Today the Church honors Kateri Tekakwitha, our first Native American saint. I don’t agree with some of Kateri’s attitudes, but it takes all kinds to make a heaven, and maybe I am wrong about it.
The outline of Kateri’s life saw her born in 1656 as the child of a Mohawk chief and a captured Algonquin mother. Most of our Catholic stories from those decades come from the French Jesuits who settled with the Huron nation, the enemies of the Mohawks, who were part of the Iroquois nation that traded with the English and the Dutch.
Kateri was four in 1660 when the European-brought Smallpox took off her parents and sisters, leaving her scarred for life. Afterwards she always wore a towel around her head to hide her disfigurement.
She was seventeen when her Mohawk people made peace with the Jesuits. That brought her and her young lady companions into reading about the saints of the Egyptian desert.
Those were the ancients who outdid each other in performing acts that punished the flesh to strengthen the soul. Kateri, baptized at age nineteen on Easter of 1775, was formally given the name of Catherine, after Catherine of Sienna. From then on she intensified her acts of penance, punishing the body to strengthen the soul.
My views, for what they are worth, do not go along with that. I like to point out that the ancient Greek Plato taught that our souls were created before our bodies. It had his followers eeing our bodies as the prisons for our souls. That led those desert saints to afflicting their bodies to make them free their souls,
From the Middle Ages on our Church has preferred the views of Aristotle, who taught that bodies and souls are created together. That leads us to see that holiness is achieved when we have healthy souls in healthy bodies.