A True Catholic American

By Chris Sparks

Some people are Christians under pretty good circumstances — a decent job; a house; a supportive family; a welcoming church community.

And some people are Christians without any of those blessings, taking up a much heavier cross and bearing it with a smile.

Here, we remember one of those suffering souls who is now a saint in Heaven.

On July 14, the Church celebrates the "Lily of the Mohawks." Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be declared a saint. She's a model of someone who sets out to console the Heart of Jesus by bearing her cross bravely, doing all for the love of God and neighbor.

She caught smallpox at the age of 4, living the rest of her life with serious facial scars and impaired vision as a result. Suffering persecution from her fellow Native Americans for having accepted the religion of the "Black Robes" — the Jesuit missionaries working among the native peoples at the time — Kateri nevertheless maintained her charity and her courage. Known for her charity and patience, and her kindness toward the sick and elderly, Kateri loved the Eucharist and the Cross deeply — something that is hard for many Americans today to understand. How do you love the Cross? How do you love suffering in a healthy, holy way? Why on earth would you love suffering?

And yet the love of suffering, the love of the Cross, is at the heart of Christian spirituality. We are all called to take up our crosses and follow Christ, called to love the instruments of our salvation, all those little moments, those little deaths where we say no to self and yes to love, yes to self-sacrifice, yes to God and neighbor, yes to generosity. There is no love without sacrifice; there is no Christian charity if it doesn't cost a little, doesn't prick at our security and self-satisfaction, doesn't stretch our hearts wider to fit in those we dislike.

We, like Kateri Tekakwitha, are to love Jesus in the Eucharist and also to embrace the Cross upon which we suffer. We are to love the gifts of God that make us most like Jesus. We are what we eat, and we are most like God when we lovingly suffer for the sake of those we love, for God and our neighbor.

Let us ask St. Kateri Tekakwitha to pray for us today and always that we may ever grow in our love for Jesus in the Eucharist and the great graces which come through willingly suffering, offering ourselves to God with love in every situation of life.

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