st kateri

I sometimes ask God why He didn’t show me the way to the Catholic Church sooner. Why did He wait until I was 20 years old to bring me home? I keep thinking about the things that I missed growing up Catholic. I’m filled with sorrow over the fact that my entire family doesn’t know the beauty of the Church.

But then I remember that St. Kateri Tekakwitha joined the Church when she was 20.

St. Edith Stein’s mother never converted either.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton formed her own religious order.

St. Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great and found the True Cross.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe appeared to St. Juan Diego.

St. Mary Magdalene was visited by the Risen Christ.

Christ lead me home exactly in His time and He has great things in store for me.

You know what’s nuts?

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was only Catholic for four years. She was baptized when she was 20 and died when she was 24.

In those four years, she was amazing enough to be declared a saint: she took care of the poor and sick, avoided persecution from her Mohawk family, and had a crazy intense love for the Eucharist. She was a young, unmarried, lay woman, just like many of us here.

Dang. I’ve got some work to do.

Today is the feast day of St Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk indigenous woman renowned for her sanctity. She lived from 1657 to 1680, and lived in what is now upstate New York and Canada.  A survivor of multiple instances of colonial violence (first smallpox which limited her eyesight and scarred her body, then repeated attacks by French and Dutch militias, and then finally civil war between members of the Iroquois Confederacy because of trading rivalries), she rose above and beyond the simple role expected of her by both her French Jesuit confessors and members of her family and tribe. She was renowned for her charity, innocence, kindness and purity, values which greatly affected both indigenous and non-indigenous people alike. Never a physically strong individual (partly due illness and also to her intense mortification encouraged by her Jesuit confessors), she died in the arms of a family friend at the age of 24 on Holy Wednesday, April 17, 1680, near Montréal. 

She is, with Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, visionary of Guadalupe, one of the co-patrons of the New World, as well as a patroness of all indigenous people. She was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Benedict XIV in 2012. 

To her we attach our fervent prayers that the repeated abuse and murder of indigenous people finally cease, in Canada, the United States, and in all parts of the world. We pray that the injustices which have been exacted on indigenous people worldwide by people claiming to work in God’s name cease once and for all. We pray that the colonial oppressor understands that indigenous people are not mere chattel or the subservient children of the state, but a proud and self-sustaining community of people enlightened by the same ideals of peace, love and unity that white men also claim.  We ask that native lands and traditions be respected, and with St Kateri’s help, that all native people can rest in peace with the knowledge that no more awful depredations take place.

St Kateri’s legacy as a pioneering indigenous woman did not rest, for the memory of her sacrifices inspired two more saints to travel to Hawaii to help the indigenous people of those islands––those two were St Damien of Moloka’i and St Marianne Cope. Both of these saints were intimately familiar with Kateri’s selfless love for people and her incredible faith in God.