Lily of the Mohawks
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Devotion to the Holy Eucharist is exemplified by the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Even in the dead of winter, she would wake up bright and early every day to visit the chapel. Morning after morning, at 4 o'clock, she would make her way to the chapel door, eager to pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Accordingly, as Holy Writ proclaims:
"Here is a wise and faithful virgin who went with a lighted lamp to meet her Lord."
The devotion to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and the faithfulness to the life of consecrated virginity are two motifs that run throughout her life and are beautifully interwoven. Blessed Kateri set a high value on frequent reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. The "Lily of the Mohawks" is also often nicknamed the "Lily of the Holy Eucharist" because of her piety toward the Blessed Sacrament.
Blessed Kateri's devotion to God began early in life. St. Kateri's mother passed away when she was just four years old, yet it was from her that she learnt to pray. Then, when the Jesuit Missionaries visited, that ember of devotion to God grew into a blazing inferno. Kateri yearned to be a Christian, and more specifically, to take Holy Communion with Jesus.
The young woman's devotion to God impressed the Jesuit fathers. One day, when discussing Kateri, Fr. Claude Chauchetiere remarked:
"I do believe she is a Saint. She … lives in the chapel, spends every moment she can spare from her work before the Blessed Sacrament. On Sundays and Holydays she spends the whole day in Church, leaving only for meals. Though she has not yet made her First Holy Communion, her love for the Eucharist is astounding, to say the least. She is living for the day when she can receive the Eucharist"
And as time went on, "her neighbors sought to be near her when she received Holy Communion, as her manner [of receiving] excited devotion" (Oswald), others were similarly drawn and inspired by the young woman's love for Jesus in the Sacred Host.
After making her First Communion, Blessed Kateri met several nuns and decided she wanted to devote her life to serving God in the same way. After failing to do so, she took a secret vow of consecrated virginity after being encouraged to do so by a friend. A consecrated virgin is equated with one who is "wed" to the Lord, much like a religious convert.
As St. Ambrose put it, "she is a virgin who is married to God." Just as the Church's Liturgy for Virgins says,
"You Yourself, O Christ, are my all," so too do consecrated virgins pray this prayer. For You I keep myself chaste, and holding aloft my shining lamp I run to meet You, my Spouse."
Surely, Kateri's heart was full of these holy sentiments.
Pope Pius XII teaches us of the unique vocation of consecrated virgins in his 1954 encyclical "Sacra Virginitas":
"The more pure and chaste is a soul, the more it hungers for this [heavenly] bread, from which it derives strength to resist all temptations to sins of impurity, and by which it is more intimately united with the Divine Spouse; ‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood, abides in Me and I in Him.’"
The invitation that Kateri accepted—to enter into an espousal relationship with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament—is extended to all Christ's faithful.
St. Kateri was able to persevere through the persecution she faced for her decision to remain a virgin and the enormous pains she endured as a result of smallpox thanks to the beauty and power of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. Jesus Christ, in the Most Holy Sacrament, Who is Holiness Itself, changed Mary into the likeness of the spotless Lamb.
According to Pope Pius XII's encyclical, the Book of Revelation describes such virgins and souls as those who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes." They are the ones who, he says in Revelation 14:4, 14:3, and 7:14, will sing the new canticle, the song of those whose clothes have been washed clean by the Blood of Jesus, the spotless Lamb.
Blessed Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks and Lily of the Holy Eucharist, intercedes for us, so that we may follow in her footsteps and ascend to the Throne of the Eucharistic Lamb of Love, where we may join her in singing the song of the redeemed:
"Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power!" (Rev. 4:11).