Feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Today we are invited to remember a very special woman, Kateri Tekakwitha. Kateri was the daughter of a Christian Algonquin and a non-Christian Mohawk and the first Native American to be named "blessed" by the Church. Interestingly, even without being canonized, Kateri is declared by the Church to be the patroness of ecology and the environment. Because she converted to Christianity she was not welcomed by her own tribe and was shunned, forcing her to flea far away to another land in order to survive. She is often pictured with a cross in one hand and a small turtle and evergreen in the other. Hopefully, even with this minuscule memorial of a feast, we will remember the critical need to love the earth and care for God’s creation as did Kateri.
If you are old enough, you may remember the 1956 release of the great epic film The Ten Commandments. Its producer, Cecil Blount DeMille, had an amazing penchant for the spectacular and surely, every viewer of this colorful movie, left the theater with lifelong, vivid images of Moses confronting Pharaoh and leading the once captive Jews to freedom through the parting of the Red Sea. In the book of Exodus, we have a wonderful summary of that same story of Moses beginning with his abandonment among the reeds at the river bank until his flight from the hands of Pharoah into the land of Midian. This is not nearly as colorful as DeMille’s great epic but we know that this marked the beginning of something wonderful for the people of Israel and their journey toward the Promised Land.
So, we have a Moses, the great liberator of his people and a shunned and all but forsaken Kateri who lived in great obscurity as an outcast. What common thread unites these two heroes of our faith? Certainly each one was asked to place their entire lives, and the destiny of others along with them, into the hands of God. We are invited, dear friends, to see in the greatness of Moses and the simplicity of a Kateri, what it means to believe in a God who is faithful and who will not let his loved ones down. Here in the middle of summer what a good reminder for us! We too are dearly loved by God and whether our life is filled with great challenges and heroic moments or we find ourselves alone in a small apartment dwelling wondering if we have anything to offer, our trust in the Lord, our confidence in a God of love is surely as beautiful and wondrous an offering as was the perseverance of an obedient Moses or the loving trust of a simple virgin maiden named Kateri.
Fr. Pat Brennan is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.