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Saint Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr
Optional Memorial
November 25th

Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina
Saint Catherine (detail)
1505 - 1510
Museo del Prado, Madrid


Glorious Saint Catherine, virgin and martyr,
help me to imitate your love of purity.
Give me strength and courage
in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.

Help me to love God with my whole heart
and serve Him faithfully.

O Saint Catherine,
through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ,
help me to be loyal to my faith and my God
as long as I live.


Patron saint of young women, millers, philosophers, preachers, spinners, students and wheelwrights.

In fourth century Alexandria, there lived a Christian noblewoman and philosopher of great beauty named Catherine. When she heard that the Roman emperor Maxentius was persecuting Christians, Catherine publicly protested. Astounded by her audacity, Maxentius sent fifty famous philosophers to try to change her mind, but Catherine, with her clever arguments, converted every one of them to Christianity. Maxentius immediately ordered their execution.

The emperor then tried to persuade Catherine to become his bride. Catherine refused, saying that she was already a bride of Christ. This answer drove Maxentius into a fury, and he commanded that she be tortured on the infamous spiked wheel (later called the "Catherine wheel"). But angels are said to have thrown bolts of lightning so that the wheel broke and the spikes flew off, injuring onlookers but leaving Catherine unharmed. When she was eventually beheaded, milk, not blood, flowed from her neck, and angels carried her body up to Mount Sinai.

(Source: Carol Armstrong. Lives and Legends of the Saints. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.)

St. Catherine Hearts
Les Coeurs de Sainte Catherine

In northern France, there is an old custom, on St Catherine's Day heart-shaped cakes are given to young women who have reached age twenty-five and are not married to encourage them in their search for love.

You need a 1-quart heart shaped pan for this.
Butter or shortening for greasing the pan
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup mixed candied fruit
1/2 orange extract
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
3 tablespoons water
Optional: Confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter and flour the baking pan.

Cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, mixing well; beat in the eggs, one at a time. Resift the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

Stir the flour into the butter mixture. Stir in the fruits, orange extract, and orange rind, and the water. Mix thoroughly. Pour the batter into the baking pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, then raise the heat to 425°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the pan when cool.

Optional: sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Yield: 1 cake

from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press.

Almighty ever-lasting God,
who gave Saint Catherine of Alexandria to your people
as a Virgin and an invincible Martyr,
grant that through her intercession
we may be strengthened in faith and constancy
and spend ourselves without reserve
for the unity of the Church.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever. +Amen

First Reading: Revelation 21:5-7
And He who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also He said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:28-33
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven.

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