On Thursday, July 14, the Diocese of Gallup held its annual feast day Mass in honor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the patron saint of Native Americans. Because the Diocese is home to seven major Indigenous tribes, the Office of Native American ministry hosts an annual Mass and gathering for the people of the Diocese to honor St. Kateri, a saint close to the hearts of many Native American people.
Calling St. Kateri “wise” and “faithful”, celebrant Bishop James Wall called on the people of the Diocese to imitate her courage and life of charity.
“To be wise means to live a life of faith: faith in the one who truly gives meaning to our lives, and who truly animates our lives, who brings light to the darkness of our suffering, and it is a life deeply rooted in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. This is the life that St. Kateri chose to live,” he said.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 to parents of the Algonquin and Mohawk tribes in what is now New York State. She lost her parents and brother at age 4 to the smallpox epidemic, and was herself left with scarring and poor eyesight from the effects of the disease. Despite her physical ailments, and often socially alienated because of her religion, she remained a humble and charitable person until her death at age 24.
“St. Kateri Tekakwitha lived the life of a person on fire with love for our Lord, and she was committed to her Catholic faith,” said Bishop Wall. “She was generous with her time, and she was especially faithful and generous with her time to her Native American community.”
He then asked those present to reflect on the vigilant women in that day’s Gospel: the virgins at a wedding who, while watching for the approaching bridegroom, could either remain watchful and prepared, or foolishly allow themselves to become distracted, miss his approach, and become barred from the wedding celebration.
“Very sad, extremely tragic, to be locked out of eternal life with God because a person lived this life without God. Very different, though, from the life of St. Kateri. She was wise. She was watchful. She was vigilant in her practice of her Catholic faith. She asked the question, ‘Lord, what do you want?’ not ‘what do I want?’ This was a beautiful living out of our Lord’s own words at the Mount of Olives, as He said before His passion: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me, but not my will be done, but your will be done.’”
Bishop Wall noted that St. Kateri attained sainthood because she consistently placed her faith at the center of her life, and asked those present to follow her example.
“St. Kateri would not waver in her faith,” said Bishop Wall. “She could have become discouraged, and she could have even despaired. This is a lesson for all of us. Look to Christ at times of difficulty, because He is the one who will be our light.”
Watch the recorded Mass: