Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Soon-to-be-saint, Kateri Tekakwitha
Today we commemorate Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. She was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and a Catholic Algonquin woman, born in 1656, in the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon near present-day Auriesville, New York. I was privileged to visit her birthplace, which is also the place honoring a National Shrine of the French Jesuits who brought the faith to the East coast, the North American martyrs. After losing her family to a smallpox epidemic (but surviving it herself), she dragged her disease-ravaged body over a long and arduous trail to arrive at the St. Francis Xavier mission near Montreal. There, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and set about teaching prayers to children and helping the infirmed.
A collage of images of Blessed Kateri
As the adopted daughter of the chief, she was courted by many of the warriors looking for her hand in marriage. However, during this time she began taking interest in Christianity, which was taught to her by her mother. Kateri's clan then settled on the north side of the Mohawk River. While living here, at the age of 20 years old, Tekakwitha was converted and baptized on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1676.
Understand that one facet of “medicine” held by these indigenous peoples roughly can be viewed as something unusual, extraordinary, out-of-place. Kateri, the Mohawk girl who set out to help others despite her scarred face and diminished eyesight, probably attracted quite a bit of attention at the mission. Those who were healthy probably recoiled a bit from her, perhaps in fear that she may still have the disease. Those with prejudices against the Native American people may have mistreated her, may have wondered what of value she might have to offer the mission and those who settled there. Yet, she was most likely a godsend to those people. After all of the smoke cleared, after generations of soldiers and hunters came and went, it was Kateri Tekakwitha who was constantly remembered as the one who gave prayers to the children and relief to the sick and aged.
Possibly the most authentic portrait of Kateri
She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of 24. It is said that on her deathbed, her last words were spoken in her native tongue, translating to “Jesus, I love you.” According to eyewitness accounts, Kateri's scars vanished at the time of her death revealing a woman of immense beauty. It has been claimed that at her funeral many of the ill who attended were healed on that day. She was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943. She was later beatified on June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II. She will become the third American-born saint in October later this year, along with Blessed Marianne Cope, who will be the fourth American saint.

No comments:

Post a Comment