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A Saint for Us

St. Catherine’s Day, November 25

Years ago, I spent a month in the countryside of England.  One of my most magical memories was a night in Abbotsbury, a lovely village in Dorset (Thomas Hardy country), right on the coast.  After my first dinner in a pub, we walked down a country lane in a beautiful, hazy yellow light, stone walls on both sides dripping with wildflowers.  Have you seen Roman Polanski’s movie *Tess*?  It was probably filmed in this area, and our hike was straight out of the film.

We walked through fields past sheep and up a long hill, up over a stone wall using a style (a first for that, too), heading for Saint Catherine’s Chapel, high on hill overlooking the sea. 
The chapel was the remains of an old Catholic church, torn apart by anti-Catholic fervor after Henry VIII’s separation from the Roman Church.  The stone walls were still there, left as a landmark for mariners.  (For more about Abbotsbury and St. Catherine’s Chapel, click here.)

Along with the trek being a beautiful odyssey, I was interested that it was a chapel to Saint Catherine. I knew nothing about where my name had come from, even with its different spelling. 

Saint Catherine is the patron (matron?) saint of unmarried women.  She was martyred by being tortured on the wheel (not sure of the details here), and is often pictured with a wheel.  Usually she is wearing a crown because she was a royal, carrying a book (she was well-educated) and/or a sword that symbolizes martyrdom. 

Single women hoping for a husband still visit the chapel in Abbotsbury.  On the old walls there is a copy of their prayer:

A husband, St. Catherine
A handsome one, St. Catherine
A rich one, St. Catherine
A nice one, St. Catherine
And soon, St. Catherine

Saint Catherine’s Day is November 25.  Take a little time to remember Saint Catherine, maybe say a little prayer, and think how much better single women have it now than even a hundred years ago.  And see below for other traditions linked to her day.



Now this is the kind of vaca I’d like to have!

And now I know who to pray to. :-(

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