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Lessons from the Lily


”Despise the discourse of those who have no faith.” ~ Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of the young woman whose quote kicks off today’s Reflection, the “Lily of the Mohawks” Saint Takeri Tekakwitha. Born in Auriesville, NY in the year 1656 but orphaned at a young age, Kateri was oftentimes treated very cruelly by her own relatives, who more or less raised her by way of halfhearted obligation. She converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 19 with the help of the Jesuit Missionaries. Her frail health, something she dealt with her entire life, would give way to her passing during Holy Week in the year 1680 at the age of 24. She would go on to become the first Native American to be declared a Saint.

“Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!” (7:9). These were the words of God to the prophet Isaiah in today’s 1st Reading (Isaiah 7:1-9). Saint Kateri followed Jesus’ way of reconciliation and love despite repeated rejection and hostility from those in her midst. She believed that faithfulness and humility would, in time, win the day.

“Never give up mortification,” she would often say, referring to a spiritual discipline that, in many respects, seems to be largely forgotten. Mortification, the act of literally “putting the flesh to death,” is done in order to more greatly incline one’s soul to virtuous and holy living. It gets to the heart of what Saint Paul speaks to in Romans 8:5-9 when he urges us to abandon life in the flesh so as to instead pursue a life rooted in the Spirit

Saint Kateri lived every moment of her life with her eyes fixed on eternity, which meant the ardent pursuit of God’s will in her life. “Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God, that I may do it?” she would said, and I’m reminded of the words of another great albeit lesser known Saint of our Church, Saint Gerard Majella, who was always quick to ask “Consider the shortness of time and the length of eternity, and reflect how everything here below comes to an end and passes by. Of what use is it to lean upon that which cannot give support?”

In Saint Kateri, we are reminded that following Jesus involves risk, oftentimes the supreme risk of life itself. One can’t help but think of Saints Isaac Jogues and Jean de Lelande, who nine years prior to the birth of Saint Kateri, were tomahawked by Iroquois warriors near the place of Kateri’s birth in Auriesville, martyred for love of Jesus and a desire to bring his message of saving grace to everyone at any price. We are reminded that everyone will eventually pass from this Earth. Remembering the witness of past virgin and martyred saints compel us to make the many relatively small sacrifices that following Jesus in the year 2021 will certainly require. Saint Kateri came to understand that suffering was indeed a privilege, an opportunity to partake in Christ’s passion. To her Spiritual Mother Anastasia she once said “Mother, look at this cross; oh! how beautiful it is! It has been my whole happiness during my life, and I advise you also to make it yours.”

Yes, through the witness of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, one is reminded of the greatest mystery of our faith, the very reason for our hope: Jesus died for us. Will you live for him?

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“O God, who desired the Virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence, grant, through her intercession, that when all are gathered in your Church from every nation, tribe and tongue, they may magnify you in a single canticle of praise.”

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, pray and intercede for us . . .

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