St. Kateri Tekakwitha

stkateri“Jesus, I love you” - St. Kateri Tekakwitha
    
Found in the very back of the church, on the right as you enter St. Denis Church, you will find a beautiful window of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680, , the first Native American saint.   Following are four sections with regard to this extraordinary young woman of the Roman Catholic Faith: Reflection Questions on the Stained-Glass Window, Prayer to St. Kateri, A Short History of St. Kateri, Further Information.  You may want to read the history first, before you reflect on the window.

Reflection Questions on the Stained-Glass Window

1. Notice St. Kateri looking up rapt in prayer.  St. Kateri was 18 when she began her instructions in the Catholic Faith in secret.  She eventually would teach others to pray.  Her prayer relationship with God was the most important thing in her life.  Because of her Catholic Faith she was horribly treated by those in her village and even her uncle who adopted her after her parents died.  She escaped to a village of Christian Natives in Canada; as such, St. Kateri is Patron saint of people in exile.  Think of how important prayer has been for you in your life.  Reflect on the power of a prayer relationship with God which helps us to persevere in tough times and know how deeply we are loved by God, our heavenly Father.  Ask St. Kateri to pray for you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you deep prayer, the kind that takes you deep into God’s love and transcends this world.  As you look at the window and focus on St. Kateri’s gaze toward heaven, stay for several quite moments in rapt prayer with her, yearning for God in your heart of hearts and knowing God is yearning for you.  Let your emotion of love and your free-will be united in gaze. This deep relationship with God in quite moments leads to a strong sense of identity in your relationship with God that will give you the strength and courage to stand up for your Catholic Faith in the midst of a world that ridicules it and judges it without knowing it, just as St. Kateri stood up strong in her Catholic Faith.

2. Notice St. Kateri dressed in Native American clothes of the Mohawks. St Kateri is Patron Saint of Native Americans. She never denied her heritage after she became Catholic, but she also did not let her heritage block her response to God’s call to become a Catholic.  She kept her Native American customs except for when they contradicted the teachings of the Catholic Faith and when they contradicted her call by God.  Reflect on how you are called to be an American and a Roman Catholic.  And, like St. Kateri, we do not leave our nationality behind when we become Catholic, but we also do not follow what is contrary to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church in our country.  Reflect on the strong choices we make as Catholics in the U.S. Pro-Life, ethics in scientific research, ethics in healthcare, ethics in business, etc.

3. Specifically notice the blanket she wears. At 4 years old, St. Kateri survived the smallpox that killed her parents and brother.  But, it left her with her face badly scarred and so she often used a blanket to hide her small pox scars. (Within minutes of dying, these scars miraculously disappeared, witness by the people present.)  She also had poor eyesight. As such, she was called Tekakwitha – she who bumps into things/she who moves things.  Each of us is not perfect and we do need to learn how to bare imperfections and illness.  But these things should move us to realize that it is truly what is on the inside that matters – Faith, Hope, Love, Virtue, Identity as God’s Adopted Child. (God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7) What is God asking you to let go of in feeling self-conscious.  Ask God for the grace not to let worldly judging of looks or status rule you.  Ask that only what matters to God would matter to you.

4. Notice the Lily in the lower right corner.  St. Kateri’s nickname is “Lily of the Mohawks” because of her purity, gentleness, kindness.  Also the lily reminds us that St. Kateri choose to dedicate her life to God by remaining single and offering her life to Jesus.  On the Feast of the Annunciation she made a vow of perpetual virginity.  She went against the custom of arranged marriage and said instead Kateri said, “I have deliberated enough. For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for wife.”  We are all called to be chaste, no matter what vocation we have.  Reflect on the power of a chaste life lived as God calls you to. Reflect on the purpose of the gift of our human sexuality.  God’s purpose is to bring a husband and wife together and for the possibility of children to be born of a loving union of a mother and a father.  Pray in an intentional way to dedicate your life to God, just as you are now.  Know that God is so pleased for us to dedicate our lives to God – it means we take God seriously and love God and realize God has a plan for us that we want to live up to.  Pray for your life lived for God.  Pray for the understanding of God’s plan for you and your vocation.  Pray for vocations to consecrated life (consecrated virgins and religious men and women) and pray for vocation s to the deaconate and priesthood.  If you are not married, can you pray to be open to dedicate your life to God in a vocation other than marriage?  Can you see that life can be lived to the full by people who choose to live a chaste life empowered by God to be lived for God and others?

5. Notice the setting of the scene is in the woods. St. Kateris is Patroness of Ecologists and Environmentalists.  Notice the beauty of the birch trees and their leaves and the pine cone and branch.  Think of the beauty of creation and how that beauty lifts up our minds to our Creator.  How does creation lead you to your Creator?  How does the beauty of creation bring you to awe and wonder.  Pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of awe and wonder and let that awe of creation bring you to appreciate the true gift of this world.  Thank God for the gift of our planet and commit yourself to caring for the planet through acts of careful consideration (not littering, recycling, not wasting water, helping fund projects for people without water, not dumping chemicals, not supporting companies who endanger the environment.) Pray for the preservation of our natural resources.  Pray for ecologists and environmentalists.

