Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Katharine Drexel, March 3

St. Katharine was born into the Drexel family of Philadelphia, a family of great wealth and prominence in 1858. Her mother died when Katharine was only 5 weeks old. A year later her father, Francis Drexel, married Emma Bouvier, who welcomed Katharine and her older sister, Elizabeth, as if they were her own daughters. Katharine and Elizabeth were joined by a baby sister, Louise, a few years later. Together the three sisters were raised in a loving and devout Catholic family.

Emma Bouvier Drexel was a woman who possessed a great love for the poor. She fed numerous families every week and paid the rent for 150 families every month. The example to her daughters inspired and modeled how a Christian woman entrusted with great wealth was to be a good steward of the Lord's gifts. Katharine's father also had numerous charities that benefited generously from his benefactions.

From an early age Katharine had a love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and a love for those in need. However it was not immediately clear to her what vocation was to be hers. She felt called to the religious life and perhaps to the contemplative life, but her spiritual director, Bishop James O'Connor advised Katharine to "think, wait and pray." He thought that Katharine could better use the large fortune at her disposal to help the poor as a lay woman rather than as a religious. Torn between the direction of Bishop O'Connor and her inclination to the religious life and the perceived needs of Native American and African Americans, she decided to quietly ask Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to regions in the United States that served both groups during a private audience. Pope Leo XIII surprised Katharine when he suggested that she become a missionary! Startled by this proposal Katharine wrote her director of the pope's challenge . Bishop O'Connor realizing that Katharine indeed had a vocation to religious life encouraged her to form a religious order of her own to serve the Native Americans and African Americans in regions where needed.  Katharine agreed. This was the beginning of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. To read more about St. Katharine's life and the founding of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Tarry, Ellen (2000). St. Katharine Drexel – Friend of the Oppressed. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

St. Katharine Drexel's feast day often falls during Lent, as is the case this year. Instead of making some treat to celebrate her virtues of generosity towards those in need and her faithfulness to the Lord's call to found a religious order, why not make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in your parish with your children? Lent is a perfect time to introduce our children to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and how He waits to be visited by us. There are many times during Lent that a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament could be made. In my next post I will offer some suggestions for visiting Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with children. St. Katharine Drexel, pray for us.

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