I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure. — Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
This monstrance held Our Lord before the pock-marked dying 24 year old Kateri and remained in her room as her face was transformed into its radiant beauty before the beatific vision of the heavenly kingdom. It is now kept at St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, Quebec.
Devoted to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Kateri nailed her frail body to that of her beloved on the cross.
This union gave her an inner fire and strength beyond the borders of her weak constitution. Little Kateri knew with a passion that the Eucharist was the source and summit of her life.
“I can have no other spouse, but Jesus Christ. I have considered myself content to live in poverty and misery for His love.”
And so today on the feast of the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier it is not so odd to follow a little trail through the wilderness to look upon a beautiful flower, the Lilly of the Mohawks.
If we look we may find many little spiritual dominoes where one sacrifice, one yes to Jesus, leads to another, and another. Salvation history seems to be a growing tapestry of our little ‘eucharistos’, or joyful gratitudes and encounters with Christ.
Marlene McCauley gives as a closer look in her fine article, “Kateri and the Eucharist,” published in the January 2007 edition of Lay Witness.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s profound love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is linked to her passionate love of Jesus on His holy Cross. Having just celebrated the 350th anniversary of Kateri’s birth (1656–1680), it is fitting to reflect on Kateri’s love of Jesus in the Eucharist.
When the Christian Native Americans from St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, Quebec, would visit their Mohawk friends or family members in Ossernenon (now Auriesville, New York), Kateri would see them receiving Holy Communion. Witnessing this, she yearned to be united with Our Lord and often visited the bark chapel.
Soon after her baptism, she joined her Christian brethren in Canada. Unprecedented in the history of the Blackrobes (the Jesuit missionaries), Kateri received her first Holy Communion only two months after her arrival, on Christmas Day, 1677. New converts generally waited several years, a probationary period to see if they were well-grounded in the faith—especially in their understanding of Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Kateri begged to have permission to receive Jesus, which was granted because of her extraordinary piety in prayer and severe penances.
With all imaginable joy, Kateri approached the sacred altar of divine Love with burning fervor, so full of God and love for Him. Fr. Cholenec, who prepared Kateri to receive Jesus, said, “Only God knows what passed between Himself and His dear spouse.”
Every day before sunrise, even in the coldest of winter, Kateri could be found at church, gazing tearfully at the five wounds of Jesus on the crucifix. She attended the 5 am and 7 am Masses. Sometimes a Blackrobe would thaw her out by his fire. Kateri would be the first at evening prayer and the last to leave on Sundays and holy days. She stayed from early morning to late at night, leaving for just a short time for meals and returning right away. The sweetness of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament possessed her so much that Kateri was in continual union with Him. She visited the Blessed Sacrament five times daily, after her visitations to the sick and poor of the village.
On the winter hunt, Kateri would send her guardian angel to attend Mass and bring back graces to her. She even refused to go on another hunt because she so missed her daily Masses and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. On her last days on earth in 1680, though racked with violent headaches, fever, and stomach pain, Kateri dragged herself to the chapel until she no longer could stand. Usually a sick person would be carried on a pallet to the church to receive communion, but because her love for Jesus was so powerfully exhibited in prayer and extreme penances, the Blackrobes brought Jesus to her.
Providentially, Kateri died the day before her two beloved feasts: Holy Thursday, the day Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, and Good Friday, the day He gave up His body on the Cross that we might have His Body, the Bread of Life, in the Holy Eucharist. Kateri died with Jesus on her lips, and Our Lord rewarded Kateri’s love for Him by making her pockmarked skin resplendently beautiful upon her death.
From Kateri’s intimate love of Jesus flowed her tremendous healing powers, which from the time she died to the present have been manifested by miracles and favors too great to number. My family personally was the recipient of one of her precious gifts when my son Peter was cured of 65 percent hearing loss on the anniversary month and day of her death, April 17, 1973. Both ears were spontaneously healed, producing perfect hearing.
Through Kateri’s example of love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, let us draw closer in appreciation with each reception of God’s greatest gift to us—His divine Son, the Bread of Life.
Song of Kateri: Princess of the Eucharist, a poetic biography of Kateri’s life to her beatification, focuses on her love of Jesus on the Cross and Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. It is available by writing or calling Grace House, 6237 North Fifteenth Street, Phoenix, AZ, 85014; (602) 265-9151. (Price: $14.95 + $4 postage)