Saint of the Month

St. Kateri Tekakwitha
March Saint of the Month

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is was born in 1656 in a Mohawk village in present day New York. At the age of four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic. Kateri survived smallpox, but she was left disfigured and half blind. Kateri’s uncle, who succeeded her father as chief, raised her.  Her uncle disliked the coming of the Blackrobes, which were Jesuit missionaries, but he could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. Kateri was moved by the words of the Blackrobes, but fear of her uncle kept her quiet. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri, which is derivative of Catherine, on Easter Sunday. After Kateri’s conversion, the Mohawks treated Kateri like a slave. Because Kateri would not work on Sunday, she received no food for that day. She was powerfully moved by God’s love for human beings. She saw the dignity of each of her people and often meditated on the great dignity of being baptized. Kateri was always in danger because her holy life created great opposition. She took the advice of a priest and ran away one night to begin her 200-mile walking journey to a Christian Indian village at Sault St. Louis, near Montreal, Canada. There, Kateri grew in her faith under the direction of a priest and an older Iroquois woman. She gave herself to God in prayer, in charity, and in strenuous penance. Kateri and two friends wanted to start a community, but the local priest dissuaded her. She humbly accepted an “ordinary” life. Kateri practiced severe fasting as penance for the conversion of her Mohawk nation. St. Kateri Tekakwitha died in 1680, on the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her weak face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. Lines of suffering and her scars from smallpox disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. St. Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified in 1980 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012. She is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Kateri is the patron saint of ecology and the environment. We celebrate the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha on July 14.