Bottom line: Kateri drank deeply from the cup of Christ's suffering and made herself the servant of others. It is a joy to say, "St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us."
Today in Rome Pope Benedict will canonize a new American saint - Kateri Tekakwitha. I have loved her since my years as pastor of St. Joachim's on the Lummi Indian Reservation. I would like to speak about St. Kateri in the context of today's Scripture readings.
In the Gospel Jesus asks if we can drink from the cup that he will drink. The cup refers to his Passion - his suffering. We know this because the night before his terrible death, he prays, "Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. But not my will but thy will be done."
Kateri Tekakwitha drank deeply from the cup of Christ's suffering. When she was four years old, a small pox epidemic killed her parents and left her with damaged eyes and a severely scarred face. Her mother, an Algonquin Catholic, had taught little Kateri to pray, but now she came under the care of her uncle who disliked the new Christian religion.
When Kateri was a teenager, French missionaries ("black robes") visit her village. In spite of her uncle's antipathy, she offered them food and listened to them. She eventually requested baptism - an act that caused so much hostility that she fled to Canada.
At that village (Kahnawake) she lived what Jesus says today, "Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all." Kateri began attending to the sick and soon formed a band of Indian women to pray and care for the poor. According to her earlier biographers, she took on the most menial chores with joy.
In the winter of 1680 (when she was barely 24) Kateri became bedridden. Others kept visiting her to ask for prayers and counsel. One of the missionaries wrote, "they came away with sense of being warmed by a 'sacred fire' that radiated through her eyes, her gestures and the words she spoke." On April 17, she died in the arms of her friend Marie-Therese Chaucetiere who reported her final words, "I will love you in heaven."
After her death, people began going to her grave to pray. One of the missionaries noted that "cures became so frequent that we stopped recording them." The miracles did not end in the seventeenth century. In 2006, a five-year-old boy named Jacob Finkbonner became infected with a flesh eating bacterium. Their priest, Fr. Timothy Sauer, suggested that they ask Kateri's intercession. They placed a relic of Kateri on his pillow and that very day, Jake began what the doctors called a "stunning recovery." The Church vigorously investigated this healing and accepted it as one of the miracles required for her canonization. Jake, now 11, is in Rome today.
Today's second reading encourages us to "confidently approach the throne of grace." St. Kateri Tekakwitha did that during her life and she continues to approach the throne of grace for us. Recognizing this woman who drank deeply from cup of suffering and who made herself the servant of all, it is a joy to say, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us. Amen.
From Archives (Homilies for 29th Sunday, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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