St. Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born a Mohawk princess. Her family died when she was young, and she was taken in by her aunt and uncle. Kateri survived the smallpox that killed her family, yet was marked for life. Her mother had already imparted a lively faith to Kateri even without her being yet baptized, and this created tensions between her guardians, her playmates, and even her entire tribe.

When she fled her tribe’s increasingly dangerous hostility, which saw her courageous quiet perseverance against them only as a weakness, Kateri found a Christian community where she lived for the rest of her life. Yet there were troubles even there. There they spread pernicious rumors against her chastity.

Yet Kateri kept her eyes upon Christ the entire time. Even in the loss of her family, the scorn of her tribe, the slander of her fellow Christians, Kateri not only accepted but embraced her cross.

A mentor told me yesterday that “When we run to and embrace our cross it increases our capacity both to give love and to receive love.” This was Kateri’s secret. This was her path to holiness, and so also ours. All of us have no doubt been touched by slander, or will be as we go through life. All of us will at some point be misunderstood, rejected and humiliated by those who should love us most, our family of blood, our friends, even our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet like Kateri, though the pain is amongst the keenest we will ever know, we must embrace and kiss our cross.

The crosses of Kateri’s life even left physical marks upon her, such as the smallpox marks on her face. Yet although she recognized and embraced that there was “dying to do on the way to the Father”, she also knew that there was a Resurrection, even one died with the Resurrection yet unseen.

After her death Kateri’s face seemed to glow with light, and her smallpox marks completely disappeared. Now she is the pride and joy of American and Native American Catholics, being the first native American to be canonized. One of her symbols is the lily because she came to be known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” for her purity which was true even in the face of adversity.

Christ shall bring about such healing for us too if only we trust Him. Our crosses may indeed strike our very core, and the world may seem to crush us, yet in that very brokenness is our greatest gift. In that very brokenness is our healing, our beauty, and our salvation.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!