Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
The Lily of the Mohawks
by PaulaAnne SharkeyLemire
used with permission
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Born: 1656, Ossernenon (now Auriesville, New York)
Baptized: April 5, 1676, Caughnawaga (now Fonda, New York)
Died: April 17, 1680, Saint Francis-Xavier Mission, Quebec
Patron: authors, educators, journalists, teachers, writers, deaf people, deafness
Beatified: June 22, 1980
Feast Day: April 17 (Canada), July 14 (United States)
Symbol: lilies, a young woman in Native American clothing, often holding a cross
Patroness of Ecology
A daughter of two different Native American nations, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the Mohawk Valley in what is now New York State. Her father was a Mohawk chief, her mother a Christian Algonquin captive. When Tekakwitha was four, her parents and infant brother died from smallpox. Tekakwitha suffered from the same illness, but recovered. The disease left her face covered with little scars and her vision was damaged. She was adopted by her father's brother and his wife.
When Tekakwitha was in her late teens, French priests built a mission at Caughnawaga, her uncle's village. Tekakwitha was very shy and her uncle ordered her not to speak with the "Blackrobes," as the priest were called. But Tekakwitha remembered her mother had been a Christian and wanted to learn more about her mother's faith.
One day, a foot injury kept Tekakwitha home alone. Father Jacques de Lamberville, one of the Blackrobes, passed by her door. He didn't think anyone was there but, for some reason, decided to look in. Tekakwitha was glad to see him and told him that she wished to be a Christian.
Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday of 1676. She took the name Kateri; it is the Mohawk version of Catherine. She took her new faith to heart and had a great love for Jesus and His holy mother, Mary.
Kateri's family did not approve of her new religion. They insulted her and treated her like a slave. They tried to trick her into marrying against her will. She had to run away to a mission village near Montreal, Canada. It was a long journey of over three hundred miles made on foot and by canoe.
At the Saint Francis-Xavier Mission, Kateri made her First Holy Communion. On that day - it was Christmas, 1677 - her poor eyes, which could not bear the light of the sun, shone with the light of the Son.
Kateri was known for her great love and kindness. She helped nurse the sick, looked after children and tended to the elderly. Her motto was, "Who will teach me what is most pleasing to God so I may do it?"
Kateri spent long hours in prayer, either in the little mission church or before a cross she had cut into the bark of a tree. Her rosary was always at hand and she prayed it often.
Kateri wished to become a nun. She wanted to build a tiny convent on an island near the mission. Her confessor decided that she was too young and inexperienced for such a lifestyle. Still, Kateri wished to dedicated her whole life to Jesus Christ. So she took a vow of virginity and promised herself to Jesus forever.
After a long and painful illness, Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680. She was twenty-four years old. Her last whispered words were, "Jesus, Mary, I love You!"
Fifteen minutes later, the ugly smallpox scars faded and a sweet smile appeared on her lips. It was as if a ray of Heaven's light were shining upon her suddenly beautiful face.
Soon, people began to call her the Lily of the Mohawks in honor of her pure, good life. They began to pray to her and ask for her aid. Her grave became a place of pilgrimage and her story spread to many parts of the world.
Just before she died, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha promised to pray for and help her friends from Heaven. Three hundred years later, she still does.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, bright star of love and faith,
Be my guide and guardian always.
Kateri, flower of purity and prayer,
Be my advocate before God, especially in my present need.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
O God, who among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through Your intercession; that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the Saints by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ Our Lord.