This week, we have heard about the life of our patron St. Kateri Tekakwitha, her family and people, her younger years and how she grew. Today, I am asking you to image a young woman, a teenager, as she begins to define herself amidst conflict and tension.
For much of her life, Tekakwitha was drawn to the forest, where she would wrap herself in her blanket and spend time praying to God. She also began the habit of creating crosses out of two sticks, leaving them in the forest, and returning to them to pray. This private, secret expression of her faith was all she could risk, living in a non-Christian society.
What I’m trying to say is that Tekakwitha’s belief in Christ must have been alive to her, filling her with joy and encouragement, a passionate and faithful relationship between her and Jesus, for it to survive. She had every motivation to give up her faith otherwise. But she didn’t.
At her baptism, everyone witnessed her expression of faith. She took on a new name, Kateri, named after St. Catherine of Siena. Her family and people perhaps tried to understand, but in the end persecuted her. Her family refused her food on Sundays, because she observed a rest from work. Kids would yell names and throw mud at her. Gossips spread rumours about her. A young man charged at her with a club, threatening to beat her to death if she did not give up her faith.
Through all these trials, Kateri responded with kindness and meekness. She said to her attacker, “You can take away my life, but you cannot take away my faith.” She knew that the dignity that Christ saw her with would not succumb to violence.
Finally, the chasm was too wide between her and her people. The priest who baptized her arranged for her to escape her village and leave her family, forever. In the dead of night, Kateri snuck out, met with other Christian Mohawks, and began a 300-km trek, canoeing and hiking, to a small community of Christian First Nations.
Our patron lived her life true to herself,
kept faith in difficult circumstances,
and completed an epic journey of danger and risk.
When she arrived, Christian friends welcomed her, and she was able to receive First Communion, attend Mass and prayers, and sing to God in her way freely. Kateri had found peace where she belonged.
Think for a moment about the most important things in your life, things of the heart that give you life. It might be a spiritual practice or an artistic expression, or simply how you spend your time when you have the freedom to choose. What strength do these things give you? Which strengths would you hang on to, even if it were difficult?
Think for a moment about the trials you have faced. What helped you through them? What do you need in order to endure and overcome hostility and violence?
And finally think of your reward, your goals. Where do you need to be to fully be yourself? How can you get there? What will it take within you and who do you need with you?
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is watching over each and every one of us. She is there to hear our prayers and share the strength she received from God with us. She kept to her faith and shows us that we can keep to ours, too.
Let us pray.
You offer us a life with you in perfect freedom.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha accepted that freedom
And you gave her the strength to believe, to persevere, and to pursue her desire.
We come before you today
Standing together with St. Kateri Tekakwitha
To ask for your love and hope to become real in our lives.
Keep us strong and make us generous and peaceful.
And bring us to the fullness of life in you,
With Christ your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha pray for us.