St. Kateri Tekakwitha “Lily of the Mohawks” (1656 – 1680)
St. Kateri was born near present day Auriesville, New York. Her mother, a captured Algonquin, was a Christian, while her father, a Mohawk chief, viewed the new religion with deep suspicion. Both parents died from smallpox when Kateri was four. Her own scarred face showed the marks of the disease, which also darkened her vision, causing her to stumble in the light. As a result her people called her Tekakwitha – “the one who walks groping her way.” When a Jesuit missionary arrived in her village in 1674 she requested baptism. She was given the name Kateri – a Mohawk version of Katherine.
Kateri’s conversion caused distress in her community, so much so her confessor feared for her safety and urged her to flee. Under cover of darkness she set off from her village by foot and traveled two hundred miles to a Christian mission near Montreal, where on Christmas Day, 1677, she made her First Communion.
Though free to practice her faith, she was still forced to grope her way in a world that supplied no clear models. She resisted the idea of marriage. When she proposed founding a convent, the idea was quickly dismissed. Nevertheless, in 1679 she made a public vow of chastity – the furthest she got with her dream of the religious life. Soon after, she fell ill and died on April 17, 1680, at the age of twenty-three. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012, with a feast day on July 14.
“I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Give Us THIS DAY, July 2021, 152, July 14, Liturgical Press