On Monday, July 14, we celebrate the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who holds a prominent role in American Catholic history. St. Kateri’s father was a Mohawk chief and her mother was a Christian Algonquin Indian. At four years old, she lost her mother, father and young brother to a smallpox epidemic that left her half blind and disfigured. Her uncle, who succeeded her father as chief, adopted her.
Her adopted father hated the missionaries, but a peace treaty between the French and Indians required the Jesuit presence in villages with Christian captives. St. Kateri was deeply impacted by these men of God, but fear of her uncle kept her from converting until the age of 19 when she was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday.
Her conversion was met by great opposition, which she overcame with the Christian practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, setting an early precedent for Biblical stewardship. She spent long hours in prayer and dedicated herself to a life of chastity and poverty. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.
She is largely thought of as a patron for Native Americans; yet, there are many things we can all learn from St. Kateri’s example.
Her first lesson is that God must be our highest priority. A deep personal relationship with God is a need we all have in our deepest core. She developed her relationship with God the same way any of us develop a relationship with any other person–by spending time together and getting to know them. We need to examine our hearts to determine how much time we actually spend with God each day.
The second thing St. Kateri’s example teaches us is that the Christian life, lived correctly, is radical. She did not cave into the norms of her society, but turned away from her culture, and the custom of being married, to live a life totally dedicated to the Lord. What radical thing is God asking each of us to do?
The third thing we can learn from her is the beauty of living a life that draws others to Christ. In today’s American society it is sometimes awkward or uncomfortable to go against the grain and stand up for our religion. Sometimes it is just easier to be quiet. But imagine how hard it was for her as a Native American female to go against everything she had experienced her whole life in order to become Christian. Kateri offered a simple example to people, yet that simple example was all it took to turn hearts and minds to Christ. How are we drawing others to Christ by our life?
Kateri said: “I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.”
Her complete and utter trust in Jesus is an example to each of us on how to life a life of true Biblical stewardship–a life bathed in prayer, dedicated to God and willing to accept whatever He has planned for us with complete trust and love.