Rorate Caeli

Sancta Catharina, ora pro nobis


Official presentation of the New Roman Calendar by Father Pierre Jounel, professor of the Superior Institute of Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and one of the most active contributors to the post-Conciliar liturgical reform (Rome, Holy See Press Office, press conference, May 9, 1969):

... The revision of the list of saints inscribed in the general calendar of the Roman Church proceeds from the general principles just presented.

First, the list of saints commemorated before underwent a thorough historical investigation. Certain saints may be popular, due to legends created around their names, without one being able to ensure that they even existed, as Saint Christopher, Saint Barbara, Saint Catherine of Alexandria*. They were suppressed from the general calendar: the Christian people cannot be invited to a general prayer if not in truth. ...

Deus qui dedisti legem Moysi in summitate montis Sinai, et in eodem loco per sanctos Angelos tuos corpus beatæ Catharinæ Virginis et Martyris tuæ mirabiliter collocasti: præsta, quæsumus; ut, eius meritis et intercessione ad montem qui Christus est, perveníre valeamus. Qui tecum... (Collect for the Feast of Saint Catherine, Virgin and Martyr - November 25, Missale Romanum, 1962: "O God, Who didst give the law to Moses on the summit of Mt. Sinai and by means of Thy holy angels didst miraculously place there the body of blessed Catherine, Thy virgin and martyr, grant we beseech Thee, that, by her merits and intercession, we may be able to come unto the mountain which is Christ.Who with Thee...")

*The great martyr Saint Catherine of Alexandria would later be squeezed in as an "Optional memorial" of the Universal Calendar in the Third Typical Edition of the New Roman Missal, 2002. [Does she really exist now? What about the "thorough historical investigation"?]

- Recess continues for several days; relevant news may be posted at any moment.


  1. The question of Catherine's existence is a valid historical one. Just because something is "traditionally believed," does not necessarily make it true, especially when legends arise centuries after the purported events occur. (e.g., no mention of Catherine in the historical record before the ninth century)

    Yes,I'm well aware of the counter-arguments FOR Catherine's existence; I'm simply saying students of history can reach different conclusions on the matter, and mockery is unbecoming.

    Lest we forget, for CENTURIES the Buddha himself was venerates as a saint, under the name "Saint Josaphat." And don't get me started on Saint Murgen the Mermaid . . .

    Let's not be afraid to offer respectful criticism of the religious practices of our sainted ancestors. The Church charism of infallibility is a VERY limited ones, and inclusion of a saint in the calendar, sans an ex cathedra pronouncement such as accompanies modern canonizations, is not infallible. Every student of hagiography knows how noj-existent saints sometimes ended up with popular, and eventually approved cults, for all sorts of wile reasons. Saint Expeditus, anyone?

  2. I suppose you do know that, since 2000, the liturgical calendar of the ordinary normal form of the Roman Rite does include Catherine of Alexandria.


  3. Sorry. I withdraw my comment. Obviously, I had not read all.


  4. The reintroduction of Catherine into the 2002 missal just demonstrates what a mess the 1969 revision was.

  5. "The question of Catherine's existence is a valid historical one."

    No, it isn't. Not for a Catholic (or for an Eastern Orthodox...).

    Prior to the mad reformists of the mid-20th century, no Catholic had ever denied her existence. Some stories regarding her had been disputed for centuries, but not her existence.

    Regarding your other examples, these figures were never included by the Church of Rome in her own calendar or martyrology, or in the universal calendar, so there is no comparison.

  6. Shouln't it be "Sancte Catharine, ora pro nobis"? (vocative case) ?

  7. Anonymous,

    Catharina, ae is of first declension; vocative -a: Catharina. The same regarding the word Sancta, ae.

    If it was a male saint, e.g. Sanctus Aloisius, of 2nd declension, it would be Sancte Aloisie (vocative in -e).

  8. Luiz, thank you. Latin is hard to learn but I think it's worth the effort!

  9. Luiz,

    The vocative for Sanctus Aloysius wouldn't be Sancte Aloysie, but Sancte Aloysi. The "us" simply disappears when it is preceded by "i". The "us" also disappears when it isn't preceded by "i", but in this case a "e" is put in its place.

