I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love.St. Kateri Tekawitha
I remember learning about St. Kateri Tekawitha in Catholic Elementary school. She was canonized in 2012, so while she was still Bl. Kateri Tekawitha, I learned about her during all-school Masses. Fr. Patti would tell her story during his homilies. I listened as he told us about how she became Catholic and journeyed by herself to find a faith community. St. Kateri’s story stuck with me and inspired me throughout my own journey with Jesus.
Kateri was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and an Algonquian woman. Kateri’s mother taught her the faith while she was young. She learned to pray at a young age and would often say the Hail Mary. When she was four years old, she and her family contracted smallpox. While the disease took her parents and siblings, Kateri recovered, but with scars all over her face. Because of this, Kateri was often teased, so she would hide her face with blankets.
After her parents died, Kateri’s uncle became the new cheif and raised her. When she was 19, a Jesuit missionary named Fr. Jacques de Lamberville baptized her. She also took a vow of chastity out of her love for Jesus. While her uncle would try to arrange marriages for her, she turned every one down. Eventually, her uncle gave up trying to marry Kateri off and understood that she desired to dedicate her virginity to Jesus.
Kateri was very much alienated for her conversion. The other members of the Mohawk tribe harassed her and ridiculed her for her faith. She bravely left her home to seek a faith community. Traveling by herself, Kateri journeyed to Montreal to live with a community of Christian Indigenous Americans.
For the rest of her life, Kateri prayed ceaselessly. She fasted constantly, and when she did eat, she would taint her food to decrease its flavor. She also practiced self-mortifications as she put thorns in her bed, and according to some accounts, she sometimes burned herself. Kateri openly embraced suffering. She detached herself from the world and united her suffering to Jesus. “I will willingly abandon this miserable body to hunger and suffering,” she said, “provided that my soul have its ordinary nourishment.” Kateri became ill and passed away in 1680 when she was only twenty-four.
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Faith Amidst Hardships
St. Kateri Tekawitha is the first Native American to be canonized a Saint, and rightfully so. She’s lovingly called the Lily of the Mohawks for her purity and piety. She inspires us to live our faith fearlessly amidst harassment from others and suffering. As a shining example of devotion to following Christ, she dedicated all of her being to him in the final five years of her life.
St. Kateri was so steadfast that she left her home and everyone she knew for a faith community who would grow closer to Jesus with her. Knowing that she shouldn’t be alone in her walk with the Lord, she surrounded herself with holy people who supported her in her faith journey. When I reflect on this facet of St. Kateri’s life, I’m reminded of my own faith community in college. While I felt like a fish out of water living my faith on campus, I found solace in the Newman Center and all of my friends there. St. Kateri’s fasting and mortifications were a sign of her piety. She consciously and happily chose to take up her cross daily. I pray that we might be as strong in our own faith journey and constantly seek Jesus like St. Kateri. May we stop at nothing to pursue him and forsake comfort for suffering to grow closer to him.
St. Kateri Tekawitha, pray for us.
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