Sunday, April 17, 2011
April 17 -- Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
The daughter of a Christian Algonquin woman captured and married to a non-Christian Mohawk chief, Tekakwitha was raised in an eastern Mohawk village. An outbreak of smallpox struck in 1660, killing her parents and little brother, but the tribe elected her uncle to be the next chief. Tekakwitha was partially blinded and her face was scarred from the smallpox, but she became very adept at detailed embroidery. Jesuits lodged with the tribe and baptized Tekakwitha, who selected the name Kateri (Catherine) as her Christian name. He uncle did not oppose the baptism, but he did not want her to move away to a Christian settlement, as many other converts had done.
Kateri was courted by many Mohawk men, but she remained abstinent for her faith. This caused derision among the Mohawks at first, but eventually her decision provoked their anger. There were threats of violence, making her uncomfortable enough to seek escape from the village.
A Christian Oneida chief called Hot Cinders (bad temper) busted her out, and though her uncle tried to recover her, she fled to Sault-Saint-Somebody (one source says Marie, the other says Louis). Living a life of model devotion (up for prayers at 4:00 AM, praying through the day, followed by evening prayers, with a little work in between to break it up), she requested permission to become a nun. The idea was ridiculous, of course, since she was a Native American, but she did take her own vow of chastity and live her life as if she were a nun.
The nuns might not have let her join them, but she was the first American Indian to be beatified. April 17 is her feast day, and they, whoever they were, are just remembered as "the nuns." On October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized her, making her the first Native American saint. The story of her posthumous miracle healing and her canonization ceremony is linked here. Mother Marianne Cope was also canonized on October 21, 2012 and will have to be written about at the next opportunity.
Posted by Tom Major at 6:10 AM