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Bl. Jacobus de Voragine - "Golden Legend" - 25 November Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (307 AD) - part I

"Katherine, by descent of line, was of the noble lineage of the emperors of Rome as it shall be declared more plainly hereafter by a notable chronicle, whose most blessed life and conversation wrote the solemn doctor Athanasius, which knew her lineage and her life, for he was one of her masters in her tender age ere she was converted to the christian faith. And after, the said Athanasius, by her preaching and marvellous work of our Lord, was converted also, which, after her martyrdom, was made bishop of Alexandria, and a glorious pillar of the church by the grace of God and merits of Saint Katherine.

And like as the fair rose springeth among the briars and thorns, right so between these two paynims was brought forth this blessed Saint Katherine. And when this holy virgin was born she was so fair of visage and so well formed Katherine in her members that all the people enjoyed in her beauty, and when she came to seven years of age,anon after she was set to school, where she profited much more than any other of her age, and was informed in the arts liberal, wherein she drank plenteously of the well of wisdom, for she was chosen to be a teacher and informer of everlasting wisdom.

But now I leave this young queen in her contemplation, and shall say you as far as God will give me grace, how that our Lord by his special miracle, called her unto baptism in a special manner, such as hath not been heard of before ne sith, and also how she was visibly married to our Lord, in showing to her sovereign tokens of singular love. Then, beside Alexandria, a certain space of miles, dwelled a holy father, a hermit in desert named Adrian, which had served our Lord continually by the space of thirty years in great penance. And on a day as he walked before his cell being in his holy meditations, there came against him the most reverent lady that ever any earthly creature might behold, and when this holy man beheld her high estate and excellent beauty, which was above nature, he was sore abashed and so much astonished, that he fell down as he had been dead. Then this blessed lady, seeing this, called him by his name goodly and said: Brother Adrian, dread ye nothing, for I am come to you for your good honour and profit. And with that she took him up meekly, comforting him, and said in this wise: Adrian, ye must go in a message for me into the city of Alexandria, and to the palace of the queen Katherine, and say to her that the lady saluteth her whose son she hath chosen to her lord and husband, sitting in her parliament with her mother and lords about her, where she had a great confiict and battle to keep her virginity, and say to her that this same lord whom she chose is my son, that am a pure virgin, and he desireth her beauty and loveth her chastity among all the virgins on the earth. I command her, without tarrying, that she come with thee alone unto this palace, whereas she shall be new clothed, and then shall she see him, and have him to her everlasting spouse.

Now blessed be God that hath endowed you with so perfect faith, for there is that place wherein ye shall receive so great worship and joy, that there was never none like, save only our blessed Lady, Christ’s own mother, queen of all queens. Now, good Father Adrian, hie you fast that we were there, for there is all my desire and joy. And soon after they approached that glorious place, and when they came to the gate, there met them a glorious company, all clothed in white and with chaplets of white lilies on their heads, whose beauty was so great and bright that the virgin Katherine ne the old man might not behold them, but all ravished fell down in great dread. Then one more excellent than another spake first, and said to this virgin: Katherine, stand up our dear sister, for ye be right welcome, and led her farther in till they came to the second gate where another more glorious company they came to the second gate where another more glorious company met her, all clothed in purple, with fresh chaplets of red roses on their heads. And the holy virgin seeing them, fell down for reverence and dread, and they, benignly comforting her, took her up and said to her: Dread ye nothing, our dear sister, for there was never none more heartily welcome to our sovereign lord than ye be, and to us all, for ye shall receive our clothing ard our crown with so great honour, that all saints shall joy in you; Come forth, for the Lord abideth desiring you. And then this blessed virgin Katherine with trembling joy passed forth with them, like as she that was ravished with so marvellous joy that she could not speak, and when she was entered into the body of the church she heard a melody of marvellous sweetness, which passed all hearts to think it, and there they beheld a royal queen standing in her estate with a great multitude of angels and saints, whose beauty and riches might no heart think, ne no pen write, for it exceedeth every man’s mind. Then the noble company of martyrs with the fellowship of virgins, which led the virgin Katherine, fell down flat tofore this royal empress with sovereign reverence, saying in this wise: Our most sovereign Lady Queen of heaven, Lady of all the world, Empress of hell, Mother of Almighty God, King of bliss, to whose commandment obey all heavenly creatures and earthly, liketh it you that we here present to you our dear sister, whose name is written in the Book of Life, beseeching your benign grace to receive her as your daughter chosen and humble handmaid, for to accomplish the work which our blessed Lord hath begun in her. And with that our blessed Lady said: Bring ye my daughter and when the holy virgin heard our Lady speak, she was so much replenished with heavenly joy that she lay as she had been dead. Then the holy company took her up and brought her tofore our blessed Lady, to whom she said: My dear daughter ye be welcome to me, and ye be strong and of good comfort, for ye be specially chosen of my son to be honoured. Remember ye not how sitting in your parliament ye described to you a husband, whereas ye had a great conflict and battle in defending your chastity? And then this holy Katherine kneeling with most humble reverence and dread said: O most blessed Lady; blessed be ye among all women; I remember how I chose that Lord which then was full far from my knowledge, but now blessed Lady, by his mighty mercy and your special grace he hath opened the eyes of my blind conscience and ignorance, so that now I see the clear way of truth, and humbly beseech you most blessed Lady, that I may have him whom my heart loveth and desireth above all things, without whom I may not live. And with these words her spirits were so fast closed that she lay as she had been dead, and then our Lady in conforting her said: My dear daughter, it shall be as ye desire, but yet ye lack one thing that ye must receive ere ye come to the presence of my son; ye must be clothed with the sacrament of baptism, wherefore come on my daughter for all things are provided. For there was a font solemnly apparelled with all things requisite unto baptism."

Bartolomeo Bulgarini - Saint Catherine of Alexandria, probably c. 1335, National Gallery of Art: