Independence Day brings on board two great Americans, St. John Neumann and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Hard for us to believe today, John Neumann was born in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic and there was such an overabundance of priests, he had to find another country to live in if he wanted to pursue his vocation. Coming to New York to be ordained, establishing parish schools and ultimately becoming Bishop of Philadelphia, his is some story. But, the stories that touched me most were those surrounding his language skills. He took time to learn at least six different languages so that the immigrants could hear Mass and attend Confession in their own languages. Stories of making all feel welcome. In our own country, he literally taught all nations.
Tekakwitha lost her parents and brother to a smallpox epidemic and she was left with partial blindness and a scarred face. She became Catholic when she was 20 after some Jesuit missionaries came to her village. Her aunts and uncle were not happy with her new religion and she eventually had to flee to Canada to escape ridicule. Because she took the Lord's Day seriously, she would not work on that day but would spend time in prayer. Her aunts and uncle would deny her any food on that day since she would not work and her life was even threatened. She spent a lot of time in the woods making crosses from sticks and spending time in prayer. She is actually the patron of the environment and ecology and in these times, she would be a good one to prayer to for our planet. She needs a miracle to be declared a saint and we could use some help to save our lands.
So on this day to celebrate our freedom, we share a saint who welcomed all and a blessed who loved the land and it's environment. God Bless America.