S+L logo

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Mohawk Mystic of
North America

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

April 17, 2018
Saint Kateri portrait by Lisa E. Brown
Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks", and the "Genevieve of New France" a Native Indian virgin of the Mohawk tribe, born according to some authorities at the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, according to others at the village of Gandaouge, in 1656; died at Caughnawaga, Canada, April 17, 1680. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin who had been captured by the Iroquois and saved from a captive's fate by the father of , to whom she also bore a son. When Tekakwitha was about four years old, her parents and brother died of small-pox, and the child was adopted by her aunts and a uncle who had become chief of the Turtle clan. Although small-pox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight and her manner was reserved and shrinking, her aunts began when she was yet very young to form marriage projects for her, from which, as she grew older, she shrank with great aversion. In 1667 the Jesuit missionaries Fremin, Bruyas, and Pierron, accompanying the Mohawk deputies who had been to Quebec to conclude peace with the French, spent three days in the lodge of Tekakwitha's uncle. From them she received her first knowledge of Christianity, but although she eagerly accepted it in her heart she did not at that time ask to be baptized. When Kateri was eighteen, Father Jacques de Lamberville arrived to take charge of the mission which included the Turtle clan, and from him, at her earnest request, Tekakwitha received baptism. From that moment onward, she practised her religion unflinchingly in the face of almost unbearable opposition, till finally her uncle's lodge ceased to be a place of protection to her and she was assisted by some Christian Natives to escape to Caughnawaga on the St. Laurence. Here she lived in the cabin of Anastasia Tegonhatsihonga, a Christian Native woman, her extraordinary sanctity impressing not only her own people but the French and the missionaries. Her mortifications were extreme, and many say that she attained the most perfect union with God in prayer.
Kateri’s whole life was devoted to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and the aged until she was struck with an illness that was to claim her life. On April 17th, 1680, on Wednesday of Holy Week, she died at 3 o'clock in the afternoon at the age of twenty-four. Her last words were: "Jesos Konoronkwa". "Jesus I Love You". Fifteen minutes after her death before the eyes of two Jesuits and all the Native Indians that could fit into the room, the ugly scars on her face suddenly disappeared.
Upon her death devotion to her began immediately to be manifested by her people. Many pilgrims visit her grave in Caughnawaga where a monument to her memory was built in 1884. June 22, 1980, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and beginning in 2008, the Canadian Church will celebrate her feast day on that day as well.
O God, who among the many marvels of Your Grace
in the New World,
did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk
and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha,
grant us the favor we beg through her intercession –
that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross
may soon be counted among her Saints
by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts
may be enkindled with a stronger desire
to imitate her innocence and faith.
Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen .
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada