying that she was already married to Christ. Catherine’s virginity was very important to her.

When Catherine had reached the age of eighteen, Maxentius demanded that the inhabitants of his new kingdom come to the palace and make a sacrifice to the pagan gods he worshipped. In defense of her faith, Catherine insisted upon an audience with Maxentius. In awe of her beauty, the king permitted her to speak.

Unable to convince her of his beliefs, he sent for the fifty wisest pagan philosophers, orators, and scholars in Alexandria. Once they were all gathered, the men inquired as to their necessity. As Maxentius told them his dilemma, they were appalled. Any one of them could best the young girl, they claimed.

Catherine, however, was not so easily won over. As a result of her determination and wisdom, the fifty wise men were convinced of her faith. They found themselves unable to produce any explanation for her ability other than that she had the support of God. She had converted them all.

Maxentius, as a result, was infuriated. He sentenced them all to death at the stake. When the monks professed their fear at dying before being baptized, Catherine comforted them with the idea that the fire would carry out their baptism. While the fire did kill them, supposedly not a hair on their heads was harmed, and their clothing remained unsinged.

Amazed by Catherine’s wisdom and beauty, the king offered her a position equal to that of the queen’s in power and prestige, and promised that a statue of her would be built. Catherine was adamant, however, and again referred to her marriage to Christ. Maxentius had her stripped, beaten, and thrown in a dark cell to starve for twelve days while he entertained business elsewhere.

The queen, sympathetic to Catherine’s position and curious about her faith, ventured to visit her in her imprisonment. Porphyrius, the captain of the king’s guard, accompanied her. When they arrived, an overwhelmingly bright light was illuminating the room, and angels were tending to the girl’s wounds. Before Maxentius returned, Catherine managed to convert the queen, Porphyrius, and two hundred soldiers to the Christian faith.

When he returned, the king called to see his prisoner. Looking vibrantly healthy, he was about to punish her guards for feeding her while he was gone when she informed him that God had sent a dove to nourish her during his absence. Again, Maxentius made his offer, and Catherine refused. Finally, he was fed up with her.

One of the king’s counselors proposed a horrible instrument of death, composed of four wheels with protruding spikes and iron nails. Two of the wheels would be placed on top of the other two, and would move in one direction. The other pair would turn the other way, thus tearing the victim’s body to shreds. Maxentius approved of the idea, and the machine was built.

Once placed in the center of the horrible contraption, the young girl cried to God to show his power and to prove the king wrong by tearing the machine to pieces. An angel came down out of heaven and delivered such a blow to the four wheels that they killed four thousand pagans.

The queen, so enraged by her husband’s behavior, finally stepped forward and chastised him harshly for his gross conduct. Having proclaimed her own conversion, Maxentius ordered his soldiers to tear off her breasts with iron spikes before beheading her. Comforted by Catherine’s words of encouragement describing how she would soon be with God in paradise, the queen faced her death triumphantly. Maxentius ordered that his wife’s body be left in the marketplace as an example to the rest of the citizens of Alexandria. Porphyrius, however, could not bear to see his queen’s body left unattended. In the dark of night, he crept into the city, stole her body, and buried it.

The next morning, Maxentius was unable to find the body of his late queen, and instructed his remaining men to torture many innocent civilians. Porphyrius courageously confessed to her burial, and revealed that he had been converted to the Christian faith, as well. At this time, the two hundred soldiers Catherine had converted professed that they were ready for martyrdom, as well. At his wits’ end, the king ordered them all to be beheaded, and their bodies thrown to the dogs.

Next, he turned to Catherine, from whom the undoing of his empire had come. Once again, he offered to make her queen of his entire domain. He provided her with an ultimatum: either she would make a sacrifice to the gods, or be sentenced to death.

Unafraid, Catherine dared him to do with her what he pleased. Her devotion to God extended much farther than his petty threats would ever reach. Before she was beheaded, she prayed to Jesus that any who remembered her or asked her for assistance after her death receive his kindness.

After her execution, milk flowed from her veins instead of blood, and angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where they buried her. It is said that, to this day, a healing oil flows from her remains and repairs the bodies of the weak.

During the ninth century, her bones were taken to the Monastery of Mount Sinai (which was then called the Cathedral of the Transfiguration). There, they were preserved inside the Basilica that they consecrated in her name.

The evidence certainly proves to confirm that it is highly likely that Saint Catherine of Alexandria never even existed. Furthermore, she may have lived during the fourth century, but the premise that she was an ordinary citizen remains. Perhaps she may have been slightly remarkable, but not worthy of canonization. We have no means of determining a response to such queries. Travelers to Mount Sinai at approximately the same time period of Catherine’s transportation there by angels kept records of their journey, which fail to mention any such miracles.

Yet, is any of this information of great importance to us? Is it necessary for Catherine’s legend to be true? While she and/or her account may be inventions, Saint Catherine maintains her status as a source of inspiration for Christian women, and women of faith, in general. She has inadvertently helped women for hundreds of years, continues to do so today, and will go on motivating people in the years to come. A perfect example is the French heroine, Joan of Arc. She sought guidance from Saint Catherine, which aided her in overthrowing English rule in her war-torn nation after a hundred years of conflict.

Saint Catherine is a representation of the perfect Christian women. She demonstrated profound intelligence, unyielding faith, and awe-inspiring devotion to serve her God. Her memory lives on as a standard to which we might try to fashion our own lives. Is it really significant whether her story is fact or fiction?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Atiya, Aziz Suryal. The Monastery of St. Catherine in Mount Sinai. Le Caire: Imp. MISR S.A.E., 1950.

Butler, Alban. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. Westminster: Christian Classics, 1981.

Bourass?, J.J. The Miracles of Madame Saint Katherine of Fierbois. Chicago: Way and Williams, 1897.

Dunbar, Agnes B.C. A Dictionary of Saintly Women. London: George Bell and Sons, 1904.

Einenkel, Eugen. The Life of Saint Katherine. London: Early English Text Society, 1884.

The Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints. Philadelphia, Chilton Books, 1966.

Ferguson, Everett. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997.

Jacobus de Voragine. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Trans. William Grainger Ryan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Sands, Tracey Ren?e. The Cult of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and its Resonances in Medieval and Post-Reformation Sweden. Seattle: University of Washington, 1998.

Wace, Henry and William C. Piercy. A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature. London: John Murray, 1911.

Atiya, Aziz Suryal. The Monastery of St. Catherine in Mount Sinai. Le Caire: Imp. MISR S.A.E., 1950.

Butler, Alban. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. Westminster: Christian Classics, 1981.

Bourass?, J.J. The Miracles of Madame Saint Katherine of Fierbois. Chicago: Way and Williams, 1897.

Dunbar, Agnes B.C. A Dictionary of Saintly Women. London: George Bell and Sons, 1904.

Einenkel, Eugen. The Life of Saint Katherine. London: Early English Text Society, 1884.

The Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints. Philadelphia, Chilton Books, 1966.

Ferguson, Everett. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997.

Jacobus de Voragine. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Trans. William Grainger Ryan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Sands, Tracey Ren?e. The Cult of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and its Resonances in Medieval and Post-Reformation Sweden. Seattle: University of Washington, 1998.

Wace, Henry and William C. Piercy. A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature. London: John Murray, 1911.

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