Our Lord warned us that we may be persecuted for being his followers but that it will lead to our witnessing to him. He said we shouldn’t fear or need to rehearse what we might say to those who oppose us and our values, for Our Lord promised: “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute”.
Our Lord’s promise was dramatically fulfilled in Saint Catherine of Alexandria, whose feast we celebrate today. Although we know little for certain about her, this saint has been venerated for over a thousand years. Saint Dominic was so impressed by her witness to Christ and the truth that he adopted her as the secondary patron and protector of the Order.
According to tradition, Catherine was a pagan who had the benefit of a good education. In the course of her studies, she learned about the Faith and became a Christian. When the emperor Maxentius began persecuting the Church, Catherine rebuked him for being so tyrannical. Unable to answer her arguments against his pagan gods, the emperor called in fifty of his smartest philosophers. Instead of changing Catherine’s mind, they were all convinced by her and wound up being burned by the emperor for having converted to Christianity.
The emperor’s curious wife and some of his officers went to see Catherine in prison. They too were converted, along with the soldiers who were guarding her. In his fury the emperor had Catherine tortured and beheaded.
It’s unlikely that any of us will be martyred for our faith, but we can be martyred in so many little ways, even in a religious community. We know we are in good company when we are put on the spot for doing the right thing or saying the right words. And yet we need never worry or rehearse what we are to say to those who oppose us, for Our Lord himself will give us the words we need.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.