The village of St. Kateri in upper New York when she was a child of only 4 years of age, was attacked by a smallpox epidemic. She lost her parents and younger brother and was severely scarred and nearly left blind. 

Baptized into Catholic faith at age of 18 or 19
Beatified 1980
Canonized 2012 – after recognition of a 2006 miracle granted to a young boy, Jake Finkbonner of the Lummi Nation who was in the Seattle Children’s Hospital and miraculously cured of a flesh eating bacteria.

Today’s Gospel: (Luke 13: 1-9)

In today’s Gospel, a question is posed to Jesus whether or not those who died at the hands of Pilate or in a natural disaster were greater sinners than all the rest? To which, Jesus replies, “Of course not.”

This line of thinking would also cause one to consider whether or not St. Kateri and her family were guilty of some great sin and thus suffered the penalty of smallpox.

Surely, all of us are condemned to sin and death, as St. Paul says in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans. But he also quickly recognizes that Christ Jesus has freed us from this condemnation. What a debt of gratitude we owe Christ Jesus, who is our life and salvation.

“Those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8)

Whatever his condition of life may be, the Christian is called to serve Christ, to live according to his Spirit, guided by love, the principle of a new life, that brings the world and man back to their original destiny: “whether … the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 3:22-23) (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church # 455)

We know that St. Kateri took on many penances during her short life. She offered prayers and penances for the conversion of her own native people, and also for those who oppressed her. The mission of the Church has always been to lead others to Christ.

Sadly, today we are recognizing some efforts in our past went well beyond the good work of evangelization to outright efforts to suppress the native people, their culture, rich traditions and language.

Today we know the importance of faith for building a healthy society, and the critical role of the vast and rich cultures for advancing the faith. In our celebration of St. Kateri, we wish to thank all the native people in their various and rich cultures for your faith, and the great contributions you make to the Catholic Church.

St. Kateri understood that it was her relationship with God that determined her relationships with others and with nature. (CSDC #464) People today have much to learn from St. Kateri in this regard. Pope Francis has recognized this reality and teaches that there is great conformity and connectivity between human ecology and environmental ecology. A simple summary of the Holy Father’s encyclical on our Common Home (Laudato Si) is that all is connected. We share relationships with God, one another and all of creation.

Through the intercessions of St. Kateri, may we grow in our respect and love for God, each other and for all of God’s creation.