Monday, March 3, 2014

Feast of St. Katharine Drexel

Happy Feast of St. Katharine Drexel!

St. Katharine Drexel is one of those saints I feel I should know more about.  I know she was American, but beyond that, nothing.  Finding out that she was only the second American born, following Elizabeth Ann Seton, saint was interesting.  Honestly, my first thought was, where are all of the good Catholic Americans?  On to Katharine's story.  Her life began in an unusual way.  She was born to a rich Philadelphia family, but shortly after her birth, her mother died.  Her father sent baby Katharine and her sister to an aunt and uncle until he was remarried.  Katharine's step-mother was kind and generous.  They passed out food and monetary assistance from their home, but when there were those in need that were to proud to come and receive the help, they quietly went to their aid.  Katharine's step-mother instilled in the children the concept that "Kindness may be unkind if it leaves a sting behind."  Katharine's step-mom died from terminal cancer, her struggle leaving a profound impact on Katharine.  After reading A Century of Dishonor, and traveling west seeing the plight of the American Indian, Katharine made helping them her life long goal.  Katharine had an inclination to join a contemplative order, but her friend and spiritual director instructed her to wait and pray.  During this time she visited the Pope and asked him to staff some of the missionaries she had been funding with missionaries.  She decided to join a religious order, which rocked the upper class Philadelphia social circles she had previously been part of.  Along with 13 other women, she started the order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.  Mother Katharine, as she was known, was always fighting for social justice, which kept her fairly controversial for a nun.  The sisters opened and staffed many schools for American Indians and Black Americans, crossing many social and political barriers.  She suffered a heart attack in 1937 which gradually led to her death.  The last 3 years of her life were spent in Eucharistic adoration.

The Vatican cited a fourfold legacy of Drexel:
  • A love of the Eucharist and perspective on the unity of all peoples;
  • courage and initiative in addressing social inequality among minorities - one hundred years before such concern aroused public interest in the United States;
  • her belief in quality education for all and efforts to achieve it;
  • and selfless service, including the donation of her inheritance, for the victims of injustice.
I never imagined that St. Katharine would be such an interesting and modern saint.  I personally loved a story I read about St. Katharine's school in Beaumont, TX and the Klan.  I encourage you to look it up and read.  God really does help those who help those in the most need.  I added an image of the children's book, I am getting it for my children and I pray it will move them as much as her story has made an impression on me.  Of all the wonderful claims that our country has, we must face the way we have treated those who don't fit into the box we have created.  From the American Indians and African Americans, to immigrants from every other country.  Every group that has come to these shores along the way has faced some sort of intolerance, even my grandfather, who's family came from Russia in the early 1900s.  I love the fourfold legacy of Katharine Drexel laid out by the Vatican.  Really I cannot say it any better than they have.  Love the Eucharist , know that Our Lord and Savior is truly present in the Eucharist.  Teach that to your children!  I cannot stress that enough.  Even my 2 year old understands that when the bells ring at church "Jesus is here!!!"  Go to adoration and take your children with you.  Even if they are not perfect, take them and help them to know that they are truly in the presence of Jesus when they are in front of the Eucharist.  You will be amazed!  Second, address social issues.  Don't leave these issues for someone else, do something.  For my children and myself, this includes standing up for those of other races, but also other minorities.  Help the child who is special needs or is physically disabled or scared: be nice to them, help them, let them sit with you at lunch (everyone who has gone through middle and high school knows that this is where the most discrimination happens).  Parents, this one is for you, ensure an equal education for all!  Being a mom of dyslexics, let me tell you, this is a fight.  I cannot imagine what parents go through with students who have more profound learning disabilities.  You are your child's best advocate, but that does not mean that if you do not have children you can't help.  You vote, you go to school board meetings, you make sure your schools are teaching everyone as they should be, regardless of race, social status, religion or impairment.  Lastly, selfless service.  Give of yourself.  Sacrifice your time, your treasure, and your talents.  There is something we are all called to do.  Find your thing and give of it.  We don't all have millions like Katharine Drexel, but we can all do something.  Act as a foster parent, volunteer to be a reader with elementary children at school, coach a sports team, be a mentor, help at your local soup kitchen or meals on wheels, there are millions of ways you can help.  Find where you fit, make it your Lenten sacrifice, and start today.

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