Profound Beauty – Kateri

I propose Saint Kateri as an inspiration to those who feel insecure because of their physical appearance, and offer a perspective on beauty.

I met a girl who feels disadvantaged because of how she looks. Feeling insecure and often moody, she believes her body and form are out of shape. As a result, she avoids socializing with people and feels discomfort at the possibility of meeting new friends.

Are you in any way not confident about yourself? Do you feel disadvantaged because of the way you look? Maybe a bad accident or a fire outbreak disfigured a part of your body. Or you have a hormonal problem, a hereditary trait, or simply aging has made you less and less confident in yourself?

Would it help you to realize that inner beauty is more profound than what the so-called models sell us through commercials? You know those commercials? The more you consume them, the less you discover your inner beauty.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a Model

Suppose you would love a spiritually edifying story. The example of a native Indian of the Mohawk tribe could inspire you. She is popularly called the Lily of the Mohawks, a beautiful nickname, isn’t it? Her name is Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680).

Ever cherished is the beauty of the lily—one of the top five flowers used for gifts in the world. The lily (there are different species) symbolizes purity and refined beauty.

Refined beauty? Who doesn’t want to be seen as that? Such was the imagery employed in talking about the Mohawk girl, the first Native American saint in the United States of America and Canada. Her name is Kateri Tekakwitha. Look up her story. It’s fascinating.  The aspect I want us to focus on is the symbolism of her name, Tekakwitha.

Her peers called her Tekakwitha because of a deformity she suffered as a child. She was a survivor of the smallpox epidemic that took her parents and brother’s lives when she was four years old. The epidemic also left her body with scars and affected her vision. “Tekakwitha” means “she who bumps into things,” indicating that her poor sight made her vision blurry, causing her to bump into things constantly as she ambulates.

Discovering Profound Beauty

Despite her sight and skin condition, she found a more profound joy and beauty by discovering the source of beauty. When she embraced God in the Catholic Christian faith, her joy knew no bounds. But, unfortunately, her life in the native tribe would not be the same.

Kateri was not only exceptional for a positive image of herself as a woman in a male-dominated native tribe – feminists take note: she was also a symbol of beauty, purity, and positive self-image for the Mohawks for many generations.

Nothing would stop her from being herself because she found true beauty. It wasn’t simply the color or smoothness of her skin or the curves of her body. It was deep, profound, from within her soul, her heart, and her inner core. Beauty is like spirit, neither tarnished from the outside nor simply mapped by molecular compositions. It trumps them all. Beauty products that promote only one type of body as a model of beauty better learn that beauty is much more than body parts. The beautiful isn’t an ad pitch of the cosmetic media.

May what inspired this great girl (Saint Kateri)—the aesthetics of you being you in the beautiful world— inspire you. Draw from the profound beauty in the God-human relationship, a relationship with the Lord who invites us to find rest in him (see Matthew 11:28), and the joy of being in God’s image. May these inspire you too when you are weighed down by the thought, “I am not beautiful.”

Hold on to this: You are beautiful! God’s precious. Celebrate who you are!

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Fr. Maurice Emelu

The Reverend Dr. Maurice Emelu is the Chair of a number of non-profit boards and a professor of digital media and communication at John Carroll University, United States. His research and practices focus on digital storytelling and design, media aesthetics and theo-aesthetics. Dr. Emelu lives where digital media technology meets culture, communication, philosophy, theology and society. He is the founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc.

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