NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Saint of the Month - November 2018: Saint Catherine of Alexandria

St. Catherine of Alexandria
Virgin & Martyr ~ Feast: November 25th

The Fourteen Holy Helpers
Once upon a time, this youthful Virgin-Martyr was held in great esteem in the Church and was counted among the "Fourteen Holy Helpers".**  This was a select group of men and women Saints who were popularly invoked by the Faithful during the Middle Ages for a variety of problems (e.g. healing of specific illnesses such as epilepsy). However, in modern times, the veneration of St. Catherine of Alexandria waned... and it's mostly due to the fact that her biography had obviously been embellished in the early centuries by fantastic legends that eventually obscured historical facts about her life; in short, people began doubting her existence.  Still, many scholars agree that this Saint's hagiography is rooted in truth; that she, indeed, was an actual person who died in witness of Jesus Christ, which I can believe too... and because this ministry is in custody of a rare 1st Class Relic of this Saint, I thought I'd pay St. Catherine some homage and feature her life on this blog.

... so who was this enigmatic Saint who once garnered so much devotion?

According to a blend of facts and pious tradition, Catherine was a noblewoman who lived in the fourth century in Alexandria, Egypt.  Born circa 287, her home city was renowned at the time as a premier center for learning and, in keeping with her status, she was provided with an education... but her level of learning appears to have exceeded the normal standard for the women of her time because she was reputedly a gifted intellectual and scholar. 

At age 14, Catherine was said to have experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin and Christ-child, which prompted her fervent conversion to Christianity, which in those days was undergoing a persecution under the Roman Emperor Maxentius.  After a few years of maintaining secrecy about her new found faith and while seeing the terrible fate of those who professed belief in Jesus, she couldn't stand it any longer and publicly confronted the reigning governor of Alexandria over his cruel treatment of her fellow Christians.

Impressed by Catherine's boldness, the governor summoned a team of pagan scholars to convince the maiden to turn away from Christianity, but she successfully defended her belief to the dismay of her opponents.  The next course of action followed by the governor was bribery and intimidation, which both failed... then a round of torture - he ordered her scourged but the Saint still refused to budge.  Afterwards, she was thrown into prison where she was reportedly invigorated by an apparition of Christ, himself, and healed of her life-threatening wounds.

The martyrdom of St. Catherine
Also, while imprisoned, she encouraged the other Christians who were locked away to persevere, as well as, converted many other [pagan] prisoners and guards to the Faith (including the governor's own wife) through her convincing arguments for Christianity. Eventually, Catherine was sentenced to a brutal death on a spiked wheel but on the day of her very public execution, the wheel was miraculously shattered by a mysterious force... so the governor resorted to having the Saint beheaded to finally dispatch of her.  Instead of blood, milk (or something resembling it) supposedly flowed from her neck, which was interpreted to symbolize Catherine's spiritual nurturing of the faith of the Christian community in Alexandria; hundreds were converted to Christ upon witnessing her martyrdom.  The year was 305.

While some may doubt that St. Catherine actually lived, it's significant to mention that there is at least one other Saint who firmly believed in her and practiced a strong devotion to the martyr - it was none other than St. Joan of Arc, the famous French heroine who claimed many apparitions of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Margaret of Antioch (another Holy Helper Saint), and St. Michael the Archangel.  St. Joan attributed her remarkable military successes against the invading English forces to the supernatural communications she received from these Saints, and they consoled her during the sham-trial leading up to her own martyrdom in 1431.

