When the Roman emperor Maxentius visited Alexandria in the late 3rd century, he didn’t expect to receive such strong opposition from an 18-year-old girl named Catherine, whose knowledge surpassed even his.
Catherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria, and she had converted to Christianity at age 14. She was educated at an early age and was immersed in Greek philosophy. Her beauty and intellect were beyond compare and many sought her hand in marriage, but none were found worthy.
During a visit to Alexandria, Emperor Maxentius held a grand pagan festival and forced some Christians to participate, threatening to kill them unless they sacrificed to the gods. Catherine heard of the injustice and immediately presented herself before the emperor.
She vehemently opposed Maxentius, but instead of ordering her death, the emperor tried to argue with her. He was captivated by Catherine’s beauty and wanted to win her over. After witnessing her amazing intellect, Maxentius summoned 50 rhetoricians to defeat her in argument.
This did not work at all and Catherine’s philosophical skill was unmatched. She even won over many of the philosophers, converting them to Christianity.
This enraged Maxentius, who couldn’t stand being defeated by an 18-year-old girl. He ordered her death and she was subsequently beheaded.
Ever since her death, Christians from all corners of the world have been devoted to St. Catherine and her feast day was even a holy day of obligation in France until the 16th century. Her heroic story remains an inspiration to many and gives courage to those fighting the many injustices of our own day and time.
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