Today is the memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
I read someplace that before her conversion Blessed Kateri was not always pleasant to be around - she had a very hard life, due in part to having been disfigured by small pox, I believe. After her conversion and baptism at the age of twenty, her disposition became more gentle. This despite the fact that her own people disowned her for accepting the faith. Kateri devoted her life to prayer and penance and caring for the aged and infirm in a settlement for native Americans who had become Christian.
I am attracted to this saint because she represents those on the fringe; the lame and disfigured, the rejected and outcast - yes. But even more so because she is native American, or as the Canadians say, first nation person - which sounds much more dignified than aboriginal person. Because of this, the Church refers to her in the votive prayer for her feast as a light "shinning among the native American people".
Indeed she is a light shinning for all of us to look with love and gratitude upon the original peoples who inhabited our lands before our ancestors arrived from Europe. Those who were marginalized and segregated from Anglo society even before the great influx of immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries up until now, as non-white immigrants from east and far east and south and deepest south immigrate to our country... while first nation peoples continue to stand apart, still segregated and marginalized, frequently rejected because they look Indian and sometimes carry the stereo-typical pock marks of poverty and abuse.
Blessed Kateri is a great saint, not unlike St. Rose of Lima, St. Marianne of Quito, or even St. Catherine of Siena and St. Catherine of Genoa. She devoted her life to Christ through prayer and penance and humble service to the aged, the sick, and infirm - outcasts just like herself.
May Blessed Kateri obtain for us a deep love and reverence for the traditions and the dignity of native Americans and may the Catholic Church in North America always offer the authentic and true faith to all - just as it was given to Blessed Kateri in 1676.
First Nation iconography.
A Litany to My Cousin