Of all the great philosophers who attained sanctity, in her wisdom, the Church invokes the virgin martyr, Catherine of Alexandria as patron saint of philosophers. I tend to think it is because, according to tradition, she defended the Christian faith through philosophy and revealed that faith and reason are not opposed to each other, but rather partners in the human quest for knowledge, discovering the meaning of life and discerning the existence of God. That she was a humble lay woman also speaks volumes: no professor here, but a women who consecrated herself to Christ and sought to live the Gospel in her day to day life.
Thank God Blessed John Paul II rehabilitated her and put her back on the General Calendar: like St Christopher, St Philomena and St Simon Stock, Catherine's existence had been rejected by certain scholars who put too much weight on the legends and, unfortunately the Church, following their line, consigned her to the realm of the legendary. Blessed John Paul could discern between the Saint who existed and about whom we may know very little and the legends which grew up around their memory, so he restored to the Church her patron of philosophers. Quite appropriate given that he was a philosopher himself.
St Catherine is an important patron for all us and the laity in particular. Okay, we are not all called to be philosophers, not in a professional capacity anyway, but we are called to understand our faith and be able to explain it. No Catholic is exempted from this - the Year of Faith which ended yesterday was to remind us to our responsibility to continue learning about our faith - we are all called to catechise. As a laywoman, Catherine, I hope, will inspire laypeople to see their role as teachers and evangelisers.
I suppose that is why I failed to understand why Catherine was debunked by the Church in a period when she should have been becoming more important in the life of the Church: after all, she is a great example of what Vatican II wanted the laity to become: men and women living and defending the faith in the world. Anyway, no use raking over what was done in the past - mistakes were made but we need to move on and get down to work: we have lost a lot of ground. I pray St Catherine and all the Saints will inspire and motivate us as we all play our part in the New Evangelisation.