EDMONTON – St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a model of how to live with a pure, undivided heart, said Archbishop Richard Smith.
"To live with a pure heart is to be entirely focused on God and doing God's will," Smith said at an Oct. 28 Mass honouring Canada's first aboriginal saint.
Following the example of St. Kateri, Smith said, "Let's pray that Jesus will give to us the gift of a pure heart, an undivided heart, so that we will find inspiration to see God and the beauty of his plan for us and, like Kateri, respond with the fullness of our lives."
Smith, currently president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, attended St. Kateri's canonization in Rome Oct. 21 on behalf of the CCCB and returned home to lead the special Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica.
At the Mass, many First Nations, Metis and Inuit representatives marched in the procession.
Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri in 1980. She was one of seven saints canonized at the Vatican on Oct. 21.
St. Kateri was a young maiden who, despite objections from her own clan, came to know and love Jesus. The aboriginal woman was sometimes referred to as the Lily of the Mohawks.
Smith said that while St. Kateri lived in the 1600s, she remains a very instructive example for us in our day.
"Today's Gospel reading reminds us just how significant her example is for our own instruction in the faith," he said.
The Gospel reading was about the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, whose sight was restored when he asked Jesus to heal him. Similarly, when she was only four years old, Kateri's parents and brother died of smallpox. The disease badly scarred Kateri's face and left her almost blind.
The major difference was that Bartimaeus's physical sight was restored, whereas Kateri's was not. She remained scarred all of her life.
"However, she was restored by the grace of God (and given) an inner vision, an ability to see very clearly with the eyes of her heart," the archbishop said.
"What Kateri was able to see was the beauty of God's plan and God's invitation for each of us to surrender to that plan."
She recognized God's plan to unify all Christians. Baptized in 1676 at age 20, despite her uncle's misgivings, she went on to live a pious life, and fashioned crosses out of twigs. Her beliefs were met with ridicule, hostility and threats.
She moved to a mission near Montreal, where she practised her Christian ways with greater openness and freedom. The rest of her short life was devoted to teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and aged. She died at the age of 24.
Her dying words were, "Jesus, I love you." A few minutes after death, those around her bedside witnessed the ugly scars on her face disappear.
Every person has his or her own scars – scars of addiction, betrayal, and lack of fidelity in relationships. What Kateri teaches is that healing is possible through a relationship with Jesus and through pure living.
"Her example shows that when we profess our love for Jesus, when we live a relationship of love for Jesus, our scars are healed," said Smith.
Smith also presided at a Mass of thanksgiving for St. Kateri's canonization Oct. 22 in Rome's St. John Lateran Basilica. The Mass, broadcast on Salt and Light television, was attended by more than 2,500 people, including many Canadian pilgrims and 20 Canadian bishops.
At that Mass, Smith again spoke of compromised physical sight and her clear inner vision.
"Deep within her heart she had received the gift of seeing clearly the truth of Christ and his Church," he said.
(With files from Deborah Gyapong of Canadian Catholic News)