Groping Our Way

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was canonized in 2012.

Kateri was raised in a Mohawk clan in New York in the middle of the 17th century. Deeply affected by the preaching of Jesuit missionaries, she converted to Catholicism when she was nineteen years old.

I only just learned the meaning of the name “Tekakwitha.” Smallpox left Kateri’s face scarred and affected her vision, causing her to stumble in the dark. It was for that reason that her people gave her the name “Tekakwitha,” which means “the one who walks groping her way.”

The one who walks grouping her way seems to me a pretty good description of – well – pretty much all of us.

We seek God. We seek to know God’s will and follow that. But we don’t get a clear Ikea-like set of instructions for living our lives in accordance with our faith. Discernment is a tricky process. And so “groping our way” is often a much more accurate image than “striding forward with clarity.” And as we grope, we wonder: Am I doing enough? Am I doing it good enough? Am I allocating my energies in the proper directions.

As soon as I saw the description of the meaning of Tekakwitha, I thought of Thomas Merton’s prayer of discernment. I’ve shared it here before, but I share it here again, since it is a prayer that always touches people.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Blessings to us all as we grope our way. May we do so with trust and without fear.