Saint of the Day – 14 July – Saint Kateri ‘Catherine’ Tekakwitha (1656–1680) aged 24 Virgin laywoman, Penitent, Ascetic – known as Lily of the Mohawks – born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Osserneon (Auriesville), modern New York, USA and died on 17 April 1680 at Caughnawaga, Canada of natural causes. Patronages – ecologists, ecology, environment, environmentalism, environmentalists, loss of parents, people in exile, people ridiculed for their piety, Native Americans, Igorots, Cordilleras,Thomasites, Northern Luzon, Diocese of Bangued, Vicariate of Tabuk, Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe, Diocese of Baguio, Marikina City, Cainta, Rizal, Antipolo City, Philippines.
Kateri contracted smallpox in an epidemic; her family died and her face was scarred. She converted to Roman Catholicism at age twenty, when she was renamed Kateri Catherine, baptised in honour of Saint Catherine of Siena. Refusing to marry, she left her village and moved for the remaining five years of her life to the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada.
Kateri took a vow of perpetual virginity. Upon her death at the age of 24, witnesses said that minutes later her scars vanished and her face appeared radiant and beautiful. Known for her virtue of chastity and mortification of the flesh, as well as being shunned by some of her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, she is the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and the first to be Canonised.
Under the pontificate of St Pope John Paul II, she was Beatified in 1980 and Canonised by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 October 2012 . Many miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.
This wonderful crown of new blesseds, God’s bountiful gift to His Church, is completed by the sweet, frail yet strong figure of a young woman who died when she was only twenty-four years old – Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks”, the Iroquois maiden, who in seventeenth century North America was the first to renew the marvels of sanctity of St Scholastica, Saint Gertrude, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Angela Merici and Saint Rose of Lima, preceding, along the path of Love, her great spiritual sister, Therese of Child Jesus.
She spent her short life partly in what is now the State of New York and partly in Canada. She was a kind, gentle and hardworking person, spending her time working, praying, and meditating. At the age of twenty she received Baptism. Even when following her tribe in the hunting seasons, she continued her devotions, before a rough cross carved by herself in the forest. When her family urged her to marry, she replied very serenely and calmly that she had Jesus as her only spouse. This decision, in view of the social conditions of women in the Indian Tribes at the time, exposed Kateri to the risk of living as outcast and in poverty. It was a bold, unusual and prophetic gesture – on 25 March, 1679, at the age of twenty-three, with the consent of her spiritual director, Kateri took a vow of perpetual virginity – as far as we know the first time that this was done among the North American Indians.
The last months of her life were an ever clearer manifestation of her solid faith, straight-forward humility, calm resignation and radiant joy, even in the midst of terrible sufferings. Her last words, simple and sublime, whispered at the moment of her death, sum up, like a noble hymn, a life of purest charity – “Jesus, I love you….”.
The Church has declared to the world that Kateri Tekakwitha is saint, that she lived a life on earth of exemplary holiness and that she is now a member in heaven of the Communion of Saints who continually intercede with the merciful Father on our behalf.
During the Canonisation ceremony on 21 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily – “Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other! May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we Entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America! May God bless the first nations!”