Lily of the Mohawks

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon near present day Auriesville, New York .  Her father was a Mohawk Chieftain and her mother was an Algonquin Catholic convert, initially a captive of the Mohawks, who eventually married Kateri’s father.  During a smallpox epidemic between 1661-1663 tragedy struck her family, with smallpox killing her parents and her brother.  Her face was scarred as a result of smallpox and her sight diminished.  She was adopted by an uncle.

Converted by Jesuit missionaries, she joined the Church, despite opposition from her family, on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676.  Fleeing persecution among her people she moved to Kahnawake, a village established south of Montreal by Jesuits for native converts.  There Kateri embarked upon a life of asceticism, although cautioned against going to extremes by her Jesuit friends.  She impressed them by her piety and the goodness that seemed to shine forth from her.  She died young on Wednesday in Holy Week on April 17, 1680.  Her last words were “Jesus I love you”.

Then the miracles began.  First, within fifteen minutes of her death her smallpox ravaged face was transformed into a visage of surpassing beauty.  Within a week of her death she appeared to two of her friends and a Jesuit priest.   Father Claude Chauchetière built a chapel in her honor in the village, and pilgrimages began to be made to it.  In 1884 the Catholic Church in America, followed by the Catholic Church in Canada, opened a canonization cause for her.  On January 3, 1943 Pope Pius XII declared her Venerable and on June 22, 1980 she was beatified by John Paul II.  Yesterday Pope Benedict canonized her as a Saint.

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (9)  
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  1. Her canonization brings a smile and a prayer. I identified with St. Kateri in seventh grade or so, late ’60s, attending a Catholic school, when I read a biography of her. Her name and mine are derivatives of Katherine, and though my ancestors are Irish, 100%, like many of my friends from the neighborhood back then, and I knew no Indians/Natives, she was from somewhere nearby, relatively, Syracuse way. This was Buffalo, my home city.

    The Lily was courage it seemed to me. But I had one problem with her, the same one I had with the Virgin Mary. What’s a virgin? No clue. A different era.

    • “What’s a virgin? No clue. A different era.”

      A sadly accurate Swiftian comment Kathleen!

      • They used to let kids be kids didn’t they? I gave up half-way through The Scarlet Letter for the same reason about that time. Not being married with a baby was the wrong thing to happen, that I grasped, but not the missing link. Couldn’t figure out how to commit adultery.

      • Hawthorne was always a yawn fest as far as I was concerned, and thus I never made my way through any of his scribblings.

      • I never went back but I have bought it recently second-hand and will suspend judgment and try him again. ; ] Along with other books on that reading list I ignored. The one handed out imperiously the summer before freshman year of high school, did that happen to you? I wondered about “Swiftian” but it got through that I never read Jonathan Swift. Ohmanohman…

      • High school English left me with a deep dislike for “Silas Marner” and most of Dickens, except for A Tale of Two Cities. On the other hand I discovered such masters of the tongue on my own at that time as Gibbon, Pope, Swift and Defoe. Swift’s A Modest Proposal helped shape my sense of humor.

        Kipling first came to my attention, other than the Jungle Book movie, in a Junior High English class and I will always be grateful for that.

      • Hmmm I’ll keep it all in mind. I am a fan of your Kipling posts and have been reading Just So Stories. A sense of the ridiculous is a source of strength to those who make a living dealing with the public or being of service to anyone IMO. Better late than never. Did appreciate lives of the saints. St. Kateri. One little person.

  2. I skimmed A Modest Proposal some years ago and saw his humor but it did aggravate me. I’ll try again.

  3. Does anybody know why St Kateri’s remains are entombed in Quebec, Canada? We Americans are claiming this Saint as the first Native American to become a Saint. Is there a definition of Native American that ascribes the term to include people native to North, South and Central America?

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