Blessed. Kateri Tekakwitha
Today is the memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, virgin.
Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and and the “Geneviève of New France,” Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and a Catholic Algonquin woman whom he had saved from captivity at the hands of the Iroquois. She was four years old when her parents and younger brother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri, scarring her face and impairing her eyesight.
Kateri was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle. She converted as a teenager. When she was baptized at the age of twenty, she experienced great hostility from her tribe.
Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it. To escape persecution and death threats, Kateri joined the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified. At 23, she took a vow of virginity, a heroic and unprecedented act for a Native American woman, who was expected to marry.
She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980. Work is currently underway to have her Canonized by the Church. Hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St. Francis Xavierand Caughnawaga and at her birth place at Auriesville, New York. Pilgrimages at these sites continue today.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. She was beatified in 1980 and is scheduled to be canonized on October 21, 2012.
Patronage: Ecologists; ecology; environment; environmentalism; environmentalists; exiles; loss of parents; people in exile; people ridiculed for their piety; World Youth Day.
Symbols: lily (a symbol of her purity); a cross (a symbol of her love of Jesus Christ); or a turtle (a symbol of her clan).