The altar, St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai - photo; The New Liturgical Movement
Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr. Most of us of a certain age probably first heard her name in childhood in connection with the popular firework, the Catherine Wheel, although that is now, for some reason, almost universally sold and referred to as a pin-wheel: we seem to be doing our level best to lapse into a culturally suicidal collective amnesia about our history and the things which have formed us.
Tradition says that St Catherine was born in Alexandria, the daughter of a noble family. Having been converted to Christianity through a vision, she denounced the persecution of her fellow believers under the Emperor Maxentius. Offered an imperial marriage if she would deny her faith, she refused and was put to death on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel broke, she was beheaded. She is venerated as the patroness of philosophers and preachers. Her Catholic Encyclopaedia entry is here
One of the most popular of saints in the medieval period, St. Catherine's was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.
Our French neighbours tell us that today, St Catherine's Day, is the best time for planting new trees and shrubs. Not for us this year unfortunately; that will have to wait until early Spring, which will at least give the plants a fighting chance before the heat of the Summer.
Here in our southeast corner of Monmouthshire this morning we have a heavy white frost, by far the worst of the season so far. Winter begins in earnest...
And for the U.S. A., it's the Thanksgiving holiday- so Happy Thanksgiving to any of you who may be reading this in between the turkey and the rest of the festivities!