Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Santa Catarina Martir, on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico

If you are ever in Monterrey, Mexico's third largest City, some 150 miles south of the Texas Border, you might notice that the last municipality on the road leading out of town, going west, towards Saltillo, is Santa Catarina.

A relatively new icon in the skyline of Monterrey
is its emblematic Bridge of Unity, A Cable-stayed
 bridge crossing the Santa Caterina River
connecting downtown Monterrey with nearby
San Pedro municipality
Santa Catarina de Alejandria (Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 290-310 AD, approximately) or Santa Catarina Martir (Saint Catherine Martyr) are two names by which we identify both this church as well as this saint, and distinguish her from Santa Catalina de Siena (Saint Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380 AD). Geography is not the only factor separating these two saints, but the time period in which each one of them lived: the difference is a millennium..

When you take the road out
of Monterrey, and drive west
towards Saltillo, you pass an
intersection with the statue
of Santa Catarina Martir
with her broken wheel.
As early as the 16th century, Alberto del Canto built a shelter (una estancia)  here, for travelers coming from Monterrey to Saltillo. The Church however was not built until 1810.
On the left, is the plaque which hangs on the outside of the church, where we can certify that Santa Catarina Church was built in 1810. On the right, we see a local girl, who told me that she has been going to this church, since the time her grandmother took her as a small girl here to Mass. She say her dearest memories were when Mass was over, her grandmother would take her across the street to the park (see below), and treat her to some sugar-covered deep-fried churros.

Peaceful park with its central kiosk sets
a change of pace in now-a-days bustling
Santa Catarina.
The first thing you might notice about this Santa Caterina Martir or Santa Caterina de Alejandria in the pictures I put here in this blog, is a strange looking broken spiked wheel on her side. When Saint Catherine, a native of Alexandria, Egypt, was being coerced by Emperor Massentius to adore pagan Gods, and therefore renounce her faith in Jesus Christ, she was sentenced to death: the torture was to be on a spinning wheel with spikes, aimed at tearing off her flesh from her alive. Miraculously, the wheel broke. Then her torturer was blinded. Finally, Catherine was beheaded.

The central aisle of
Santa Catarina is very
long and narrow.
Notice the beautiful
wooden-beamed ceiling.

When I asked people in the street, why Saint Catherine had the wheel by her side, no one could give me an answer. When I was younger, it was more common to find a book in Catholic homes or in Catholic Schools about the lives of the saints. The trend in the Catholic Church since the closing of the Second Vatican Council has been to clean up the altars, eliminating an seemingly excessive amount of saints on the altars and in churches, in a trend to center the attention more on Jesus Christ. Even certain orders or congregations of priests or sisters, have adopted a Christocentric mystic, which means that they try to imitate Christ in their daily lives, and not imitate a particular saint’s behavior or pattern.
At the end of the aisle,
on the left side of the
altar is the painting of
Santa Catarina Martir.

Protestants sometimes criticized Catholics for praying “to” the saints, for “adoring” saints, and they have a very legitimate gripe with Catholics in many instances on this issue. Catholics may pray, “venerating” a saint, and asking for his “intercession”. All good comes from God, and not from the saints, but as Catholics, we believe that, although God hears all our prayers, He also permits His Saints to intercede for us, and to ask Him for favors.

Stone-carved arched main
entrance to Santa Catarina

On the other hand, I believe that Catholics should venerate saints. My mother’s birthday was on November 1st, All Saints Day, the day of the year, we Catholic venerate all our Saints, canonized or not. My mother would say: “God permitted me to be born on All Saints Day, because, although I have a particular patron saint, Saint Catherine of Siena, I likewise am a friend of all the saints, and they all are my friends.” That was the ways my mother lived. Venerating them. Imitating them. Reading about their lives. Talking to me about them.

The houses that surround the park and the church
of Santa Catarina are typical of the period
previous to the 1910 Mexican Revolution

Catholics pray two different creeds: the Nicene Creed, and the Apostles Creed, depending on the time of year. In the Apostles Creed,  Catholics affirm: .
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints
The communion of Saints is a Catholic belief that has its genesis in Saint Paul's I Corinthians 12, where he compares Christians to a single body. It also is referred to the Apocalypses, 5,8, where the Saints in heaven have a relationship with their fellow Christians on Earth.  The Communio Sanctorum or Communion of Saints, include not only Christians already in Heaven, the Triumphant, but those struggling on earth, the Militant, and the soul in the process of purification in purgatory, the Suffering.
 West side entrance to
Santa Catarina Martir.

The west side of Santa Catarina with its
bell tower gleam in the late afternoon

Santa Catarina offers you a
splendid view as you enjoy the
respite of the nearby square

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