Ekaterina (Catherine) Vasilyeva (at the time of this interview) was a renowned theater and movie actress in Russia. She received the monastic tonsure in 2021 at the St. Zosimov-Holy Trinity Hodigitria Convent, located just southwest of Moscow, and she is currently known as Nun Vasilissa.
I don’t remember when I read her hagiography, but it was definitely right after my baptism. It is the life of my heavenly patron.
There are times when you somehow don’t feel a connection with the saint whose name you bear, and you seek the help of other saints’ you learn about as you mature as a Christian. That’s how it often happens. But this is not the case with Great Martyr Catherine, because she is a great saint—simply one of the greatest. Of course, all saints are great. But still, in my opinion, while we are still here on earth (in our time, I hope, we will find out how it happens in the Kingdom of Heaven), there is a certain hierarchy, with some saints having the status of the greatest among saints.
The lives of the saints who received a visitation from the Queen of Heaven were a case in point for me. She appeared alone before the apostles. If She wasn’t alone, She would come with two holy virgins. They’d always be Catherine and Barbara. So, I read about that once, then again and again, and it served as proof of the very special degree of these saint’s holiness and closeness to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God. That is why I think that St. Catherine is among the host of the greatest saints.
It is quite difficult for me to talk about it, since I generally shy away from mentioning my patron saint’s name in vain. Using my petty mind, I will attempt to opine here, but I feel rather awkward, and, to be honest, it takes great effort for me to speak about her. But I still say this because we should, we absolutely must talk about it—because of the situation1 that has developed in the city of Ekaterinburg! Perhaps its citizens will hear me and come to their senses—not just because I said so, of course, but at my urging, so to speak. Because you know, we read in the church from the Psalms: Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Brilliant words that also apply to the saints...
It’s so not right! It’s so dangerous to arrange these marches and cause confusion in a city that bears the name of this saint. God is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, but God cannot be mocked. But He is also a jealous God. The same can be said of the saints, and He will not be slow to defend them. And the saints will also stick up for themselves! That’s why it is dangerous to engage in debauchery and wild dances, as seen by so many people of faith, in this glorious city. It is necessary to apologize and repent, and we should teach our children to honor St. Catherine, because not only does she intercede for all those who bear her name, but she can be severe. I for that matter am quite afraid of her. But in a good way—because of her holiness, greatness, faith, wisdom, her entire life and deeds, her thoughts and words are simply an unattainable ideal.
We can say with absolute certainty that we can’t help but bear the seal of the saint after whom we were named at baptism. All of the women I have ever met who are named Catherine had rather complex personalities... They are all different, yet always intelligent, hard to understand, and all of them are leaders. As I search in my mind for those I have met, all of them were like that, without exception.
We appeal to our saints in all kinds of troubles. There are saints who are especially helpful in particular needs. So, we have two saints to whom we pray for the education of our children—St. Sergius of Radonezh and Holy Great Martyr Catherine. I even know from the example of my godchildren and grandchildren that they always pray to St. Catherine before exams or whenever they experience difficulties in their studies. Her authority is an unyielding truth, both among the Orthodox and in our church life, as she sufficiently proved with her life what the word, what true knowledge means and how we must use it.
I pray to Great Martyr Catherine every day. Whether I seek assistance or give thanks, my heavenly patron is a very special saint. So, I always—and I don't celebrate my birthday as much as my Name Day—try to spend her commemoration day on December 7 piously, so that the people wouldn’t honor me, but glorify my patron saint instead.
All the twists and turns of her short life (she was executed at a young age) were swift and final. She was so, as we’d say, unflinching! She believed and that was it. She made up her mind and there was no turning back. There, she said it, and that was it. Inimitable faith and dedication, unwavering strength and courage. And this was despite her being a beautiful, intelligent, and learned young woman. That is, again, if we put it in our awkward language, she had those amazing “tools for success” in attaining earthly blessings. She was a beauty, the daughter of the governor, a smart girl, one of the most educated maidens of her time! She must of course have had astounding faith in order to abandon it all in one second! In one second—and she never reneged or turned back...
So much power, so much strength! Just think of it, if a woman in our days, as intelligent and clever as her, brought together fifty people (as Catherine gathered fifty of the smartest people of her time—philosophers and scientists) and converted them to the Christian faith... A girl who had not yet read many books, since no one had written any hagiography before her time; she did it simply through the power of her faith. It means the Lord was revealed to her in a truly powerful way! And she believed in Him so deeply that she was able to convey her faith and convert people!
You know how difficult it is to argue with unbelievers, how aggressive and unwilling they can be to listen to you.
They are predisposed to negate everything you say. I, for one, always get too emotional no matter how hard I try not to—and such a disposition simply doesn’t hold water. To communicate with unbelievers, you have to have strong nerves, wisdom, and truly great faith. In this sense, of course, St. Catherine set the standard for missionaries. I think anyone who wants to come and preach some intelligible message to the people should first pray to St. Catherine before pursuing their goal, using the spoken word.
Therefore, blessed is the city that has the Great Martyr Catherine as its heavenly patron, just as she is the patron saint of all of us who bear her name. It is a great fortune and a gift from God that you are under her patronage. But whether you will always have it depends on you and your attitude to this great saint. May God help you!