I want to begin by saying that, “Someone is watching you, and someone is listening to you.” Someone out there is watching you and listening to you. I will come back to this. July 14th is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. She was canonized nine years ago and she is the first Native American Saint. She lived in the mid-17th century in what is now upstate New York and Canada. Her mother was an Algonquin Christian who had been captured by the Mohawks. Kateri’s father was a Mohawk chief. Right from the beginning her mother taught Kateri and her brother the Catholic faith, teaching them about Jesus and teaching them some of the prayers she had learned when living among the Algonquin people.
When Kateri was very young a small pox epidemic swept through her village. A lot of people died including all of Kateri’s family. Even Kateri herself almost died, but she recovered after a very long illness. But even after she recovered small pox had left its mark. Her face was terribly scarred by pock marks and her eyesight was also affected to the point that she was almost blind. With her family gone Kateri went to live with her aunt and uncle. They had very little patience for Christianity.
When she was a teenager a group of Jesuit priests made their way to her remote village. They were surprised to find a young woman who already knew about Jesus, even more surprised when she recited some of the prayers she had learned as a little girl. With the Jesuits there Kateri fell more and more in love with Jesus. She devoured the faith and began to more and more live out her Catholic faith. And this is something the village noticed. You could say she was a prophet among her people.
First, as a prophet Kateri rested on Sunday. She didn’t go out to work in the fields with the other women. And because she didn’t work her family wouldn’t let her eat on Sundays. People noticed her Sunday rest, they wondered, “What’s so special about this day?” Second, as a prophet Kateri prayed throughout the day, sometimes going out into the woods to pray before a cross she had made out of twigs. People noticed her prayer, and they wondered, “What’s so special about this cross?” And Third, as a prophet Kateri was joyfully chaste. She didn’t take part in the pre-marital and extra-marital unchaste behavior that was common in her community. People noticed and they wondered, “What’s so special about the body?”
Eventually it became very hard for Kateri to live out her Christian faith. She was ridiculed, she was hit with sticks, and sometimes young children would throw stones at her, but she didn’t let the culture around her change her habits of faith. When she was 19 Kateri made her way to a Native American Christian village in Canada. In this community Kateri took care of the sick and the children. And it was here that her faith flourished even more. She was the first one in the chapel when the doors opened at 4:00 a.m. And she was there every afternoon for Eucharistic Adoration. And again this was something people noticed. When she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament her whole face changed. Her face just seemed to glow, she was so enraptured. Her smile as she prayed changed everything. Her face became a divine work of beauty, no one noticed her terribly pock marked face. News of this beautiful girl praying spread to the outlying countryside. And when Kateri went to pray other people joined her, but they weren’t there necessarily to worship our Lord present in the Eucharist, in the beginning at least, they were there to look at the beautiful change that came over her face as she prayed. People noticed her and they wondered, “Who is this God that Kateri worships in that piece of bread?” By her witness many were moved to seek the faith.
Kateri was a Catholic who did simple regular things, but she did them with love and people noticed. In our first reading we heard of Ezekiel, a prophet from the 6th century BC. God called him and chose him to speak to the Jewish people, to call them to reform, to speak a challenging word to them, to call them back to God. He was not always popular and that was ok.
We are like Ezekiel and Kateri, prophets, people called to witness to Divine truth. Because of your baptism you have been called to be a prophet, a proclaimer of God’s truth. And as we know this witness to truth is not always well received, but we still do it, because someone, you may not know who, but someone is watching you. And he or she may be moved towards Christ by your witness and example. So imitate St. Kateri, make Sunday a special day, and maybe even invite someone to Mass who hasn’t been here in a while. Follow St. Kateri and pray out in the open, ask to pray with and for others, asking others for prayer intentions. Don’t hide the Sign of the Cross. Follow St. Kateri and speak out against the unchastity in our culture and its effects on our minds, hearts, and bodies. Swim against the tide, don’t accept it; reasoning that it’s just the way things are.
We are meant to be salt and light to the world around us, not to be swallowed up by the world. A saint once put it this way: we are each born as a one of a kind original but many of us die as a photocopy, a copy of the world around us. Each of us has been born as one of a kind original but many of us die as a photocopy, a copy of the world around us. Let us be that salt and light original; because someone is watching you, someone is listening to you. May you who have been chosen, and that’s all of you, go and bear fruit for the Kingdom.
Let us be great Saints,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley