Today is the feast day of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, one of my favorite beatas and the first Native American put on the path to sainthood. Pat Gohn does an excellent job of looking at this young women who many of us hold in great affection:
Born in 1656 in the Mohawk River Valley in what would become Auriesville, New York, Tekakwitha had a Christian Algonquin mother and a pagan Mohawk warrior father. Tekakwitha’s battle with the small pox left her face pock-mocked and scarred, and with very poor eyesight. Her name translates to “she who bumps into things.”
[. . .]
Kateri’s joy at becoming a Christian faced open hostility from the members of her tribe. Despite this rejection, she was devoted to Christ and, knowing nothing about religious life, pledged her life to Christ as a virgin, foregoing marriage and security, making her a certain outcast among her tribe.
Kateri’s own words describe her courage in her adversity.
I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.
Do read it all. Kateri’s life was brief and challenging and yet she seems to have been very joyful in her faith, and this feastday finds her in the middle of a Vatican investigation into a possible miracle that may bring about her canonization, and possible her patronage of all those who with facial injuries, and insecurities about their appearance:
At the trauma unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Craig Rubens, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, instantly suspected a flesh-eating bacterium called strep A. It was consuming Jake’s face with terrifying speed.
“It’s like lighting one end of a parchment paper,” he says, “and you just watch it spread from that corner very fast, and you’re stamping it on one side, and it’s flaming up on another.”
Dr. Richard Hopper, chief of plastic surgery at Seattle Children’s, had never seen a case so dire.
“It’s almost as if you could watch it moving in front of your eyes,” he says. “The redness and the swelling — we would mark it and within the hour it would have spread another half-inch.”
After giving little Jake Last Rites, a priest suggested his family seek the intercessory prayers of Bl. Kateri. You’ll have to read the rest to find out what happened!