    So, for example: Sanctus Marcus (nominative), Sancte Marce (vocative); Sanctus Benedictus (nomonative), Sancte Benedicte (vocative). On the contrary: Sanctus Flavius Clemens (nominative), Sancte Flavi Clemens (vocative); Sanctus Aloysius (nominative), Sancte Aloysi (vocative).

  10. The question of Catherine's existence is a valid historical one.

    As New Catholic said, you are dead wrong, lexetlibertas. It is impossible that the Church would approve and endorse St. Catherine's cult for so many centuries right down to the present day if she never existed. No Catholic may question her existence.

    As Critic indicated, the shameful and embarrassing screw-up over Sts. Catherine or Christopher, etc., shows just how much of a botch-up the post-conciliar liturgical reform was. In matters such as these, historical research and criticism are nothing more than guides -- they don't get the final say, as if they can overthrow what the entire Church has approved from time out of mind merely because history cannot tell us any details about the life of an ancient saint or about the origin and development of her cult.

  11. Anonymous,

    You are right! As in the word filius, ii; vocative Fili (Fili Redemptor Mundi...).

    Sancte Francisce, ora pro nobis! =]

  12. Can someone explain a little further why, if the Church has popularly believed a person to exist for centuries, then it is necessarily true that he actually existed?

    My own patron saint, Alexis the Man-of-God, has had his existence questioned on the same grounds, which is of course bothersome to me, seeing as how I pray to him daily.

    So while I would like to believe that because the Church has said a person exists for a long period of time, then he necessarily must have, I'm not sure I really see any logic behind that argument, because as far as I know, the glorification of saints prior to the "modern" canonization process were not infallible.

  13. To lexetlibertas:

    Can the Church venerate non-existent persons? Like the pagans?

    If we can't trust even the Church liturgical calendar, how can we know which saints really existed?

    And which saints to venerate? Those from the calendar? Officially canonized?

    What happens with prayers to non-existent saints?

    Should we add clause "St. Christopher, if you existed, pray for us"? It's an exaggerated example, but I find your way of thinking disturbing.

    Are science, state, and other secular authorities superior to the Church?

    To what extent can we trust the Church?

    What if the Church has no other proofs than tradition, and secular science contradicts it?

    I consider it a grave matter. Probably Fr Jounel would agree with me.

  14. "...Every student of hagiography knows how noj-existent [sic] saints sometimes ended up with popular, and eventually approved cults, for all sorts of wile reasons. Saint Expeditus, anyone?"

    Ha, Ha, Ha. It was to St. Expeditus to whom I prayed when the Mexican Metropolitan Cathedral was closed to the Institute priests who had planned on celebrating there the historic first Tridentine Mass in nearly 40 years. Miraculously, the Cathedral was re-opened in time for Monsignor Schmitz to offer that Mass. I am convinced that this grace was obtained through the intercession of St. Expeditus. You just wouldn't believe it if I were to tell how in so many little ways he has made known his presence to me, especially after the celebration of Monsignor's Mass at the Cathedral.

    I no more doubt the existence St. Expeditus than I do of my own mother.

  15. "It is impossible that the Church would approve and endorse St. Catherine's cult for so many centuries right down to the present day if she never existed. No Catholic may question her existence."

    You had better document this assertion. The Church herself disagrees with you.

  16. The Church herself disagrees with you.

    You had better document this assertion. The Church has formally recognised and approved her cult at the highest levels. You are suggesting that the Church might be giving her blessing to the cult of a non-existent person.

    You do realise, I hope, that formal canonisation means only, "This person is definitely in heaven and ought to be venerated and looked to as an intercessor and example of holiness." It doesn't mean, "This person existed, and saints who haven't been formally canonisation might be imaginary." Absence of formal canonisation is not in any way a license to question a saint's existence.

    Now, we know that St. Catherine's cult is of the greatest antiquity and was approved by the Holy See. For a very short time her feast was unjustifiably removed from the Universal Calendar, but of course her cult was never suppressed -- the Church does not have the authority to suppress such a cult. Now her feast is back on the Universal Calendar where it belongs. You are welcome to tell your Mother that She doesn't know what She's talking about in this matter, but I wouldn't advise it.

