By Fr. Terry Kerner

On July 14th, we celebrate the feast of the "Lily of the Mohawks." The daughter of an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief she was born in 1656. When she was four years old her parents and brother died of smallpox epidemic. Kateri survived, but the disease left her scarred and her sight impaired. She was named "Tekakwitha," which means "she who bumps into things." Kateri's uncle took her in, and although she wanted to practice the religion of her mother, her uncle discouraged her. Despite tragedy, she was a devout girl at a young age, often building crosses from sticks in the woods. Her uncle gave his permission for her to become a Christian as long as she did not leave the village. There, she put up with ridicule because of her faith. When she was 18, she began secret instruction in the Catholic faith with French missionaries. Her commitment to Christianity and vow of virginity was misunderstood and ridiculed by her fellow villagers. She escaped to a nearby mission, where she attended daily Mass, taught the children, and cared for the sick and the elderly.

After a time, in 1676, Kateri fled to Canada where she made her first Communion on Christmas, 1677. Like St. Kateri, God invites us to be faithful to our commitments of faith and to always respond in love. Although the last years of her life were difficult, Kateri was known for her kindness and good humor.

She died on April 17, 1680 and was canonized by Pope Benedict in 2012. St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American woman to be canonized.


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