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The First American Indian Saint – Vatican Insider 20 December, 2011

12/19/2011 The first American Indian saint

The first Native American blessed is the daughter of a mixed couple who met in the days of Western colonialism in North America. There will be three new saints and five servants of God
vatican insider staff

The first American “Indian” will soon be canonized. Catherine Tekakwitha is one of the next four saints for which Benedict XVI has acknowledged the intercession of a miracle. With them, the Pope this morning signed the decrees regarding three new saints and the beatification of five servants of God. With them, a large group of martyrs will also be raised to the altars, while seven male and female servants of God have been recognized for their heroic virtues.

The first Native American saint is the daughter of a mixed couple from the first phase of Western colonialism in North America. The name of the Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha, who was born in 1656 in a U.S. town now called Auriesville, and who died in Canada at the age of just 24, stands out in the long list that includes the new saints, martyrs and blessed individuals that the Pope has decided to propose for veneration in the Church. From an Iroquois father and Christian Algonquin mother, the Blessed Tekakwitha will be the first American Indian saint and one of the three lay soon to be canonized.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 22, 1980, Tekakwitha (literally “the one who puts things right” or, according to different interpretations, “she who walks putting her hands forward”) was born in 1656 at Osserneon (currently Auriesville, in the State of New York). She is the patron saint of the environment and ecology, together with St. Francis of Assisi.

The official biography tells that she is always “industrious, serious, reserved, with no interest in adorning herself or thinking of marriage.”

Kateri’s mother, Kahenta, was given in marriage to a Mohawk chief after her village Algonquin had been raided during the wars between the Hurons and Algonquians. She was converted to Catholicism by the French Jesuits and remained firm in her faith despite the pain of not being able to baptize her young children because of her husband’s hostility towards the “black robes”, in other words the Jesuits.

A smallpox epidemic decimated the village and Tekakwitha’s parents and younger brother were among the victims. It is said that Kahenta survived her husband sufficiently to allow her to baptize her son. Tekakwitha survived fragile, with weakened eyesight, marked by scars on her face. Orphaned at four, she was adopted by her uncle and aunt who had no children.

She loved to sing the old hymns that she had heard from her mother and understood that she was looking for something that she still could not define but which she found in meditation, in silence, the solemn beauty of nature.”

When her uncle and aunt tried deceptively to marry her off to a young warrior, Kateri reached the point where she escaped. In those years, precisely in 1670, the Jesuit missionaries founded the Mission of San Pietro a Caughuawaga Tekakwitha: obviously reaching the nearby villages to spread the Gospel. It was from Father Jacques de Lamberville, the new Head of the Mission, that Tekakwitha heard the Christian message. “The proclamation of Christianity shone at last – explains the biography – her soul had found what would make her truly happy.”

She lived devoting all her energy to teaching children Christian prayers and assisting the elderly and the sick, accompanying each activity with prayer and severe penance. His poor health did not hold out for long and she died on April 17, 1680. “Her last words were “Jesos Konoronkwa” (I love you Jesus). A few minutes after her death – the story continues – Kateri’s face shone with a surprising light and her scars disappeared”, from here too came the fame of her holiness.

Her faraway contemporary, is the blessed Peter Calungsod, a native of the Philippines who at 18 years of age died as a was martyr in the Mariana Archipelago. The other secular and future saint is the Blessed Anna Schaffer, who lived two centuries later, between the late nineteenth century and the first three decades of the twentieth century. In addition to the Blessed John Baptist Piamarta, a priest from Brescia and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Humble Sisters Servants of the Lord, who lived between 1841 and 1913, the other miracles recognized by Benedict XVI involve a martyred priest, James Berthieu, a professed Jesuit, a Frenchman killed in Madagascar in 1896.


December 21, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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