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Today is the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American who knew first hand the peril that befell indigenous people who were in the way of foreign settlers. At the same time, Saint Kateri became a Christian through the kindness and generosity of French missionaries who ministered to the local tribes. Her life of suffering and joy brings to mind the universal intention of Pope Francis for this month, “that indigenous peoples, whose identity and very existence are threatened, will be shown due respect.”
Saint Kateri’s conversion shows to us what every human heart longs for: respect. She did not see Christ in the attackers who ransacked local villages, but in the kind and joyful missionaries, who treated her with dignity. It challenges us today to treat the native peoples of our land with respect, recognizing that all people are made in the image and likeness of God.
As a result of the kindness she received, Saint Kateri took to heart the Christian message. Fr. Pierre Cholenec, one of the Jesuit missionaries who knew her, witnessed her interior beauty:
“To keep alive her devotion for the mystery of Our Savior’s Passion, and to have it always present to her mind, she carried on her breast a little crucifix which I had given her. She often kissed it with feelings of the most tender compassion for the suffering Jesus, and with the most vivid remembrance of the benefits of our redemption.”
Let us pray to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and ask her help so that we do not repeat the errors of the past and instead show due respect towards indigenous peoples and practice charity towards all.
- Philip Kosloski (USA)