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St. Kateri

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The memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha will be celebrated this Friday, 14 July. St. Kateri was a member of the Mohawk Indian Nation. Her name, in the Mohawk language, would have been pronounced Gah-deh-LEE Deh-gah-GWEE-tah. St. Kateri had problems with her eyesight caused by a smallpox outbreak. The name “Tekakwitha” means “ she bumps into things.” St. Kateri was evangelized by French Jesuit missionaries and she accepted baptism into the Catholic Faith on Easter Sunday, 1676. 

St. Kateri, finding it difficult to stay holy in a secular society, relocated to a Catholic community near Montreal. St.Kateri, while in Montreal, engaged in ascetical practices to nourish her faith in extraordinary as well as in ordinary ways. She would attend Mass daily both at dawn and at sunset. She was interested in establishing a religious community of Indigenous people but this did not come to fruition in her lifetime. St. Kateri died, at the age of twenty-four, in 1680. Miracles have been attributed to her shortly after her death. 

St. Kateri is the patron Saint of the Indigenous people, ecology, and ecologists. She is also a Protectress of Canada. She is an intercessor for people who are on the fringe of society, those who do not have a place at the table, and for those who are persecuted for their beliefs. 

The National Shrine of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha is in Fonda, New York. The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs is in nearby Auriesville, New York. The blood of martyrs is the seed of saints. 

As we prepare to commemorate St. Kateri, and as we collectively prepare for the implementation of our Pastoral Plan, it may be helpful to reflect on the journey of St. Kateri and her spiritual practices. 

  1. It was very courageous, challenging, and risky for St. Kateri to travel to Montreal for her faith to be nourished. What does it say about her faith in particular, and faith in general, that she would risk so much to sustain it? What are the things that you do to nourish and sustain your faith? What things would you like to try?
  2. The name Tekakwitha – she bumps into things – was derisively associated with St. Kateri. Why does that name remain with her? What is an area of your life for which you need St. Kateri to “bump into”? Who are some people that you need to bump into? When was the last time God bumped into you? 
  3. St.Kateri moved to Montreal to stay holy in a secular society. How do you maintain your holiness? How can a secular society embrace holiness? 
  4. St. Kateri sought both ordinary – prayer, devotions, a virtuous life – and extraordinary – an ascetical life, the grace of the Sacraments – for the nourishment of her soul. With what is your soul being fed?
  5. The grounds at the Shrine of St. Kateri opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. This is to honor St. Kateri who attended Mass at both the commencement and the conclusion of each day. What do you do to commence the day? How do you conclude it? 

St. Kateri, you are revered as the mystic of the American wilderness. Though orphaned, scarred, and limited in physical sight, you were esteemed among the Mohawks. When you requested Baptism you subjected yourself to abuse. Yet, your endurance flowered through prayer and holiness as you dedicated yourself to Christ. I ask that you be my spiritual guide along my journey of life. Through your intercession, I pray that I may always be loyal to my faith. Amen.

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