St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the daughter of an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. She was orphaned early in her life by a smallpox epidemic and raised by her uncle, a chief of the Mohawk tribe. She was badly disfigured by the smallpox at age four and lived a lonely and ostracized youth. She was often seen with a blanket wrapped over her face to hide her disfigurement. She refused to be given into married, instead choosing a life of Catholic chastity. She was given extra work and persecuted for her decision. She was baptized Catholic at the age of nineteen, whereas she escaped her village and travelled 200 miles on foot, through hostile territories to live in a native Christian community. She was known to practice extreme mortification and prayed vigorously for the conversion of her fellow Mohawks. She was weak and sickly, partly due to her mortification and died at the age of twenty-four. Many miracles among the French and Native Americans are attributed to her intercession.
Today’s readings (GN 46:1–7,28–30, MT 10:16–23) fit perfectly with our Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. First we hear the story of Jacob and his entire clan traveling to Egypt to be reunited with Joseph and to have food and sustenance made available. In our Gospel, Jesus tells His Apostles that He is sending them like sheep among wolves, telling them to be as “shrewd as serpents and as simple as doves”… He warns them they will be persecuted, families will turn against one another, and when they persecute you in one town, “flee to another”.
Kateri Tekakwitha was persecuted for her faith by her family and town. She fled through hostile, wild, unsettled territory, a sheep among wolves, to go to a town where Native Americans were Christians and she would be accepted, nurtured and sustained in her faith by the Sacraments. She is known as The Lily of the Mohawks for her inner beauty, gentleness, faith and holiness of life. She kept many of her native cultural traditions except for the religious practices. She is the patroness of environmentalists, people in exile and Native Americans. I have a particular kinship with St. Kateri for her culture and love and respect for all of creation, (and her love for Jesus of course),and therefore a strong devotion to her, which meshes easily and well with my being a Franciscan. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us. Peace and All Good, my friends!