Thursday, July 14, 2005

"She pushes all before her"

I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I’ll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.
------ Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha



Today the Church celebrates one of the scariest of the scary-holy penitent saints, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

Tekakwitha was born in 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk chief, the head of the Turtle clan, and his wife, a captive Algonquian woman who was a Catholic Christian. When Tekakwitha was four, she lost her mother, her father, and her brother in a smallpox epidemic, and she was left badly scarred and nearly blind. Her name means "she pushes all before her," and most likely refers to her habit of feeling in front of herself so she wouldn't run into stuff, but that name was also appropriate because she seemed to have a gift from childhood for domestic management, for imposing order on chaos. This talent kept her tolerated by her surviving relatives, who otherwise considered her a burden and who were upset that she would not allow herself to be married off.

When the Jesuit missioners arrived in her village, she was one of the first converts, in 1676 when she was twenty, and was baptised with the name Kateri, Mohawk for Catherine. This was to the extreme displeasure of her relatives. When their treatment of her degraded from grudging neglect to outright abuse, she left, and moved to a settlement about 200 miles away that was entirely Christian, living a life of deep prayer and strict austerity, in reparation for the sins of her nation.

When on a visit to Montreal she met some religious sisters, she was drawn to their life, and set out to form a community of sisters in her village, but was discouraged from that by the pastor; however, she herself made the vow to the counsels in 1679, becoming the first consecrated person among the Mohawk, in fact among any of the original nations of North America.

Never strong or healthy, and weakened by her austerities, she died at the age of 24 on this day in 1680.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the beautiful icon, is it? Can it be purchased in a Catholic store? I had no contact with Native Americans until patronizing their casinos in the northwest. I was happy to have the experience of meeting them. Then later I learned my father's side from Louisiana has some NA blood.