Portrait of Saint a Kateri, the Lily of the Mohawks.
Nine years after St. Issac Jogues and his companions were killed near the Mohawk village of Ossenernon, (in modern upstate NY), Kateri was born in 1656. Her father was a Mohawk chief in the Iroquois nation and her mother a Catholic Algonquin who had been taken captive and given as a wife to the chief.
Smallpox wiped out her family when she was only 4, and the disease left her badly scarred and partially blind. The sun hurt her eyes and she often wore a blue shawl over her head to shade them. The name “Tekakwitha” can be translated to mean “The One Who Walks Groping for Her Way”, or more poetically and my favorite “The One Who Puts Everything in Order”.
After the death of her parents and brother she was taken in by an uncle who despised Christians. Though interested by the presence of the “black robes”, it wasn’t until she turned 18 that she began learning about the faith in secret from the Jesuit missionaries. Her uncle finally allowed her to become Christian if she promised to stay in the village. However her decision to become baptized caused some in the community to cruelly ridicule her and even threaten her life.
She fled to a settlement in Canada where she lived out the rest of her short life, and it is told that people would often gather in close to her as she prayed because they felt the presence of God just being near to her. Having been in poor health much of her life, she died from illness at just 24 years old.
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