Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior, was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York. “Tekakwitha” was her Native American name. It means “she who bumps into things”! Her feast day in the United States is on July 14. Check the events being celebrated at her national shrine in Fonda, New York.
When European settlers arrived in North America in the sixteenth century, they inadvertently brought with them deadly diseases, including small pox. These diseases often spread among Native American populations, killing countless people. Tekakwitha’s parents were among those killed by small pox, when she was just four years old. Tekakwitha also contracted the disease. Although she survived small pox, she was left badly disfigured and with impaired eyesight. Orphaned and sickly, she was taken in by relatives who tended to her care.
In 1667, when Tekakwitha was around eleven years old, Jesuit missionaries arrived in her village. Tekakwitha’s uncle forbade her to have any contact with them. He did not want her to convert to Christianity. Over time, however, as she learned more about Jesus and his message of compassion and love, she was drawn to the Catholic faith. On Easter Sunday, in 1676, when she was twenty years old, Tekakwitha was baptized and received into the Church. It was then that she took the name Kateri, Mohawk for Catherine.
More members of Kateri’s tribe opposed her conversion and treated her with cruelty. Kateri faced this treatment with patience and courage. Eventually, Kateri left her village and went to live among other Christians, where she could freely practice her faith. She lived a life dedicated to prayer and to the care of the sick and aged, and had an intense devotion to the Eucharist.
When Kateri was twenty-four years old, she became ill and soon died. Moments after her death, her body was transformed. The scarred complexion was replaced by beautiful radiance. There were many witnesses to this occurrence.
After her death, Kateri became known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.” Because of her example, many Native Americans were baptized. Kateri was beatified in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.