04 January 2005

Posted by Hello
St. Catherine's Identity Crisis

I was given a book for Christmas which contains novenas to quite a few saints. I consider it to be a very useful book. It's also a very pretty book; it has reproductions of the sort of soft-focus, prettified prayer cards that I think of as falling out of my grandmother's prayer books. I happily flipped through the book, thinking of how useful it would be to have these novenas to so many saints, and wondering when I would start one.

Lizzy and I both have a particular affiliation with the name Katherine/Catherine, and thus with saints who bear that name. So, of course, I paid particular attention to the novena to St. Catherine of Siena. I have always considered her a bit odd, and preferred St. Catherine Laboure or St. Katherine of Alexandria as a patroness, but being both a Catherine and a Dominican, as well as a Doctor of the Church, it wouldn't be a good idea to ignore her merely for being odd (and compared to some saints, she wasn't odd at all--see the Shrine of the Holy Whapping archives for details on odd saints). I read through the short biography provided, and the prayers. Then I looked at the picture.

Right away, I noticed something was off. She wasn't wearing her Dominican habit. She was wearing some kind of robes that were pink and mint green. Pretty far from her usual black and white. I had also just read the other day about martyrs being depicted with palms, and this lady was holding palms. But Catherine of Siena wasn't a martyr. She was also wearing a crown. No way was this St. Catherine of Siena. Then I looked down by her feet. There it was--the wheel. The Katherine Wheel. Not St. Catherine of Siena's wheel, but St. Katherine of Alexandria's wheel--the one that was used to kill her. This picture was definitely the Alexandrian martyr, not the Italian Doctor.

The good ladies who wrote this volume have also written a book called Holy Cards. Taking this into consideration, how could they mix up these two saints? This isn't exactly a typo. I would consider it a major faux pas to mis-label the image of a saint who is so obviously a different saint, just because they share a name. Perhaps they will come out with a new volume that contains a different holy card. I certainly hope someone has pointed out this glaring error to the authors, and if not, I may do it myself. The rest of the book is quite nice, though.

No comments: