The first and foremost of all the Catherines among the saints is the beautiful, young, eighteen-year-old girl of Alexandria in Egypt who was martyred for her Faith. The intellectuals of her time and place were so upset by the brilliance of her mind that she was called to defend the Catholic truths before fifty pagan philosophers. She completely confounded them with her arguments and her eloquence. They tortured her by means of an engine fitted with a spiked wheel. On this wheel she was rolled, but before it could do harm to her it miraculously fell apart. She was then scourged and thrown into prison and at last beheaded. She is the patroness of philosophers. She is one of the fourteen Holy Helpers, and is invoked in lawsuits. Saint Catherine’s body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. There, on the top of this sacred hill, her virginal remains await the resurrection on the last day.
Here is what the Church says about her in the office of Matins:
Catherine was a noble virgin of Alexandria who united a zeal for the liberal arts with an ardent faith. When she saw many Christians given up to torture by Maximin, she went to him and strongly stated the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation. Wondering at her wisdom, the tyrant commanded her to be held, and, assembling the most learned men from all sides, he tried to persuade her to turn to the worship of idols. But the opposite happened; many of those men were convinced by Catherine’s wise reasoning and embraced the faith of Christ and did not hesitate to die for it. Because of this, Maximin tried promises first and then threats to win Catherine from her conviction; but, when nothing succeeded, he had her beheaded with an axe.