Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

“What is morally required of an ordinary person in order to be called a good person?” Whatever it is, today we remember two people who went beyond the requirement. What makes a person morally ordinary (or “cool”) is precisely that they do not go beyond or below the standard for goodness. When one goes below the standard they are deemed “blameworthy.” If they go beyond the standard they may be called “exemplary” or even “saints.” But they won’t be “cool”; we may admire their moral courage, but avoid regarding them as moral authorities.

Should we lament this? The challenge that they present us is not to copy them, but to admire them and the virtues they represent. If we fail to admire, we will resent and diminish and distort the virtues and values that make for human flourishing.

The two people we remember today are St. Kateri Tekakwitha and our brother, and her great admirer, Fr. Kenneth Tietjen. St. Kateri is the first Native American to be canonized. She was ostracized by her people for her devotion to Christianity. A member of the Mohawk tribe, she embraced a different and higher ethical standard than such people in her community. That will often cause marginalization by the “morally ordinary”, the ‘cool.”

What such persons must remember is that we honor today not the accomplishment of these two persons, but the power by which they lived.