Monday, March 03, 2014

A Great American Saint - St. Katharine Drexel

The heiress who gave all she had.

Years ago I met a very good nun who told me she 'knew' St. Katharine, explaining they were both from Philadelphia.  The nun I knew was much younger than the Saint and I'm not sure of the circumstances of her meeting Drexel or if she had simply known her from sight, encountering her in public.  Sometimes we believe ourselves familiar with people whose reputation is familiar to us - without having come closer to them than a chance introduction or an occasional sighting in public.  My friend was from a very poor family in Philadelphia and entered a different congregation other than Mother Drexel's foundation, therefore I'm not sure how well she knew the saint.

Without my asking about what the saint was like, my sister friend shared reminiscences of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament with me. Speaking of St. Katharine, my friend became slightly critical of the 'heiress' - pretty much suggesting St. Katharine never had to suffer want and was able to finance the religious order and her mission to the poor with her own fortune.  I got the impression my friend was a bit envious of the saint.  Her attitude reminded me of the Gospel, "A prophet is not without honor - except in his own town ..."  Although my sister friend was a very virtuous nun herself - it appeared childhood poverty had left its scars.  


  1. In the late 19th century when Belmont Abbey in North Carolina ran out of funds to finish the church, Katherine Drexel learned of the predicament. She said if the monastic community promised to always reserve some pews for Blacks (she was all about integration and justice), she would donate the remainder of the funds to complete the church. Around 1904, she visited Belmont Abbey and the college she helped fund. There's a plaque commemorating her visit. Pretty darn cool.

    1. Oh. So she was a liberal then too?

      Just kidding - thanks for adding that!

  2. Childhood poverty does indeed leave scars. My elderly mother was raised no-indoor-plumbing poor and has never gotten over it. Not always bad, she taught me frugality and resourcefulness. But yeah, there are scars that occasionally flare up. Prayers.


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