St. Catherine of Alexandria converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. At the age of 18, she debated 50 pagan philosophers. Amazed at her wisdom and debating skills, they became Christians— as did about 200 soldiers and members of the emperor’s family. All of them were martyred. Sentenced to be executed on a spiked wheel, Catherine touched the wheel and it shattered. She was martyred by being beheaded. Devotion to her spread as a result of the Crusades. She was invoked as the patroness of students, teachers, librarians and lawyers. Catherine is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, venerated especially in Germany and Hungary.
The pursuit of God’s wisdom may not lead to riches or earthly honors. In Catherine’s case, this pursuit contributed to her martyrdom. She was not, however, foolish in preferring to die for Jesus rather than live only by denying him. All the rewards that her tormentors offered her would rust, lose their beauty, or in some other way become a poor exchange for Catherine’s honesty and integrity in following Jesus Christ.