The beautiful simplicity of St. Kateri

(Sketch I drew in about 2002, when I still had the physical motor capabilities to draw with traditional materials)

I am really not sure what drew me to St. Kateri Tekawitha (Feast day, July 14). Maybe it was because, as a kid, I thought it was pretty cool and interesting that there was a Native American Saint. Or maybe it was because she had brown skin like me. I had read about her in that popular children’s book of Saints (by Father Lawrence Lovasik). Anyway, whatever the case, as I grew in my faith I also grew in my appreciation for the friends of God, the Saints. In a sense, I rediscovered them… Some of them actually found me. St. Kateri was one of those who befriended me.

Eventually, I learned about just what makes St. Kateri great, the deeper reason for being drawn to her. I learned of her heroic faith, as someone who was ridiculed for her faith in Christ but persevered in her love to the end. She did not see it as a foreign faith imposed from outside upon the Native Americans of upstate New York. It was simply the truth, and the truth is for all people. The Jesuit missionaries, “the black robes,” wanted to share Jesus with the people they encountered, not to destroy their culture and life but rather to enrich it. St. Kateri retained the good of her culture while embracing the Gospel. St. Pope John Paul II, who canonized her in 1980, observed that, “Even when she dedicated herself fully to Jesus Christ, to the point of taking the prophetic step of making a vow of perpetual virginity, she always remained what she was, a true daughter of her people, following her tribe in the hunting seasons and continuing her devotions in the environment most suited to her way of life, before a rough cross carved by herself in the forest.”

After St. Kateri embraced Christ and converted to Catholicism at age 19, she subsequently took a vow of chastity because she only wanted to belong to Jesus, which was something unknown and unpopular because it was expected for young women at her age to marry instead. She received the name “Kateri,” which means “Catherine,” in the Mohawk language, in honor of St. Catherine of Siena. Eventually she had to travel to a Christian native community in modern-day Canada. She continued to pray for the conversion of her fellow Mohawks. St. Kateri had a great love for the Cross, for the Holy Virgin Mary, and the Blessed Sacrament. She was very devout. Because of a smallpox epidemic when she was younger (of which her parents died and why she was raised by her uncle), she had scars on her face, and could not see well – – they called her, “Tekawitha”, which means, “she who bumps into things.” But when she died on April 17, 1680, the scars went away. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.” By her intercession, may we also be fully restored and made new unto everlasting life.

St. Kateri, pray for us.

The words of Pope Benedict XVI, who canonized her: “We entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the First Nations and in all of North America! May God bless the First Nations!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *