Today Catholics celebrate the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (“Gaw-deh-lee De-ga-kwe-tha”). Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. Her mother died when she was young, she was raised by aunts and uncles, and eventually rejected by her tribe when she converted to Christ. She had to leave her family to practice her faith. In the four years that she lived as a disciple of Jesus before her death at age twenty-four, she cared for the sick and aged and dedicated herself to prayer and penance. Her greatest devotion was to the crucified Jesus and the Eucharist. Blessed Kateri lived a simple, humble life. She is a beautiful “icon” through whom we can catch a glimpse of the message of today’s scriptures.
In the Isaiah passage the Lord pronounces woes against the nation Assyria. Why? Assyria was an instrument God used to punish other nations but then attributed its might and wisdom to itself. It’s as if an axe is boasting about its ability to chop wood and forgets the hands that wield it. Assyria is boastful and proud and for this God plans to bring punishment. Blessed Kateri is the anti-Assyria for she never forgets her maker and never exalts herself. In humility and love she serves God.
The refrain of the responsorial psalm is “The Lord will not abandon his people.” Blessed Kateri was persecuted by her own tribe. Although she loved her people, she felt compelled to travel to a place where she could practice her faith. I cannot fathom the courage required of a twenty-year-old, single, Native American, young woman living in 1676 who abandoned all to embrace the crucified Jesus. Yet, through it all she experiences the love of God. The one who made the ear hears her cry. The one who made the eye sees her faith. Her inheritance is the Spirit who does not abandon his people.
The gospel lesson records one of the prayers of Jesus. Jesus praises the Father for hiding his will for the world from the wise and learned and revealing it to the childlike. It is the Blessed Kateris of the world to whom the Father reveals his will. The haughty, the proud, the wise, the learned simply are not enough like children to be able to receive it. God would give it to us but we are too full of ourselves. There is no room within our hearts for the gracious will of God.
Blessed Kateri is the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. Recently I visited the St. Augustine Mission in Winnebago, Nebraska, and observed the beautiful ministry that Fr. Dave, Fr. Mike, and the Benedictine sisters have on the Winnebago Indian Reservation. Fr. Dave told me that the Native Americans may be the only people not to have a Catholic saint and that they regularly pray for the canonization of Blessed Kateri. I include the prayer for her canonization for all who wish to join them.
“O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession; that this Young Lover of Jesus, and of His Cross may soon be counted among her Saints by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.”