  17. Jordanes said Catherine's cult was never suppressed. Of course it wasn't: Catherine was never removed from the official list of recognized saints, the Roman Martyrology. Did Jordanes perhaps think that you had to be in the liturgical calendar to be an officially recognized saint? Surely he didn't. For ever day in the year, even 29 February, there are officially recognized saints (plural) listed in the Martyrology, but only a very small selection can be put in the liturgical calendar. The several saints that Pius V removed from the liturgical calendar (almost all those who had been canonized after the eleventh century) didn't thereby cease to be saints; nor did those that Paul VI removed. Unlike what a decree of canonization declares, the contents of the liturgical calendar (or the Martyrology, for that matter) are not considered to be infallible. The celebration on 29 July of a Felix as Pope Felix II does not mean that Felix II was a pope and not an antipope. Only with the 1962 revision of the calendar was "Pope Felix II" replaced by "Martyr Felix", a different person. Until then, "Pope" Felix II was given quite a high level of recognition, that he has now lost. It seems there was confusion on the part of the experts whose work the popes accepted (as can still happen): they supposed that the little-known martyr Felix was "Pope Felix" (who seems to have been by no means a martyr). We are not obliged to believe that he was either a pope or a saint. He is not now in the Roman Martyrology. Unlike Catherine of Alexandria, who was never removed from that official list of saints.


  18. lexetlibertas, if you wish your comments to be approved, you will have to moderate your tone and your rhetoric.

    Jordanes said Catherine's cult was never suppressed. Of course it wasn't: Catherine was never removed from the official list of recognized saints, the Roman Martyrology. Did Jordanes perhaps think that you had to be in the liturgical calendar to be an officially recognized saint? Surely he didn't.

    Correct. I did not and do not think that.

    The point is that, if St. Catherine's existence were really so doubtful, the Church would have come out and said so, and would have suppressed her cult and ordered the elimination of her relics (whether real or reputed) and renaming of all churches and dioceses under her patronage. But She didn't. It's simply impossible that the Church would not merely permit but positively endorse her cult for the greater part of Her history, and there never have been any such saint.

    The example you mention of St. Felix is precisely on point. It's not that St. Felix never existed, but that confusion arose about him.

    Local cults that organically grew up about this or that saint, which the Church has never endorsed, might be of dubious historicity, and there are certainly examples of imaginary "saints," but when the Church places her seal of approval on a venerable cult, there can be no absurd appeals to alleged historical evidence or lack thereof. It is to the Church and her Tradition that we are to look in matters such as these, especially when history can afford no help (as in the case of St. Catherine). There can be no truth in opposition to what the Church teaches, for the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.

  19. lexetlibertas, you are falling into the modern error that holds science knows more than faith. The various disciplines of science prove almost daily that what science knew ten years ago was false. They can't even figure out something as fundamental as the geological time line. Faith, however, is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for.

    Just because modern historians can't find any evidence doesn't point to something lacking in the Church or faith. Rather, it points to the fact that the science of history can't find any evidence, and nothing more. It is science that is lacking.

  20. It is impossible that the Church would approve and endorse St. Catherine's cult for so many centuries right down to the present day if she never existed. No Catholic may question her existence.

    Jordanes, can you please provide any kind of support for this? Are you saying that the Church is also infallible when defining if a person existed or not? It seems a little pretentious to me...

  21. Dear Lexetlibertas:

    Your approach to ecclesiastical tradition is in stark contrast with the dictates of the Second Ecumenical Nicaean Council.

    The Catholic Encyclopaedia has a good article on this.

    I humbly encourage you to study and more correctly understand what the Church means, when at the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea, in 787 A.D., the council fathers declared:

    "To summarize, we declare that we defend free from any innovations all the written and unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us."

    In essence, it is stated that an orthodox Catholic approach to both Divine as well ecclesiastical traditions (including liturgical tradition and the martyrology would be associated with that) would be to presume and believe and honour unwaveringly the truth in the liturgy and martyrology.

    Let science and archaelogy then seek as best they can to uncover evidence in support of those truths. In the process of uncovering historical evidence, archaelogy may either uncover evidence of the person, or not uncover any evidence at all. Or it may find circumstantial evidence that would to varying degrees either support or not be very supportive of the fact, but this should be on no consequence to the faith that you as a Catholic should have.

