Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
By Armando Giraldo
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the “Lily of Mohawk”, was born in 1656, was declared venerable in 1943, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, making Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. She has yet to be canonized but will be on October 21, 2012 and her feast day is July 14. Bl. Tekakwitha is responsible for establishing Native American ministries all over the United States and Canada.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born in Auriesville, New York in the year 1656, the exact date is unknown, and was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. When she was four, Bl. Tekakwitha watched her mother die from smallpox. Bl. Tekakwitha was also infected with smallpox, and while she survived, her face was disfigured by the disease. Soon after her mother’s death, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle. During her teenage years she converted and at the age of twelve she was baptized, which caused her to gain a great amount of hostility from her tribe, and refused marriage to remain devoted to her faith to the Lord. Even with the hostility she received from her tribe, she never abandoned her faith, and soon left for a new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. On leaving for this new Christian colony, she devoted her life to caring for the sick, prayer, the Eucharist and Christ crucified. She would go out into the fields, even in the coldest weather during the winter, and pray to the Virgin Mary for quite some time. Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha died at the age of twenty-four on April 17, 1680.
Blessed Tekakwitha is a good role model for many Catholics to look up to while attempting to deepen their faith. Through her example of her life from when she was a child until she died a young woman, she held onto her faith no matter what obstacles may have been in her way. Many of us have lost people in our lives to death, and Bl. Tekakwitha was no stranger to that. Losing her mother at a young age, and having her face physically changed from a disease, demonstrated her strength as a youth to handle devastating situations in life, and never to let her sorrows get in the way of bettering herself.
After being orphaned and adopted by her aunt and uncle, she converted to the faith at only the age of twelve and received a large amount of hostility from her tribe, especially her uncle who was the chief. He had planned for her to wed but because she wanted to devote her life to the Lord and the Eucharist, she refused and created much conflict in her tribe because of her faith. How many of us go through the same situation in our lives? I’m sure many. The society we have today will tell us that believing in our faith isn’t worth it, it’s a waste of time, and is for the weak. Many times when people would say they are Catholic, there are others who would see them as a crazy person for believing in a God that you cannot see, hear, touch, smell or taste. They don’t believe beyond their five senses and thus refuse to believe in something that is not of this world. For those who do, we are seen as condemners because our faith says that we can only gain eternal life through Jesus Christ and the Eucharist. The people who don’t believe in the faith would say that, because of this, we are condemning them.
The situation with Bl. Tekakwitha is that her tribe had forbidden her to have such a faith, attempted to force her to marry when she refused, and were hostile to her. She, however, remained firm in her faith, in her choice to follow the Lord for eternal life, and went against her tribe and family. This is a perfect example of how we should demonstrate our faith throughout our lives; to live it for God and Jesus Christ and defend our faith even against our own family.
Bl. Tekakwitha is one of the many great examples of a person answering the vocation God has called them to. Though her tribe and family were trying to force her into the vocation of marriage, she knew that it wasn’t the life God had in store for her and that she wouldn’t be able to live the life God wanted her to through marriage. At the time, it was very uncommon for a woman to not be wed and mother children, but knowing her vocation, Bl. Tekakwitha refused marriage and remained a virgin to grow closer to the Lord, going against the customs of her tribe. It is very hard to hear the Lord’s calling in our daily lives as we are constantly moving and have work or plans. We make so little time for the Lord that we may go a day without praying, which is a day lost. Through the example of Bl. Tekakwitha we see how she made time for the Lord, no matter how small it was, and never allowed obstacles to get in her way for time for the Lord.