Yesterday was the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, she lived between 1656 and 1680 and was the first Native American canonized a saint on October 21, 2012. She was the daughter of an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief was her father. Her mother is referred to in some sources as ‘Christianized’ but it is unknown what she taught Kateri since, when she was only four, her mother and the rest of her family would die from small pox which she would survive but she would be left severely scarred by the illness. Her uncle, also a Mohawk chief, would raise her.
As a young girl she would hear three visiting Jesuits and be impressed by their words and actions. When she came of age her uncle proposed numerous men for a spouse, but she refused all of them, instead choosing to stay single despite punishments from her uncle. Around the age of 19 or 20 she would receive some instruction in Christianity and be baptized with the name of Catherine, which was spoken as Kateri in the Mohawk language.
With her conversion she would also take a vow of chastity, becoming even more firm in her resolve not to marry and even less popular with her anti-Christian uncle and others in the village. She would leave that village in the state of New York where she had lived and travel north to a Christian Indian mission near Montreal and become known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.” She would only live to the age of 24 at which time she would die of an illness. Along with her holy and devout life particularly witnessed over the last few years there were also numerous miracles and favors claimed to have occurred due to her intercession beginning almost immediately after her death.
The Bishops of the United States of America first petitioned to Pope Leo XIII in 1884 to begin the beatification process for Kateri with the documents eventually submitted in 1931 and she would be declared Venerable in 1943. In 1980 she would be declared Blessed and canonized a Saint finally in 2012. She is considered a patron saint for the environment and ecology as well as of Native Americans. As you can see, being declared a saint isn’t an easy journey. But the most important part all began with how she lived her life before 1680, in a manner that would result in her eternity in heaven. She and all the Saints continue to offer ustheir intercessory prayers, may we look to them for help and inspiration in our lives.