St Catherine of Alexandria, Protectoress of the Order of Preachers


St. Catherine of Alexandria is one of the patronesses of the Order of Preachers. Not only patroness; the early friars considered St. Catharine to be the protectoress of the Order! One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, she was a beloved saint during the middle ages. Her cultus was brought to the West by the Crusaders. In the accounts of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing in the lives of the early brethren she is always accompanied by St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Cecilia. Bl. Cecilia, one of the first nuns of the Order who left us some wonderful recollections about St. Dominic, including a very detail description of our Father, St. Dominic, tells us this story:

"Once when St Dominic was passing the night in the church in prayer, about midnight he went out and entered the dormitory. After looking at his brethren he resumed his prayer at the entrance of the dormitory. While standing erect as he prayed, he chanced to glance to the other end of the dormitory and saw three very comely ladies advancing towards him, of whom the central figure seemed to be a lady more dignified and of higher rank than the . others. One of the two attendants carried a beautiful and resplendent vessel of holy water, and the other a sprinkler, which she presented to the third who walked between them. This one sprinkled the brethren and blessed them, but as she passed along doing so there was one friar whom she neither blessed nor sprinkled. St Dominic observed this attentively, and noting whom it was, followed the lady as far as the lamp which hung in the middle of the dormitory: there he threw himself at her feet and began earnestly to beg her to say who she was, although he knew very well all the while.

Now at that time the beautiful and devout anthem, the Salve Regina, was not sung in the convents of our brethren and sisters in Rome, but merely said kneeling. Then the lady addressed St Dominic and said: 'I am she whom you greet every evening, and when you say "Turn then our Advocate," I prostrate myself before my Son for the preservation of this Order.' St Dominic then inquired who her companions might be, where unto she made answer: 'One of them is Cecilia and the other Catherine.' Upon this St Dominic made further inquiry touching the brother whom she had passed by, and why she had neither sprinkled nor blest him with the rest: at this she answered: 'Simply because he was unworthy of it.' Then she resumed sprinkling and blessing the remaining friars, and went away."

There are many legends surrounding St. Catherine's life, all of which, in one way or another tell us something about our Saint. For centuries St. Catherine has been the favored subject of many artists. You can see a selection of these HERE. St. Catherine is especially loved by the Eastern Church who honor her as the "Great Martyr". They celebrated her feast day yesterday. To this day, St. Catherine continues to have devotees. She even has a Facebook page!

For a classical account of the life of St. Catherine of Alexandria visit this page.

Another account can be found HERE.

To this day, St. Catherine is loved and revered by the Christians of Egypt and they try to make a pilgrimage to St. Catherine's Monastery, where she is traditionally believed to be buried.

While most Dominican nuns and sisters take St. Catherine of Siena for their patroness, our own Sr. Mary Catharine honors St. Catherine of Alexandria as her patroness although this is not her feast day. (We can choose our feast day by our patron saint or by our title.)

Martyrdom of St. Catherine, museum of the Dominican Monastery of Matris Domini, Bergamo, Italia
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