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Today is the Feast of Saint Katherine Drexel (1858-1955), Apostle to "the Indians & the Colored",

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Luke 13: 1 - 9


1 There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?
3 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo'am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
6 And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
7 And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?'
8 And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure.
9 And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

Psalms 103: 1 - 4, 6 - 8, 11


1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
1 Corinthians 10: 1 - 6, 10 - 12


1 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 and all ate the same supernatural food
4 and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
5 Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did.
10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
11 Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.
12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
*†ç If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did just that.

She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn.

She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities.

Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions.

She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!”

After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states.

Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans.

At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.

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