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Church decrees Tekakwitha a saint

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The first Native American woman to be venerated in the Catholic Church will be cannonized on October 21. Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk woman who accepted Christ and lived a virtuous life before passing away at the mere age of 24. Several miracles have been attributed to her. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tekakwitha survived a smallpox outbreak that killed her immediate family and left her nearly blind. An uncle who did not accept her Roman Catholic faith, raised Tekakwitha and betrothed her to a non-Christian man. Upon hearing the news, she fled to the sanctuary of a Jesuit mission where she took a vow of chastity and lived her days dedicated to Christ. 

Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1676. She was 20 years old. Almost immediately, some members of her tribe, hostile to her conversion, began to harass her by accusing her of sexual promiscuity and witchcraft. Her catechism tutor, Father Jacques de Lamberville, suggested she relocate to a sanctuary where other Native American converts had gathered, and she did so the following year. 

According to Jesuit accounts, she was a modest woman who often covered herself because of the smallpox scars on her body. Despite opposition from the missionaries, many of these women, including Tekakwitha, practiced rites of self-mortification. There rites were traditional native rites, normally reserved for warriors of the Mohawk tribe. Despite the protests of the missionaries, the mortifications continued, often in secret.

Tekakwitha allegedly placed thorns on her sleeping mat and to laid upon them while praying for the forgiveness and conversion of her people. 

In 1679, Tekakwitha took a public vow of chastity, dedicating her life to Christ and declaring Him her only husband. Shortly afterwards, Tekakwitha began to weaken and show signs of illness. It is unknown what caused her to die. 

Tekakwitha had the fortune to be surrounded by loved ones as a priest performed her last rites. In the arms of a friend she died, speaking her last words, "I will love you from heaven." 

Following her death, several miraculous events were reported. Within fifteen minutes, her face, long scarred by smallpox, reportedly became both smooth and white. Several reported that despite her passing, it was beautiful to see. Her body was later cremated with her bones turned to ashes. Those ashes were set inside a nearby chapel to honor her memory. 

Meanwhile, several apparitions were said to occur. People close to her in life reported seeing and hearing her apparitions. In one apparition, Tekakwitha was reported saying she was on her way to heaven and goodbye. 

In later years, the memory of Tekakwitha would serve to foster dialogue between Native Americans, particularly the Mohawk, and missionaries. Her story brought many converts to Christ. Tekakwitha was also adopted as theunofficial patron of the city of Montreal, Canada. 

Efforts to beautify her began in 1884 and in 1943, Pope Pius XII decreed her venerable. On February 12, 2012, Pope benedict XVI declared that she would be canonized. 

Several miracles of healing have been attributed to her. As early as the 18th century healings were attributed to Tekakwitha and her relics. To this day, several miraculous cases of healing, which cannot be attributed to medicine have occurred. 

Tekakwitha's upcoming canonization will complete her recognition in the Church as a saint. Yet, even without the title, Tekakwitha is a woman that has served the community of Christ well, both as an example and through great miracles. Native Americans Catholics, and all Catholics, for that matter, have a great reason to be proud. 

 

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