Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Lily of the Mohawks

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As the Church prepares to welcome seven new saints this month, ZENIT will feature an article, from Oct. 11 -21, on each of these remarkable servants of God.

ROME, OCT. 12, 2012 ( Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), also known as Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha, is among those who will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21.

“All of us are inspired by the example of this young woman of faith who died three centuries ago this year. We are all edified by her complete trust in the providence of God, and we are encouraged by her joyful fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” commented John Paul II on the occasion of her beatification in 1980.

“Her beatification should remind us that we are all called to a life of holiness, for in Baptism God has chosen each one of us «to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence». Holiness of life – union with Christ through prayer and works of charity – is not something reserved to a select few among the members of the Church. It is the vocation of everyone,” John Paul II said.

She was born at Ossernenon, near Auriesville, New York, USA. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother was a Catholic Algonquin.

At the age of four she suffered from a smallpox attack, which also took the lives of her parents. Following this she was adopted by two aunts and her uncle and went to a new village, called Caughnawaga.

When Tekakwitha was eighteen, Father de Lamberville, a Jesuit missionary, came to Caughnawaga and established a chapel. At age twenty she was baptized and was given the name of Kateri, which is Mohawk for Catherine.

Her family did not accept her choice and she became a village outcast. She was threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her religion.

On July of 1677, Kateri left her village and fled more than 200 miles (322 km) through the woods, rivers, and swamps to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal.

Her journey took more than two months and there, she received her first Communion on Christmas Day 1677.  She also made a vow of perpetual virginity on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679. 

She taught prayers to children, cared for the elderly and the sick, and would often attend mass at sunrise and sunset. Although not formally educated and unable to read and write, Kateri led a life of prayer and penitential practices.

Kateri’s motto became, «Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God that I may do it?»

«I want to be a Christian, even though I should die for it,» she said Her foster parents deprived her of all food or Sunday because she would not work in the fields or that day.

Her poor health continued throughout her life and she died in 1680 at the age of 24.  Her last words were, «Jesus, I love You.» Moments after dying, her scarred and disfigured face miraculously cleared and was made beautiful by God. 

Kateri is known as «Lily of the Mohawks» or «Beautiful Flower Among True Men.» 

It is believed that since Kateri’s death many miracles have been performed through her intercession, with the sick being cured and many prayers being answered.  Kateri was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943, and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 

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On the NET: 

National Shrine of Kateri Tekakwitha –

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