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One bold, one meek: two Saints. Two "Catherine".

One bold, one meek, one monastery, one medal: two Saints.
Two wonderful Feast Days for two different "Catherine": Saint Catherine of Alexandria November 25 and Sainte Catherine Labouré November 28.

In the 4th century, in the middle East, in Alexandria, one (very) young woman, highly educated and part of the elite class of her time, a fervent follower of Christ, full of zeal and completely fearless, stepped forward to articulate the Good News to her pagan emperor and to the surrounding pagans. She paid the ultimate price since she was tortured and killed. But in the process, her own eloquence (thanks to the grace of God) converted an entire group of philosophers, the intellectuals of her time, which had been assembled by the emperor to debate and rebut her. (I love to think of this moment where all the most brilliant minds of her days were suddenly able to comprehend more than what they had known up to that point, when they were able to grasp the truth. I imagine the top 50 minds of today, Harvard professors and Nobel prize winners or NPR journalists, listening to Catherine's words and having suddenly the eyes and ears of their souls opened to the Living Word… By the way, the 50 philosophers of Maximinus all paid the ultimate price too since they were all put to death by the emperor). The martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is an amazing account of bloody violence and bizarre events. But within a couple of centuries, at the very specific place where Moses had received the 10 commandments, at the foot of Mount Sinai, a monastery was re-built in honor of Saint Catherine. This monastery has been a highly privileged place of the transmission of the faith, of scripture and iconographic studies, and has done this throughout the centuries and all the way to our own days since the Getty Museum in Los Angeles had in 2006 a beautiful exhibition of "The Icons from Sinai: holy image and hallowed ground". Saint Catherine of Alexandria is still spreading the Good News…

In the 19th century, in France, in Paris, a young nun, very devout, humble and gentle, was granted many visions and graces and following 6 specific visits by Mary, she was asked to make a medal to promote devotions to the heart of Jesus and his mother. After much hesitation and with the help of her confessor, the medal was made and distributed. Miracles of healing and believing started happening right away. Within a few years, the miraculous medal had spread all over the country and it is still being used as an object of devotion and obedience in the faith all over the world to this very day! Saint Catherine led a quiet and humble life of prayers as a Daughter of Charity, caring for the aged and the infirm, and she died at 70 years old in her convent, with no public recognition for herself. But even from the silent walls of the Rue du Bac Convent, she had managed to spread the love of Christ around her. The Rue du Bac in Paris has been and is still today, more than ever, a famous place of pilgrimage.

One bold, one meek, one monastery, one medal. Two very different Saints. One was very vocal and one was very quiet. One died fairly quickly in the most gruesome manner, the other one lived all her long life in obscurity. But the glory of God was spread far beyond the hearts and minds of each holy Catherine. Let it be a lesson for each one of us, that whether we have public responsibilities of teaching or articulating the faith or whether we have private duties of quietly caring for the ones around us, we can each be a channel for the spread of the Good News.

Written in the Alps on the Feast of Christ the King, 2007.

Copyright ©2007 Michele Szekely

Notes and Links:

Saint Catherine of Alexandria November 25 and Saint Catherine Labouré November 28.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Saint Catherine Laboure
In the 4th century, of noble birth and learned in the sciences, when only eighteen years old, Catherine presented herself to the Emperor Maximinus who was violently persecuting the Christians, upbraided him for his cruelty and endeavoured to prove how iniquitous was the worship of false gods. Read more here

In the 19th century, Saint Catherine Laboure: On November 27, the lady showed St. Catherine the medal of the Immaculate Conception, now universally known as the "Miraculous Medal." She commissioned St. Catherine to have one made, and to spread devotion to this medal. At that time, only her spiritual director, Father Aladel, knew of the apparitions. Read more here

Le 25 novembre: Sainte Catherine d'Alexandrie, vierge et martyre (4ème s.) "Catherine, douée d'une haute intelligence, suivit avec le plus grand succès les leçons des plus grands maîtres chrétiens de l'école d'Alexandrie, et acquit la science des Docteurs. Dans une grande fête du paganisme, célébrée en présence de l'empereur Maximin, elle eut la sainte audace de se présenter devant lui, de lui montrer la vanité des idoles et la vérité de la religion chrétienne. La fête terminée, Maximin, étonné du courage et de l'éloquence de la jeune fille, réunit cinquante des plus savants docteurs du paganisme et leur ordonna de discuter avec Catherine. Préparée par la prière et le jeûne, elle commença la discussion et fit un discours si profond et si sublime sur la religion de Jésus-Christ comparée au culte des faux dieux, que les cinquante philosophes, éclairés par sa parole en même temps que touchés de la grâce, proclamèrent la vérité de la croyance de Catherine et reçurent, par l'ordre du cruel empereur, le baptême du sang, gage pour eux de l'immortelle couronne. Lire la suite ici Lire plus ici

Le 28 novembre: Sainte Catherine Labouré. "Entrée au noviciat depuis quelques jours seulement, sainte Catherine Labouré fut gratifiée de plusieurs faveurs célestes. La Très Sainte Vierge Marie daigna lui apparaître à six reprises. "Faites frapper une médaille sur ce modèle, dit la Vierge, les personnes qui la porteront avec confiance recevront de grandes grâces." La médaille connut immédiatement une diffusion prodigieuse. D'innombrables grâces de conversion, de protection et de guérison furent obtenues. ici

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