This coming Sunday Kateri Tekakwitha will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in the midst of the Synod on evangelization. Blessed Kateri was born in 1656 in New York state, to a Mohalk father and Algonquin mother. As a small child, smallpox spread through her community, killing her parents and siblings and leaving her face disfigured. She was raised by relatives within her tribe.
At the age of Eighteen, Kateri came into contact with Jesuit missionaries. Two years later, she was baptized on Easter Sunday. The Mohalk community opposed her conversion – they throw pebbles at her as she walked to Mass on Sunday – they would not let her eat on Sunday because she did not work – observing it as a day of rest.
Kateri left her home village for Kahnawake, another native settlement near Montreal south of the St. Laurence river. In this community she met other women who had converted to Christianity as well as the Jesuit Fathers who served them.
Kateri was known to make small “crosses” on her path to remind herself to pray. In winter she would be always waiting outside in the Cold so as to enter the Church as soon as it was opened. She practiced many forms of corporal mortification. In 1679, on the Feast of the Annunciation, Kateri consecrated her Virginity to Christ. She was a mentor for other women among the native converts.
We must thank God today for another Saint for Canada – the first native Canadian! This is a great gift from heaven to begin the year of Faith in Canada. Kateri was a great example of perseverance in her life of faith despite great obstacles. We can pray to her for Christians who a persecuted around the world. We can ask her to help us make Sunday a holy day once again. We can pray for an increase in vocations to religious life and consecrated virginity. We can ask her to help us to rediscover and practice appropriately the Catholic tradition of Spiritual mortification. Especially let us ask her intercession for our Native brothers and sisters that their communities may thrive and grow in virtue and witness to the faith that Kateri held dear.
Saint Kateri promised a friend of hers: “Be assured that you are pleasing in the sight of God and that I shall help you when I am with Him.”
Saint Kateri, we turn to you for help today!