6. Notice the Cross carved in the birch tree.   When her village went into the woods for the hunt, St. Kateri would carve a cross into the tree to make it a prayerful place for her to pray.  She would not work on Sundays, as is the teaching of the Church.  She would do double the work on the other days to make up for it.  She would receive ridicule so as to “Keep Holy The Sabbath.”  Why is it important for you to keep the Sabbath Holy? How do you keep the Sabbath holy?  If St. Kateri went to so much trouble and accepted so much persecution so to keept the Sabbath holy and worship God, how can we invite more people to value this command/invitation of God.  How can we even invite people not to leave mass as soon as they possibly can?  Commit yourself to keeping the Sabbath Holy.  Pray for people to return to Mass and respecting the worship of God.

7. Notice the Rosary in her hand.  St. Kateri “offered herself to the Blessed Mother to accept her as a daughter.”  Reflect on your relationship with our Blessed Mother.  How has this relationship helped you in your life.  How can your relationship with our Blessed Mother bring you closer to her Son, Jesus.  How has the Rosary helped you in your life to reflect on the virtues of our Blessed Mother and our Lord.  In your heart of hearts, offer yourself to the Blessed mother as her spiritual child and ask for her intercession for you and your loved ones.

Prayer to St. Kateri
God of all creation, goodness and love, our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise for you. In our beloved St. Kateri you have found gentleness and peace. In her you have heard once more “Jesus, I love you”. In St. Kateri Tekakwitha you have given your Church a new maiden of the Gospel for your Son.

As the indigenous peoples of North America celebrate her goodness and as all the Church honors her holiness we raise our voices in praise and joy. You have given us a gift beyond all measure and we ask you to help us celebrate this treasure as we live holy and peace-filled lives in your name. Please continue to grant our request and the needs of our brothers and sistersthrough St. Kateri’s intercession in her heavenly home. -Amen.

A Short History of St. Kateri (From the website of the National Shrine of St. Kateri)
Kateri Tekakwitha was a young Mohawk woman who lived in the 17th century. The story of her conversion to Christianity, her courage in the face of suffering and her extraordinary holiness is an inspiration to all Christians. Follow us as we share with you the life of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American Saint in the United States of America and Canada.  Her Shrine is located in Fonda, New York. This National Shrine was created to honor Kateri and the Native peoples north and south of the border, for it was here that she was baptized on Easter Sunday April 5, 1676, and lived her teenage years.

Kateri was born in 1656 of an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk Chief in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon (modern day Auriesville) in upstate New York. When she was only 4 years old her parents and brother died of smallpox. Kateri survived the disease, but it left her face badly scarred and her eyesight impaired. Because of her poor vision, Kateri was named "Tekakwitha", which means "she who bumps into things". Kateri was taken in by her uncle who was bitterly opposed to Christianity. When she was 8 years old, Kateri's foster family, in accordance with Iroquois custom, paired her with a young boy who they expected she would marry. However, Kateri wanted to dedicate her life to God by remaining single and offering her life to Jesus.

When Kateri was ten, in 1666, a war party composed of French soldiers and hostile Natives from Canada destroyed the Mohawk strongholds on the south bank of the Mohawk, including Ossernenon. The surviving Mohawks moved to the north side of the river and built their fortified village about half a mile west of the present village of Fonda. Kateri lived in Caughnawaga, site of the present Shrine, for her next ten years.

When Kateri was 18 years of age, she began instructions in the Catholic Faith in secret. Her uncle finally relented and gave his consent for Kateri to become a Christian, provided that she did not try to leave the Indian village. For joining the Catholic Church, Kateri was ridiculed and scorned by villagers. She was subjected to unfair accusations and her life was threatened. Nearly two years after her baptism, in St. Peter’s Chapel at the present Kateri Shrine in Fonda, she escaped to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, a settlement of Christian Natives in Canada. The village in Canada was also named Caughnawaga (Kahnawake). Here she was known for her gentleness, kindness, and good humor. On Christmas Day 1677 Kateri made her first holy communion and on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679 made a vow of perpetual virginity. She also offered herself to the Blessed Mother Mary to accept her as a daughter.

During her time in Canada, Kateri taught prayers to children and worked with the elderly and sick. She would often go to Mass both at dawn and sunset. She was known for her great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Cross of Jesus.

During the last years of her life, Kateri endured great suffering from a serious illness. She died on April 17th, 1680, shortly before her 24th birthday, and was buried in present day Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada.

Tradition holds that Kateri's final words were. . ."Jesus,  I love you", after which she embraced her creator for all eternity.

Witnesses reported that within a few minutes of her death, the pock marks from smallpox completely vanished and her face shone with raqdiant loveliness.

Before her death, Kateri promised her friends that she would continue to love and pray for them in heaven. Both Native Americans and settlers immediately began praying for her heavenly intercession. Several people, including a priest who attended Kateri during her last illness, reported that Kateri had appeared to them and many healing miracles were attributed to her.

Fifty years after Kateri's death the first convent for Indian nuns was established in Mexico and they pray daily for Sainthood for Blessed Kateri. Their prayers were answered on October 21, 2012 when Kateri was canonized as the first native american woman to be honored with sainthood.

Further Information for your Reflection
The USCCB wrote a beautiful one-page reflection paper: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Kateri-Tekakwitha-Fortnight-2016.pdf
You can take a drive to north NY and visit her shrine: http://www.katerishrine.com/kateri.html

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