Coronavirus and people at Mass: Instruction from Kateri Tekakwitha

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From Wikipedia: “Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, given the name Tekakwitha, baptized as Catherine and informally known as Lily of the Mohawks (1656 – April 17, 1680), is a Catholic saint who was an Algonquin–Mohawk laywoman. Born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, on the south side of the Mohawk River in present-day New York State, she contracted smallpox in an epidemic; her family died and her face was scarred. She converted to Catholicism at age nineteen, when she was renamed Kateri, and baptized in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena. Refusing to marry, she left her village and moved for the remaining five years of her life to the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River in New France, now Canada. Tekakwitha took a vow of perpetual virginity. Upon her death at the age of 24, witnesses said that minutes later her scars vanished and her face appeared radiant and beautiful. Known for her virtue of chastity and mortification of the flesh, as well as being shunned by some of her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, she is the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Catholic Church and the first to be canonized. Under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, she was beatified in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 October 2012. Various miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.”


Now, to the instruction on assisting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without being physically present. I may well be mistaken on the source of what will be presented below but its entirely Catholic and orthodox. I’m going to blame Father Robert J Fox, who was pastor of a tiny church in the outback, if you will, of Alexandria, South Dakota. I had been with him on the very first of his Fatima Youth Cadets pilgrimages to Fatima way back in the 1970s. Lots of great stories with that trip. Just great. But that got me reading some things written by this country priest, including Saints and Heroes Speak. That turned into a series of books. One of the chapters was on Kateri Tekakwitha. Again, I’m not sure that I’m reporting exactly what he wrote. And what he wrote may well have been inspired by Kateri, but I don’t know if there are historical sources to back that up. But again, the instruction is entirely Catholic, profoundly entrenched in humble thanksgiving before the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Unable to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for lack of priests some 335 years ago in North Woods of upstate New York and Southern Canada, and for lack of sufficient health to be able to attend in person, Kateri had another way of assisting at Holy Mass. She would unite herself with Jesus wherever He might be being offered in the Holy Mass at the moment throughout the world.

This is a matter of love. Walking the in the presence of the Lord Jesus – as I like to mention all the time in homilies and in conversations – isn’t just some sort of weirdly faked spirituality congratulating oneself for walking with our Lord, making oneself special because of being sooooooooooooo spiritual! No. Not at all. The walking in the presence of our Lord thing is – how to say? – a matter of being in this world, being “in the body”. Here’s the deal:

  • Our dear Lord was “in the body”, as it were, when He was tortured to death in front of His dear Mother. He was “in the body” when He celebrated the Last Supper, when He united His offering of Himself there for us, the Innocent for the guilty – This is my Body given for you in Sacrifice – This is the chalice of my Blood given for you in Sacrifice – having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • Our dear Lord is “in the body”, as it were, when He is offered in that self-same Last Supper at every moment throughout the world in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We offer Him as He is now, risen from the dead, but, as Saint John writes in the Apocalypse, as the Lamb of Sacrifice, standing and therefore alive and risen from the dead, but still bearing the marks of slaughter upon Him. The Sacrament of the this great Sacrifice is – in transubstantiation – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception.
  • We are not to forget the wounds of our Lord. We are not to forget His being “in the body” not only on the Cross, on Calvary, but also at the Last Supper, and therefore in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is precisely one and the same, today as yesterday, Jesus, ever ancient, ever new, present to us, in the body, with the wounds today as yesterday. This is a matter of love. Our hearts and souls and minds are with Him in the Holy Sacrifice, in solidarity with Him as He is in solidarity with us. While we are “in the body” in this world, we are with Christ Jesus, the Son of the Living God, who is also still, to this day, to this hour, to this minute, “in the body” in the world in the Most Blessed Sacrament, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Did Kateri catch on to something in all friendship with Jesus, in all humble thanksgiving for His great love for us at every moment, following the Lamb whithersoever He goes among us in this dark world while we, His little flock, is still here before He calls us to be on our way to heaven? Yes. Yes she did.

I have many stories about being assigned over the years to mission churches dedicated to the North American Martyrs and to Kateri herself. We also had a statue dedicated to her way back when I was a kid in Minnesota. But that’s a post for another day.

Here’s the deal, again: Saints and Heroes continue to speak to this day. We are one family. Don’t be merely alone. Be alone together. Be in the communion of saints, also on this earth.


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mass clock prayer

I had a big part in keeping this all alive some 35 years ago. But that’s another story. I’d like to revive this.


Back to the Last Supper of Da Vinci with no Apostles up top of this post: It’s just not true. Be in the body wherever you are. Be with Jesus in the body wherever He is. Just don’t go out into the dark, so to speak, as it were. Be with Jesus.

11 Comments

Filed under Coronavirus, Eucharist, Saints, Spiritual life

11 responses to “Coronavirus and people at Mass: Instruction from Kateri Tekakwitha

  1. Claire Dion

    Thank you for tis beautiful post Father Byers. Praying for you and all the priests who have touched my life.

  2. Anne Maliborski

    Thank you for this! Much needed!

  3. sanfelipe007

    What a great example of the deepness and richness of our faith! A truly inexhaustible source grace available to us. Thank you, Father. It is just what I needed to fend off the weakness of my faith, and the thickness of my skull.

  4. nancyv

    this is exactly the kind of “pep” talk I needed – but what a glib thing to say Father – sorry – This is exactly the kind of direction to turn my life towards now that everything’s turned upside down. And thank you for teaching us about St. Kateri

  5. elizdelphi

    I sit at the outer wall of a church at its Mass time every day that I can, praying the Mass with a Magnificat. Jesus is really present in His saving sacrifice and my heart wants to be present also. Seems like many people are reconciling themselves to just not being able to be near Mass. Quite possibly the result will be that a lot of people are permanently going to see it as mattering less to actually be present at the liturgy.

  6. Aussie Mum

    We are so happy here. Just a little while ago this morning it was announced that Cardinal Pell’s conviction has been overturned by the High Court of Australia and his acquittal placed on the record. The decision by all 7 justices was unanimous and Cardinal Pell is free after 400 days of unjust imprisonment and solitary confinement. Thank you everyone who prayed for his release.

  7. Aussie Mum

    Re “We are one family”.
    Yes, members of His Body, all together, brothers and sisters in Him.
    My son and I have never met Cardinal Pell but we couldn’t be happier at the good news today if he were a member of our biological family.

  8. elizdelphi

    I was thrilled about Cardinal Pell!!! He will get to celebrate Easter Mass.

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