October 18, 2012
WINGS - EWTN e-newsletter

This Week: Don't Miss the Canonization Mass of The First Native American Saint
By Michelle Laque Johnson

Blessed Kateri Tekakwita was a 17th Century Mohawk princess, but her life was far from glamorous. As a young girl, she was disfigured by smallpox, a disease which also greatly impaired her vision. For that reason, her name was changed from “Little Sunshine” to “Tekakwitha,” which reportedly means something like “gropes around, pushes things out of the way” and is indicative of a vision problem. She also lost her mother, her father, her brother, and her home -- and that’s just the first part of her life!

Blessed Kateri is one of two great North American women who will be canonized in Rome on Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI. The other is Blessed Marianne Cope, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, N.Y. The Canonization Mass airs live at 3:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 21, with an encore at 11 a.m. ET.

Here, we consider the life of Blessed Kateri because she is the first Native American saint to be canonized. “EWTN Live” Host Fr. Mitch Pacwa recently interviewed Beth Lynch, Museum and Events Coordinator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Fultonville, N.Y. You can see the entire Sept. 26 interview on EWTN’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ewtn, but here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.

Blessed Kateri’s mother was named Tagaskouita. She was an Algonquin and a Catholic convert, who was captured by the Mohawks and brought to a village near Auriesville, N.Y. Tagaskouita might have lived out her life as a slave had she not caught the eye of a Mohawk chief, who wed her. They had Kateri and a son. Some accounts say that Kateri’s parents and brother died in the same smallpox epidemic that disfigured the budding saint. Others, including Lynch, say they were killed by the Dutch Army, who was tired of being attacked by the Mohawk Indians. Whatever the case, the young girl was adopted by her father’s family – two aunts and an uncle.

Unfortunately, the child never quite fit in. Perhaps because of her disfigurement, she was very shy. She didn’t like going to festivals, dressing up, or gossiping. She especially didn’t seeing anyone tortured, and refused to be a witness to it. She also heroically resisted all attempts to get her to marry suitable young warriors. She truly was “set apart” – but for what she didn’t know.

While Kateri had some exposure to Catholicism from her mother, it wasn’t until Jesuit missionaries arrived in her village that she truly became aware of Jesus Christ. Lynch says Kateri had “a sensitivity about the spiritual. She just sensed that Catholic priests had a power. She wanted to know what they knew. In fact, one of her most beautiful quotes is: “Who can tell me what pleases God so that I may do it?’”

Although her uncle initially allowed Kateri to attend catechism classes, once she converted she became an outcast. When she was no longer safe, even in her home, Kateri was helped to escape. However, her sanctity was so great that she impressed everyone she met – and many miracles have been attributed to her since her death.

You can hear more about the persecutions this saint experienced and the miracles attributed to her intercession in Fr. Mitch’s interview, which is now on YouTube; by going to EWTN’s “Saints and Other Holy People” website at /saintsHoly/saints/K/blkateritekakwitha.asp, and, of course, during the Mass when Pope Benedict officially canonizes this young saint, who was also known as the Lily of the Mohawks.

And don't forget EWTN News, our news wire, which you can find at http://www.ewtnnews.com, and the National Catholic Register, which you can find at http://www.ncregister.com. God bless family!

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