St. Katharine Drexel

On March 3, the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family’s fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and American Indian populations of the United States.

Katharine was born November 26, 1858, into a wealthy and well-connected banking family. The family's wealth, however, did not prevent them from living out a serious commitment to their faith.

Her mother opened up the family house three times a week to feed and care for the poor, and her father had a deep personal prayer life. Both parents encouraged their daughters to think of the family's wealth not as their own, but as a gift from God which was to be used to help others.

During the summer months, Katharine and her sisters would teach catechism classes to the children of the workers on her family’s summer estate. The practice would prepare her for a life of service, with a strong focus on education and attention to the poor and vulnerable.

While traveling with her family through the Western U.S., Katharine witnessed the poor living conditions of the Native Americans. Eventually, while still a laywoman, she would give much of her own money to fund the missions and schools in these seriously deprived areas.

Eventually, however, the young heiress would give more than just funding to these much-needed missions and schools. She would decide to devote her whole life to the social and spiritual development of black and American Indian communities.

The inspiration for this work came to her during a visit to Rome, where she was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. During that time, Katharine had been considering a vocation to cloistered contemplative life as a nun. But when she asked Pope Leo XIII to send missionaries to Wyoming, he told Katharine she should undertake the work herself.

In February of 1891, she made her first vows in religious life – formally renouncing her fortune and her personal freedom, for the sake of growing closer to God in solidarity with the victims of injustice.

Although African-Americans had been freed from slavery, they continued to suffer serious abuse, and were often prevented from obtaining even a basic education. Much the same situation held in the case of the native American Indians, who had been forcibly moved into reservations over the course of the 19th century.

Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, for the purpose of living with these communities while helping them acquire education and grow in faith.

Between 1891 and 1935 she led her order in the founding and maintenance of almost 60 schools and missions, located primarily in the American West and Southwest. Among the prominent achievements of Drexel and her order is New Orleans' Xavier University, the only historically black Catholic college in the U.S.

Katharine was forced into retirement for the last 20 years of her life after she suffered a severe heart attack. Although she was no longer able to lead her order, she left the sisters with her charism of love and concern for the missions.

She died on March 3, 1955 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.


Jeremiah 18:18-20

18 Then they said, "Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not heed any of his words."
19 Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to my plea.
20 Is evil a recompense for good? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them, to turn away thy wrath from them.


Matthew 20:17-28

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them,
18 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death,
19 and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.
21 And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."
22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."
23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.
26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;
28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


Psalms 31:5-6, 14-16

4 take me out of the net which is hidden for me, for thou art my refuge.
5 Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
13 Yea, I hear the whispering of many -- terror on every side! -- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, "Thou art my God."
15 My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors!


Lord, may my life be one of humble service.

Wednesday   March 3 2021
2nd Week of Lent
Jer. 18:18-20;  Ps. 30:5-6,14,15-16;
Mt. 20:17-28   (Ps Wk II)

Speaking the truth to people of power is never easy, and Jeremiah knew that well. God ordered Jeremiah to deliver the bad news to those in authority: the nation was corrupt and spiritually sick. They had to return to the ways of God. But people preferred the false prophets who told authorities what they wanted to hear: everything is just fine! A plot was hatched against Jeremiah to silence him, but God protected him. We should never be intimidated for speaking the truth or standing up for what is right.

The sons of Zebedee had walked with Jesus so long, but they still didn’t understand his teachings. They could only think of basking in his power and glory, so they made a ‘power move.’ They asked for the two choice seats in his kingdom, one at his right and the other at his left. Just imagine how disappointed and frustrated Jesus must have felt when he heard their request. He explained that they would have to share his suffering and martyrdom, and they agreed, implying that it was ‘no big deal.’ Rash words! Jesus again insisted that true greatness and true discipleship was all about humility and loving service. He warned them not to copy the examples of governance and human relationships in the culture around them. They were all based on domination and lording it over others. He pointed to himself, declaring that he had come not to be served but to serve. It can be no less for all of us.

Lord, may my life be one of humble service.