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99 B o o k 4 Katherine’s Confrontation with Maxentius and Debate with Fifty Scholars Prologue (1–77) People are like worker bees and drones:1 some labor while others idle. There are different attitudes and ranks. The good laborers are like the worker bees, especially those who, alighting on the flowers, learn and teach (sucking and drawing from the various parts of God’s law) good examples set by holy predecessors—sweet ideas and renowned tastes. These bees bring home everything they’ve gathered. Others are good for nothing: they eat and drink, gorge and waste—the only labor they do is at the table; otherwise, they’re in no hurry to work. Fill up their bellies, give them a good meal, and they’ll sleep soundly with the best. All we can say is “drones like their rest.” Drones won’t undertake spiritual labor, because they take no pleasure in hearing God’s law. They don’t improve themselves because they won’t 100 The Life of Saint Katherine of Alexandria follow spiritual pursuits on anyone’s account. They’re happy with their full bellies and their rest. It seems to me that Holy Scripture is like a field arrayed with fair flowers, and Holy Church is a hive battered by many storms. With honey and wax, the virtuous bees have fashioned their diverse cells in this hive. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you what all this means: The work good people do by reading exemplary tales invigorates them. Thinking about virtuous and stable living renews their determination to fight with fresh and bold courage against the worldly deception and the negligence that lurks within the flesh. One of these bees was this same queen, the maiden Kathe­ rine, who diligently sucked the honey of great holiness from every fair flower, bore it to the hive, and prepared it for the service of both God and man. She gathered this same liquor, this honey, wondrously far and wide. She labored most in the law of nature, where she learned to set aside vices and choose virtues, to treat no one worse than she would want a person to treat her.2 Here’s how this lady harvested this field: She gathered much from the written law, keeping the Ten Commandments truly in mind. There she learned the marvelous origin of the world and also of humanity. She learned to foster and clothe the lame and the blind, both old and young. This was her labor, this was her harvest. She sucked even sweeter nourishment from the law of grace, that is, from the riper flowers of faith, hope, and­ charity. She bore them into this hive, into Holy Church’s inner recesses, where, believe me, they lie as treasures. Those who labor there may often wring more sweetness than any ship can bring. And we will proceed in the sweetness that this lady gathered while she was alive. May God send us a share of that sweetness when we need to persevere in virtuous living, and may he allow us to enter the heavenly land where she resides. Now, with her help, I will return directly to her story. Confrontation with Maxentius and Debate with Fifty Scholars 101 Chapters 1–3: Imperial Politics (1/78–161) In the time of Costus, our books say that there were three emperors in the city of Rome. The first was a very ruthless man called Maximinus Galerius; the second was called Maximian; the third, Diocletian, was the bane of many a Christian. The first emperor, Maximinus Galerius, stayed in Rome and kept the peace there; he was responsible for the judgments and the sacrifices. The other two men were sent out with great forces charged with burning, killing, seizing, and protecting what was seized. But those two grew weary and resigned their offices. They had a compelling excuse, indeed: they said that all their effort and all their fighting accomplished nothing, for the more they did, the more they had to do. Having made their decision, they resigned their rights to Maximinus Galerius, who appointed three emperors below him to sustain his empire as best they could through battles and attacks, winning cities, castles, towns, and towers. The first, our history says, was called Maximinus. He was assigned to govern the entire East. The second, called Severus, was assigned the government of Lombardy, Germany, and Tuscany, and my source says that many other countries in the region were...


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