When I was in elementary school, my parents splurged on a membership to the Catholic Youth Book Club. I was an avid reader, and we lived quite a distance from the library—so each month I’d thrill to tear open the box which arrived in our mailbox, and to reveal the new hardcover biography of one of the saints. I collected the books on a shelf beside my bed, and I read them over and over: adventures of great missionaries, heroic martyrs, and noble young women.
One of my favorites was Kateri Tekakwitha: Lily of the Mohawks. My grandparents once gave me an Indian doll with tiny beaded necklace, and I named the doll “Kateri”—which was, after all, a derivative of my own name, so I felt a special kinship toward her.
Kateri taught me bravery and fidelity. Raised by her uncle after her parents and brother died of smallpox, she converted to Christianity despite the disapproval of her family. She was chastised by her kinfolk for her religious zeal, and she added mortifications of her own to increase her sanctity. Kateri often slept upon thorns or walked on hot coals, and she offered her pains in union with the suffering of the crucified Christ.
When her Mohawk kin threatened her life, Kateri fled to an established community of Native American Christians in Quebec. There she lived a life of prayer, penance, and care of the sick and aged. She took a vow of chastity, and she died at the young age of 24. Her last words were “Jesus, I love you.”
Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II, and her feastday is July 14. Included here is the oldest known portrait of the holy young maid, painted by Jesuit Father Chauchetière after her death.
Prayer for the Canonization
of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the
same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.