The young woman now honored with such beautiful titles as "the Lily of the Mohawks" and "the Wonderworker of the New World" was born in 1656 at Ossernenon, a village of longhouses which stood on a high hill overlooking the Mohawk River. The daughter of a Turtle Clan chief and a Christian Algonquin captive, she was orphaned at the age of four when a smallpox epidemic decimated Ossernenon. With a pockmarked face and damaged eyesight from her own struggle with the dreaded disease, Tekakwitha was raised in the longhouse of her father's brother and successor.
When Tekakwitha was in her late teens, French Jesuits established a mission in her uncle's village. The Mohawk chief distrusted and disliked the Christian Blackrobes, but grudgingly allowed their presence as a party of a treaty with the French.
Despite her uncle's stern objection to the Blackrobes and their faith, Tekakwitha was deeply impressed by their words — perhaps they brought back childhood memories of her mother's whispered prayers — and gladly risked her family's disapproval to be baptized. With a joyful heart, she became a follower of Christ and took the name Catherine, in her language, Kateri. Subjected to persecution in her village, she fled over 300 miles to the safety of Caughnawaga, a mission village near the French settlement of Montreal. In this place, often called the Praying Castle, her already deep faith flourished. She died there several years later at the age of 24. Devotion to the holy girl began almost immediately. She was beatified on June 20, 1980 and is now one miracle away from sainthood.
In the familiar prayer for her canonization, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is referred to as "this young lover of Jesus and of His Cross." Her great devotion to Our Lord is one of the most profound aspects of her story and one that is occasionally overlooked these days when her life is simplified and sentimentalized. Yet it was Kateri herself who said, "I have given my soul to Jesus in the Eucharist and my body to Jesus on the Cross."
From the Lily and the Cross.
My Del.icio.us links for this saint.