Lily of the Mohawks

Conversion often comes at a price- a reality that our Lord made quite clear in today’s gospel. He warned that following him would break up entire families. “One’s enemies will be those of his own household,” he said.

This is as true today as it was in Jesus’ day, especially in those places where becoming Christian is understood as rejecting one’s cultural heritage, as is experienced by converts in predominantly Muslim or Hindu lands. In our society, converts might be thought of as crazy; in other societies, converts can be thought of as almost criminal.

This was the experience of Blessed Kateri, whose memorial we celebrate today. We call her the “Lily of the Mohawks,” but her uncle and adoptive father, a seventeenth century Mohawk chief, did not think of her in such glowing terms. When she became a Catholic with the help of French missionaries, her family treated her as a slave, and even denied her food on Sundays, since she refused to work on the Sabbath. Ultimately, her life became endangered, and she was forced to flee to a Catholic community some 200 miles away, where she remained the rest of her short life.

Blessed Kateri’s witness can remind all of us that we need to place allegiance to Christ above anything else that may lay claim to us, and regardless of what the cost may be. As she herself said: “I am not my own. I have given myself to Jesus.”

Readings for today’s Mass:

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