Rome (Agenzia Fides) - God calls us "through attraction", and attraction "is proper to holiness". Also the "holiness of every day", the "holiness of the common Christian life, which is witnessed by those who bear the crosses of everyday life with patience and trust", said Pope Francis during today's General Audience, Wednesday, August 30, continuing the cycle of catechesis on the theme of apostolic zeal and passion for proclaiming the Gospel. The reflections made by the Bishop of Rome before the multitude of pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Hall were inspired by the earthly life of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North American woman to be canonized.
Born around the year 1656 in a village in upstate New York - recalled Pope Francis - 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", remarked Pope Francis, - "were also first introduced to the Lord in family settings, especially by our mothers and grandmothers. This is how evangelization begins and, indeed, we must not forget that the faith is always transmitted in this dialect by mothers, by grandmothers". Since childhood, Kateri's life was marked by difficulties and suffering. When was four years old, a severe smallpox epidemic struck her people. Both of her parents and her younger brother died, and Kateri herself was left with scars on her face and vision problems. From then on, Kateri had to face many difficulties: the physical ones from the effects of smallpox, certainly, but also the "misunderstandings, persecutions, and even death threats she suffered following her Baptism on Easter Sunday 1676", said the Pope. Life led Kateri to contemplate the mystery of the Cross, "the definitive sign of the love of Christ, who gave Himself to the end for us. Witnessing to the Gospel", Pope Francis recalled in this context, also means "knowing how to bear our daily crosses with patience, trust and hope. Patience", the Pope observed, adding spontaneous words to the written text, "is a great Christian virtue. If you do not have patience, you are not a good Christian. Patience to tolerate: to tolerate others, who are sometimes annoying or cause difficulties".
After being baptized, Kateri was forced to take refuge among the Mohawks in the Jesuit mission near the city of Montreal. There she attended Mass every morning, devoted time to adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, prayed the Rosary, and lived a life of penance. These spiritual practices of hers impressed everyone at the Mission (...) she taught the children of the Mission to pray; and through the constant fulfilment of her responsibilities, including caring for the sick and elderly. According to the Pope, everyone recognized in Kateri "a holiness that attracts others because it arose out of her deep love for God. This is proper to holiness: to attract. God calls us through attraction; He calls us with this desire to be close to us and one feels this divine attaction".
The desire to dedicate her whole life to Christ prompted Kateri to take the vow of perpetual virginity on March 25, 1679, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. "This choice of hers" the Pope pointed out "reveals another aspect of apostolic zeal that she had: total surrender to the Lord". The dedication shown by every Christian who "is called to give themself daily with an undivided heart to the vocation and mission entrusted to them by God, serving God and one’s neighbour in a spirit of charity". Thus Kateri's life - says Pope Francis in the last part of the catechesis "is further proof that apostolic zeal implies both union with Jesus, nourished by prayer and the sacraments, and the desire to spread the beauty of the Christian message through fidelity to one’s particular vocation. Kateri’s last words are very beautiful. Before she died, she said, “Jesus, I love you.”
At the end of the catechesis, the Pope called on people not to forget that "each one of us is called to holiness, to everyday holiness, to the holiness of the common Christian life. Each one of us has this calling: we go forward along this path. The Lord will not fail us". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 30/8/2023)