|Memorial of Kateri Tekakwitha
Exodus 1:8-14, 22
Psalm 124:1-3, 4-6, 7-8
It is said that Theresa of Avila, during a long time of spiritual
dryness, once prayed: “God, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder
you have so many enemies!” I think I heard that at the Knights
of Columbus bar on Avenue C in Bayonne. My father always moved with
a deeply spiritual crowd.
Immersing oneself in today’s readings scarce gives one comfort. The
people of Israel are oppressed and slaughtered; Jesus speaks of bringing
division and enmity within families. So God, is this how you treat
We go one further as this is the feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a woman
who experienced the death of many of her people by disease, warfare and displacement
and division of their families and clans both by Europeans and by surrounding
tribes. She herself was disfigured by smallpox and left nearly blind.
The psalm today, like a freshet of water on a parched prairie gives us relief
and comfort: “Our Help is in the Name of the Lord.”
I was told in Nigeria that once during a sermon on love of neighbor the men
in the Church were challenged by the women to help one particular widow prepare
her garden. The sermon stopped, the men left the building to attend
to the garden, and the liturgy began after they returned having finished
So it is not enough to simply announce this help—we must act on it!
In each reading we find the key to survival prayer and generosity.
The people of Israel trusted in God and cared for each other. Their
leaders loved the people enough to assume the role of leadership. Jesus
asks us to be generous to the least and to welcome all in his name. Blessed
Kateri cared for her friends and family and continues to gather Native people
in her name each year at the annual Catholic Indian Conference which is under
Folks in Bayonne know how to have a good time, evidence available any night
at the knights. But what I learned from my parents and from the many
people who came there was that help IS in the name of the Lord and the hands
of the community. If someone was disabled, alone, hungry these people
actually helped him or her. So too, on the reservations and urban Indian
communities where I work people help each other and helped even me—they educated
me into a Ph.D. in anthropology and taught me to care for my family by how
they cared for their own and in many instances how they made me a part of
their families sharing generously everything they had.
On this feast of Kateri, a woman who struggled through difficult times not
dissimilar from those described in the scripture readings today, let us rely
on the Lord for help and make that help a reality by letting the Lord work