Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Mt 10:29-31)
Today is the feast of Kateri Tekakwitha, the daughter of a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan. At four years of age, Tekakwitha lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind.
She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief.
She was moved by the words of three Jesuit missionaries who lived with her uncle, but fear of her uncle, who did not like the missionaries, kept her from seeking instruction. However, at the age of 19, she refused to marry a Mohawk brave, converted, chose the name of Kateri (Catherine), and vowed virginity.
She was treated as a slave. However, the more that she was abused, the greater her love of God. On the advice of a priest, she left the village one night and began a 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal.
She died the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her emaciated face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. The lines of suffering, even the pockmarks, disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. She was beatified in 1980. Her canonization has been scheduled for October 21, 2012.
FAITH ACTION: People may find all sorts of reasons to shun us. Our desire to live a life in Christ should be greater than any fear of being shunned. Be a witness to the Lord today, no matter the personal price.
We like to think that our proposed holiness is thwarted by our situation. If only we could have more solitude, less opposition, better health. Kateri repeats the example of the saints: Holiness thrives on the cross, anywhere. Yet she did have what Christians—all people—need: the support of a community. She had a good mother, helpful priests, Christian friends. These were present in what we call primitive conditions, and blossomed in the age-old Christian triad of prayer, fasting and alms: union with God in Jesus and the Spirit, self-discipline and often suffering, and charity for her brothers and sisters.
Kateri said: “I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.”