This Thursday, July 14th, is the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (A.D. 1656 – 1680), the first Native American saint to be officially canonized by the Vatican. St. Kateri was born to a Mohawk father and Algonquin mother in the Great Lakes region of North America, which was at that time beginning to be contested between the native peoples and the French. When Kateri was four, she lost her father, mother, and brother to a Smallpox epidemic, which also left her severely scarred and with diminished eyesight. You can read a summary of her life and why she is considered so holy on Wikipedia, which is accurate enough, but I highly recommend this first-hand account of her life by a priest who knew her, or this dramatization of her life written for middle school children. I have read both and they are excellent.
But more than simply a wonderful saint of the Church, St. Kateri is supremely special to us here at Assumption because the second miracle required for her canonization happened right here in Whatcom County, for a student at Assumption School. We specifically, in our midst,have seen the power of God work through her prayers, and I believe this means that our parish and local Catholic community have a special responsibility to spread devotion to St. Kateri to our fellow Catholics in this state, country, and around the world. Please do read an account of her life, so that you can be inspired by her, and you can tell others about her!
Because I think we have a special responsibility to St. Kateri, it is always my intention to move our daily Mass on July 14th to the evening so that more parishioners can come together to celebrate her. However, our Lummi brethren at St. Joachim’s church are holding a special event in her honor that day, and it is even better for us to join with them, rather than hold a competing liturgy. So our daily Mass for St. Kateri will remain at 7:15 a.m. on Thursday, even while I encourage everyone who can to go instead to the 5:00 p.m. Mass at St. Joachim’s. I cannot make that Mass but will be there for the rest of the fest. Our Catholic tradition’s emphasis on the saints is wonderful because it reminds us that there are innumerable holy souls praying for us in Heaven at any given moment. But it is also wonderful because the saints were real people who experienced real struggles and yet lived holy lives. We should be inspired by the lives of the saints, and it is an incredible gift whenever we feel a personal connection to any of them. I hope we all at Assumption feel a personal connection to St. Kateri, and that her prayers and example lead us all even closer to Jesus.