“Lily of the Mohawks”

Today is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. It is the first year that we celebrate this young woman’s life as a recognized Saint of the Catholic Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI canonized her last October. If you work with children or adolescents, she is a great young saint that should be given to them to explain holiness.

The “Lily of the Mohawks” was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York (Auriesville). She was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1676. Because of her poor eyesight from smallpox – she was named, “Tekakwitha” – “she who bumps into things.”

At an early age, she went to live with her uncle who was a Mohawk. He was opposed to Christianity and the settlers who brought in the disease of small pox. St. Kateri wanted to dedicate her life to God and did not want to be arranged for marriage. At the age of 18, she began studies in the Catholic faith secretly. Her uncle was not in favor of her studies at first, but eventually let her become a Christian. Her fellow villagers heavily persecuted her because she converted to Christianity.

ste kateri.tif

Two years after her Baptism, she left her village and went to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier in Canada, just over what is now the United States of America and Canadian border. On Christmas 1677, St. Kateri received First Holy Communion and two years later she made a vow of perpetual virginity. She offered herself to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While in Canada, this young saint taught children prayers, worked with the elderly, and cared for the sick.  She would often go to mass in the morning and then in the evening.  She had a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Cross of Christ.

She endured great physical suffering because of her health. She died on April 17th, 1680 at the age of 23.  Her final words were – “Jesus –Mary – I love you.”

“Lord, You called the Virgin, St. Kateri, to shine forth among the Indian people as an example of purity of life. Grant, through her intercession, that all peoples of every tribe, tongue, and nation, may be gathered into Your Church and proclaim Your greatness in one song of praise. Amen. 

April and I with relic of St. Kateri

(My friend, April Yeager, and I with a relic of St. Kateri Tekakwitha)

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