The fact is - if one reads the biography of the young French Saint (I did), one will find it full of astounding incidences that confirm the validity of her heavenly visitations and refute the unfounded notion that Joan was merely suffering from mental illness.  For example, at the start of her military career, the soldier-saint was offered a new sword for her use, which she refused.  Instead, she explained the Saints had directed her to use a certain ancient word, engraved with five crosses on its blade.  Her spiritual guides further specified that this special weapon would be found buried behind the main altar of the church of St. Catherine in Fierbois (a place unfamiliar to Joan).  Soldiers were dispatched to the church where the sword was found in the exact location divinely revealed to Joan.  It was supposed this sword had been left as a votive offering by a noble knight from the distant past and was mysteriously chosen by God to liberate France.  This unusual occurrence in Joan's life and the many others like it, in my personal opinion, speaks volumes to the truth of St. Catherine's existence among the Saints in Heaven.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us!

A depiction of St. Joan with her three patrons: St. Catherine of Alexandria,
St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. Michael the Archangel. 

**  In addition to St. Catherine of Alexandria, who is invoked against lawsuits, the other members of the Fourteen Holy Helpers "team" are:  St. Acatius, Soldier & Martyr (invoked against headaches); St. Barbara, Virgin & Martyr (invoked against lightning); St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr (invoked against throat ailments); St. Christopher, Martyr (Patron of Travelers); St. Cyriacus, Deacon & Martyr (invoked against eye disorders); St. Denis, Bishop & Martyr (invoked against demonic attacks); St. Erasmus, Bishop (Patron of Sailors); St. Eustace, Soldier & Martyr (invoked against fires); St. George, Soldier & Martyr (invoked against skin disorders); St. Giles, Monk (invoked against crippling diseases); St. Margaret of Antioch, Virgin & Martyr (invoked against kidney disorders); St. Pantaleon, Doctor & Martyr (invoked against lung disorders); and St. Vitus, Martyr (invoked against epilepsy and nervous disorders).

Friday, October 26, 2018

Young Faces of Holiness Saints & Relics Speaking Presentation, 10/26/2018: Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Honolulu

Relics on display at the parish of Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Honolulu.

This evening my ministry was invited to speak about Saints to a youth group at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Honolulu... and what an exceptionally enthusiastic group my audience turned out to be!  About 11 kids of various ages showed up along with their adult team leaders and invited guests, including a lovely sister from St. Marianne of Molokai's very own Franciscan congregation.

I featured 4 youthful holy individuals for the young people to learn about: Sts. Francisco & Jacinta Marto of Fatima, Bl. Imelda Lambertini, Bl. Rolando Rivi, and St. Rose of Viterbo... and what made this presentation very memorable for me was the reaction of the kids to the stories and the slideshow photos.  For example, when I spoke of a levitation miracle St. Rose had performed during her short lifetime, exclamations of "Wow" and "Cool" were heard... or when I showed a photo of Bl. Imelda's incorrupt body, the group let out a collective gasp of awe and surprise.  But it was when I told the audience that I also had bodily relics from some of these Saints and Blesseds present for them to see that the excitement in the room went up several notches.  Even the adults were excited.

Youth and adult participants viewing the relic display up close.

As an added surprise for the group, I also brought relics from certain adult Saints who were namesakes for some of the children's confirmation names: St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Therese the Little Flower, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The facial expression of the kids who chose these saint-names was just priceless when they learned these relics were present too. 

After the talk finished, several of the kids and adults seemed moved - a few even to tears - when they were invited to approach the display altar to view and venerate the relics.  Some laid their hands on the reliquaries and frames as they quietly prayed.  And there were others who pressed whatever religious articles they had with them to the reliquaries.  It was all very touching to watch the people - youth and adults - freely expressing their faith and emotions.

Some of the children's online feedback posted on their youth group's menti.com site. 

Lastly, the team leaders invited the youngsters to post feedback on their group's menti.com account from their cellphones, and the messages that immediately came through were encouraging.  It showed the kids were indeed paying attention during the presentation and learned valuable faith-lessons from the lives of our Saints.

May these precious young souls from Sts. Peter & Paul Parish continue to grow in their Catholic Faith.  God bless them... today and always!

"You don't got to do big things to become a Saint."

- one child's comment; a solid lesson
learned from tonight's presentation