Eleven centuries after her death she miraculously appeared to and advised St. Joan of Arc, her body was supernaturally buried by angels, and she personally converted hundreds of souls during her short lifetime before dying as a martyr.

You may not have even heard of her, but she used to be considered one of the most important saints in Christendom: the great St. Catherine of Alexandria.

According to tradition, Catherine was born to the pagan governor of Alexandria, Egypt in the late 3rd century, and received a very good education.

But her life was changed dramatically one day when she was supernaturally visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary and Child Jesus. This mystical encounter converted her to Christian faith as a teenager, and she took a vow of virginity.

Soon after, the Roman Emperor Maxentius (who was the immediate predecessor to Constantine) launched a round of persecutions against Christians. Rather than hide in fear, Catherine, though only a teenager, courageously used her position to gain an audience with Maxentius in which she rebuked him for his cruelty and defended Christianity.

Not to let her go unanswered, the emperor summoned fifty of his best pagan philosophers to refute her. But Catherine trusted God, stood her ground, and – to the shock of everyone present – won the debate! In fact, several of the pagan philosophers converted to Christianity on the spot.

This made the emperor furious. He had her arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. But word of her faith and successful disputation with the pagan philosophers quickly spread. Some 200 people visited her in prison, including the emperor’s wife, all of whom converted to Christianity as well! The emperor ordered that all of the new converts, including his wife, be killed immediately.

Realizing that he was unable to break her by torture, the emperor had a strange change in strategy: he asked her to be his new wife. But Catherine refused, declaring that she had already consecrated herself to Jesus Christ as a virgin.

Humiliated and enraged, Maxentius ordered that Catherine be tortured and killed on a spiked breaking wheel. But as soon as she touched it, it shattered to pieces. Undaunted, the emperor ordered that the 18-year-old girl be beheaded – an order his executioner was finally able to carry out successfully.

But that’s not the end of her story. The story goes that angels picked up her body and whisked it away to Mount Sinai, where it was found by a group of monks 500 years later. Her body was miraculously emitting some sort of oil with healing properties, which was venerated by pilgrims for centuries. The monastery is known as St. Catherine’s Monastery to this day.

And eleven centuries after her death, she was identified by St. Joan of Arc as one of the heavenly beings (along with the Archangel Michael and St. Margaret the Virgin) who instructed her to lead the French armies against the English.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, please pray for us!

[See also: What Was Jesus’ Greatest Suffering? Here’s the Secret Revealed to a 12th C. Saint]

[See also: The Demon-Fighter: The Supernatural Life of St. Padre Pio]

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