(Vatican News) During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis praises the apostolic zeal of Saint Káteri Tekakwitha, first Native American saint of North America, saying her faith began in her family, her sufferings drew her to the Cross, and her ordinary, holy actions offer a powerful example.
Quiet, everyday actions can manifest great holiness.
Pope Francis said this as he praised Saint Káteri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint of North America, during his General Audience on Wednesday in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
The Pope was continuing his series of catecheses on apostolic zeal, and how men and women's holy witnessing to the Gospel across the world can spread the Christian faith.
Faith in the family
Reflecting on the saint, the Pope noted that Káteri, born in upstate New York, was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin Christian mother, who taught her to pray and sing hymns to God.
"Many of us have also been introduced to the Lord for the first time in the family, especially by our mothers and grandmothers," the Pope said.
He noted that evangelisation often begins like this, "with simple, small gestures, like parents helping their children to learn to talk to God in prayer and telling them of his great and merciful love."
Káteri's faith foundations, and many of ours, the Pope observed, were laid in this way.
Sufferings inspired her love for the Cross
Scarred by smallpox at an early age, he said, "her sufferings drew her to a great love of the Cross" and "a close identification with Christ in His redemptive love for humanity."
The Pope recalled her suffering, as well as her convictions and faith.
"When we encounter difficulties in living and proclaiming the Gospel," the Pope said, "we may be tempted to become discouraged, to take refuge in our certainties or to close ourselves off in small groups that think like us."
"The life of Káteri Tekakwitha," he said, however, "shows us that every challenge can be overcome if we open our hearts to Jesus, who grants us the grace we need to continue on the path of Christian life with faithfulness and perseverance."
Deep piety and prayer
"Her deep piety and prayer, marked by devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary and acts of penance," he said, "was accompanied by charitable concern for the elderly and the sick, and for the instruction of children in the faith."
Káteri's life, the Holy Father said, is a "further testimony to the fact that apostolic zeal implies both a vital 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."
Although she was encouraged to marry, Káteri wanted instead to dedicate her life completely to Christ. Unable to enter consecrated life, she took a vow of perpetual virginity on 25 March 1679, the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
"Her choice," he said, "reveals another aspect of apostolic zeal: total dedication to the Lord."
Silent joy, openness to the Lord
"In Káteri Tekakwitha," the Holy Father said, "we meet a woman who bore witness to the Gospel, not so much with great works, because she never founded a religious community or any educational or charitable institution, but with the silent joy and freedom of a life open to the Lord and to others."
Even in the days leading up to her death at the age of 24, on 17 April 1680, he acknowledged that Káteri fulfilled her vocation "in simplicity, loving and praising God and teaching those with whom she lived to do the same. Her last words were: 'Jesus, I love you.'"
Ordinary actions with great faith
"Let us, too, by drawing strength from the Lord, as St Káteri Tekakwitha did," the Pope said, "learn to perform ordinary actions in an extraordinary way, and thus grow each day in faith, charity, and zealous witness to Christ."
The Pope praised her great witness, lived out even in what could seem small acts.
Saint Káteri Tekakwitha’s example, the Holy Father said, shows us the power of the Gospel to bear rich fruit in a holiness expressed in quiet, everyday actions that nonetheless have the power to transform our world.