“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29).
Many are familiar with this Bible verse and how it instructs Christ’s followers to not be anxious or worried. It challenges one to look to the higher things in life rather than material things.
It may even cause some to recall William E. Barrett’s novel, Lilies of the Field, which was made into a film in 1963. This American comedy demonstrates both the vivaciousness of the immigrant German missionary, the Reverend Mother, and the handy-man-for-hire, Homer Smith. Smith’s concern for money blinded him from perceiving what he could accomplish in building the Reverend Mother’s chapel, if he just gave his talent and commitment.
A beautiful example of commitment is the Lily of the Mohawks — St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Her feast day is today, July 14th. She was canonized in 2012, and she is remembered at both the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, NY and her own Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine and Historic Site in Fonda, NY.
Her story fits perfectly with this Bible verse as her commitment to God demonstrated immeasurable trust in His plan for her. She truly believed that the Lord’s plans were for her good and not for her downfall, despite her cultural upbringing.
Kateri was born into a Mohawk family near the village of Ossernenon in 1656. Ten years earlier, the valiant North American Martyrs had met their heavenly King giving their blood for the salvation of souls. Kateri Tekakwitha was one of those souls.
She was introduced to the Catholic faith through her Algonquin mother, but was orphaned early on in her life. Despite her uncle’s objections to Christianity and his desire for her to marry, she was baptized on Easter Sunday in 1676 receiving her Christian name, Catharine. Quickly, her faith grew and she desired to be Christ’s bride alone.
This was a vital step for a young woman living in a society where marriage was expected. The Mohawk tribe, among the many tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy, were matrilineal. This differs from western society, which maintains a patriarchal lineage.
Her decision was one of bravery as she defied cultural expectations. She embraced a solitary life among her own people as she continued to pursue a life dedicated to Christ. She was ridiculed and persecuted for her faith, until she fled in 1677 with another Christian Mohawk who returned to her village, along with one of her relatives.
In 1680, her frail health overcame her, and she passed into eternal life. Upon her death, the smallpox scars that she had received during an outbreak in her youth miraculously disappeared revealing her interior beauty through her exterior beauty.
Similar to Homer Smith, St. Kateri found her heavenly reward was far greater than what she could receive on earth. Although Homer Smith found reward in building the Reverend Mother’s chapel, his writing his name at the very top of the steeple demonstrates his conversion in realizing that commitment to this project reaped a reward far greater than fast money and the leisure of the road could ever give.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. . .”
St. Kateri Tekakwitha grew to be a strong and vibrant lily among her people. Her faith made her resilient to her environment and more courageous than any brave. Her example calls all to trust that God will provide and not to be afraid or anxious about what may come.
Instead, she challenges us to believe that Our Lord will not only provide for us, but that He has a plan for each of us. . .
“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Perhaps, there are times when we struggle to be as bold and brave as St. Kateri in embracing God’s call for our lives. In those moments, let us ask that St. Kateri Tekakwitha intercede for us to grow like Homer Smith, so that we can recognize the remarkable beauty of the lilies of the field until one day, by God’s grace, we can take our place among them.