Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel
St. Katharine Drexel is my favorite saint. I am awed by this extremely affluent, young heiress who chose a life of voluntary poverty so that she could donate her wealth and life to share the Gospel with underserved minority populations. She is a paragon of generosity and radical cooperation with God’s vocation for her life. She is the embodiment of the verse from today’s gospel, “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26).
Katharine also teaches us to listen to the holy helpers that God puts into our lives. When Katharine first started supporting African American and Native American missions, she did so monetarily. As a young socialite vacationing in Europe, she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She told him about the good work she funded and asked him to send more priests to minister directly to Native Americans.
“Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?”
Undoubtedly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father asked, “Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?” Exposed and afraid, Katherine ran out of the room crying! Her rash, completely human reaction gives me hope that I can attain holiness despite my similar cowardice and hesitation.
Even after Katharine responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, became a sister, and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she still needed holy friends to rein her in. Katharine traveled so much that she wore herself down completely and suffered a devastating heart attack while in the western U.S. Her beloved brother in-law travelled to accompany her home to the east coast.
Sometimes Serving Means Slowing Down
He convinced her to slow down because once she died, her missions would stop receiving her inheritance money. Despite being relegated to her motherhouse, Katharine counted the next twenty-one years as the most fruitful for her ministry. In her quiet life, she supported her sisters with her prayers and united herself more deeply to the Blessed Sacrament, which imbued her entire ministry. In her frailty, she came to recognize that her ministry did not depend entirely on her, but on God.
We all have a potential for great holiness. Sometimes, our plans, ambitions, and stubbornness can get in the way. Lord, send us companions who will help us to become as holy as you desire us to be.
Think of a friend who has encouraged you to serve God in a way you had not anticipated. Give thanks for that person.