Below is the text of Pope Francis’ Wednesday weekly audience, delivered on August 30, 2023.
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Dear brothers and sisters, hello !
Now, continuing our catechesis on the theme of apostolic zeal and passion for the proclamation of the Gospel, we turn today to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American woman to be canonized. Born around 1656 in a village in upstate New York, she was the daughter of an unbaptized Mohawk chief and an Algonquin Christian mother, who taught Kateri to pray and sing hymns to God. Many of us were also first introduced to the Lord in a family setting, especially by our mothers and grandmothers. This is how evangelization begins and, in fact, we must not forget that the faith is always transmitted in this dialect by mothers, by grandmothers. The faith must be transmitted in dialect, and we receive it in dialect from our mothers and our grandmothers. Evangelism often begins this way: with small, simple gestures, like that of parents helping their children learn to talk to God in prayer and to tell them of his great and merciful love. And this is how the foundation of Kateri’s faith, and often also of us, was laid. She received it from her mother in dialect, the dialect of faith.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s life shows us that all challenges can be overcome if we open our hearts to Jesus, who grants us the grace we need. Patience and an open heart to Jesus – that’s a recipe for living well.
When Kateri was four years old, a severe smallpox epidemic struck her people. Both of her parents and younger brother died, and Kateri herself was left with facial scars and vision problems. From then on, Kateri had to face many difficulties: physical due to the effects of smallpox, of course, but also to misunderstandings, persecutions and even death threats to which she was subjected following her baptism on the Sunday of Easter 1676. All this gives him great love. for the Cross, the definitive sign of the love of Christ, who gave himself up to the end for us. Indeed, witnessing to the gospel is not just about pleasing; we must also know how to carry our daily crosses with patience, confidence and hope. Patience in the face of difficulties, of crosses: patience is a great Christian virtue. He who has no patience is not a good Christian. Patience to tolerate: tolerating others, who sometimes hinder or cause difficulties. Kateri Tekakwitha’s life shows us that all challenges can be overcome if we open our hearts to Jesus, who grants us the grace we need. Patience and an open heart to Jesus – that’s a recipe for living well.
After being baptized, Kateri was forced to take refuge among the Mohawks in the Jesuit mission near the city of Montreal. There she attends Mass every morning, devotes time to adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, recites the Rosary, and leads a life of penance. Her spiritual practices impressed everyone at the Mission; they recognized in Kateri a seductive sanctity stemming from her deep love for God. This is the essence of holiness: to attract. God calls us by attraction; He calls us with this desire to be close to us and we feel this divine attraction. At the same time, she teaches the children of the Mission to pray; and in consistently discharging her responsibilities, including caring for the sick and the aged, she set an example of humble and loving service to God and neighbor. Faith is always expressed in service. Faith does not consist in disguising, disguising the soul; no, it is to serve.
Faith is always expressed in service. Faith does not consist in disguising, disguising the soul; no, it is to serve.
Although she was encouraged to marry, Kateri preferred to dedicate her life to Christ. Unable to enter consecrated life, she made a vow of perpetual virginity on March 25, 1679. This choice reveals another aspect of the apostolic zeal she had: total abandonment to the Lord. Of course, not everyone is called to make the same vow as Kateri, but every Christian is called to give themselves daily and wholeheartedly to the vocation and mission entrusted to them by God, serving God and his neighbor in a spirit of charity.
Dear brothers and sisters, Kateri’s life is further proof that apostolic zeal involves both union with Jesus, nourished by prayer and the sacraments, and the desire to spread the beauty of the Christian message through fidelity to his particular vocation. Kateri’s last words are very beautiful. Before she died, she said, “Jesus, I love you. »
May we too, like Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, draw strength from the Lord and learn to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways, growing daily in faith, charity and zealous witness to Christ.
Let us not forget: each of us is called to holiness, to the holiness of daily life, to the holiness of common Christian life. Each of us has this vocation: we are moving forward on this path. The Lord will not let us down.