Kateri Tekakwitha, “Lily of the Mohawks,” was an Algonquin-Mohawk Native American born in 1656 at Ossernenon on the Mohawk River near Albany, New York. When Tekakwitha, which means “she who stumbles into things,” was just four years old a smallpox epidemic ravaged her village. She lost her mother, father and brother to the disease and her face was left scarred with pockmarks. Her eyesight was greatly impaired as well, a condition which continued throughout the remainder of her life. It is said that Sonkwaiatison, The Creator, left her in darkness to see His light.
On Easter Sunday in 1676 Tekakwitha was baptized at St. Peter’s Mission near Fonda, New York and given the Christian name Kateri (Katherine). Her tribe persecuted her for her faith and she fled in 1677 to the St. Francis Xavier Mission at Caughnawaga in Canada. There she received her first Holy Communion and in 1679 she took a vow of virginity, the first Native American to do so.
Kateri died at the age of 24 in 1680. Three hundred years later she was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22 June 1980.
Fifteen minutes after her death the pockmarks that had scarred her face disappeared and she became radiantly beautiful because, it is believed, that was the moment Kateri Tekakwitha saw God.
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