Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha ~ Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was a Native American from the Algonquin-Mohawk tribes.  She lived during a time when European colonists interacted with Native Americans in the fur trade.  The Dutch allied with the Mohawk, while the French allied with the Huron.  This led to conflict among the tribes, which made the living environment difficult for her people.  She contracted smallpox as a child.  This epidemic killed her family, and it left her face scarred.  At the age of 19, she converted to Catholicism and was baptized in honor of Saint Catherine of Sienna.  She did not marry, and moved to a Jesuit mission where she lived for the last 5 years of her life because many of her tribe shunned her for her decision to convert to Catholicism.  She took the vow of perpetual virginity.  Saint Kateri truly believed in the value of suffering as part of religious penance.  It is said that the scars on her face disappeared upon her death at the age of 24.  What led to her cause for sainthood were events of relics healing sick people.  She was beatified by John Paul II in 1980, and canonized by Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.  She is the first Native American to be canonized.

 First Reading – Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19

 The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.

O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102:13-14AB and 15, 16-21

  1. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
    You, O LORD, abide forever,
    and your name through all generations.
    You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
    for it is time to pity her.
    For her stones are dear to your servants,
    and her dust moves them to pity.
    R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
    The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
    and all the kings of the earth your glory,
    When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
    and appeared in his glory;
    When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
    and not despised their prayer.
    R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
    Let this be written for the generation to come,
    and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
    “The LORD looked down from his holy height,
    from heaven he beheld the earth,
    To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
    to release those doomed to die.”
    R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

We can see that Saint Kateri Tekakwitha had a very hard life, with many struggles of tribal conflict, an illness which significantly affected her physical appearance, and the death of her direct family; yet despite all of these situations, God rewarded her with glory upon and after her death.  Based upon the history that White people have with Native Americans due to prejudice, it might seem strange that we can look to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha as an example of how to overcome struggles in life, BUT her life is a clear illustration of what the readings for today are telling us.  When she converted to Catholicism and took the vow of perpetual virginity, she put all trust in God; even understanding that suffering is a form of penance for the greater glory of God.  The Gospel is exactly what this is all about.

In today’s context, we all have our own struggles in life which we can allow to overtake us, or we can choose to trust in God to overcome them; these challenges might be a disability, ongoing family conflict, financial troubles, or even a spiritual crisis.  It is just a matter of how we handle these situations.  Not everybody is able to overcome obstacles in life, and reach the point of throwing in the towel because the sight of God’s love and recognizing that the yoke is not as heavy as it may seem when trusting in God.  Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves if we will be like Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in turning to God,  hearing the words of Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Lord, help us to recognize when we need to turn to you in times of struggle, and allow the yoke to be lightened by turning to you.  May we follow the example of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha by trusting in you.  This we ask through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

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