    Merely to say that there is no written record cannot be used as proof that someone did not exist, as oral tradition particularly in Alexandrian culture was of paramount hsitorical value.

    Putting Nicaea II into practice, a Catholic of sound mind would therefore hold the oral tradition of Catherine of Alexandria as true merely on the basis of her being mentioned in the martyrology.

    The Alexandrian fathers held very dearly to Apostolic Tradition and to postulate a claim that the Alexandrian Church hierarchy and faithful, en masse (this would be required if a false person was entered into the martyrology and venerated and culted), would collude to venerate a fictitious non-person would require a more challenging proof than the alternative.

    The process of canonization, even in ancient non-Roman patriarchates required miracles as proof to several of the faithful as to procure mass devotion coupled with the prayerful discernment of the Church. Since the Church obviously promoted her cult in the martyrology a faithful Catholic should not cower in wavering uncertainty as to her existence. Put another way, a cursory historical proof by induction of a person's authentic existence would be the simple fact that they are mentioned in the martyrology.

    Many of us venerators of St George had to suffer much with the same disregard for ecclesiastical tradition in the 1970s when we could no longer celebrate his feast in the New Order.

    J. Di Bernardino
    Ontario, Canada

  22. Are you saying that the Church is also infallible when defining if a person existed or not? It seems a little pretentious to me...

    If the Church ever defines that a person has existed, then obviously the Church's definition would be infallible. The Church does not issue such definitions of existence, however. Rather, Her definitions are of the kind that necessitate that one affirm the historical truth and existence of certain persons and events, since without such an affirmation the definition would be unintelligible. Many people claim there is no good historical evidence that Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles ever existed, but no Catholic may doubt their existence.

    When the Church at her highest levels recommends that Christians invoke a saint, and/or continues in that endorsement for the greater part of Her history (as She has done in the case of St. Catherine, St. Christopher, and St. Philomena -- none of whom were formally canonised), it follows that the Church expects Her children to affirm the existence of that saint, or at the least not to doubt the saint's existence or suggest or claim that there isn't any good reason to believe that the saint ever existed.

    The Church has not formally come out and "defined" that St. Catherine really exists. That's not how the Church does things. Nevertheless, only fools and the ignorant doubt her existence. The question of Catherine's existence is not a valid historical question for Catholics.

  23. Dear Noft,

    my previous post should address your question. The infallible and dogmatic declaration of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea should suffice for a faithful Catholic.

    It is not that the Church can infallibly declare whether certain persons existed or not.

    But that the Church, in adding a Saint to the Martyrology, has historically *certainly* experienced that person and discerned that person's cause for Sainthood.

    Or put a different way, it is a certain historical proof that a person existed if the Church has declared them a Saint.

    Sincerely in Jesus, Mary and Joseph

    J. Di Bernardino
    Ontario, Canada

  24. Jordanes and Mister Di Bernardino, thanks a lot for your explanations, I think that I have a clearer picture now.

  25. Hi,

    Although several saints were removed from the calander lists in 1969, it was not necessarily because the Church did not accept they existed. The official lists of saints still contain the early martyrs like Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and her cult has always been popular. One reason, is that they cannot agree on the facts of the legend of that saint being verified, but they normally review this process as they did in 2002. Another reason is that there are so many new saints being made, whose lives they can verify, that they want to encourage people to honour these people in place of saints from 1700 years ago. This is also why the canon changes and remember Saint Catherine and many early saints were not in the canon as they were declared saints by a popular cult existing and the local bishop giving approval; the process of canonization existed much later.

    There have been texts appearing about Catherine since the nineth century, and the authors must have had access to sources that we no longer have. If her own writings were destroyed then tracing her life would be hard. Has anyone actually tried to do it?

    We have the acts of her martydome and the witness of her life as an influence on other saints down the years. Also, there is the possible existance of a tomb and there was a cult there since the 6th century.

    Just because we cannot actually verify the existance with firm evidence, other than later texts, does not mean that they did not exist. There is no real evidence for Jesus or Moses either, other than the ancient texts of the Bible, the eye-witness of the apostles and some extanct writings. But would any Catholic deny their existance? Oh course not; the Church would not exist without them.




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