St Kateri Tekakwitha
In this icon St. Kateri wears typical Iroquis clothing and a blue blancket from French traders. In her right hand she bears one of the most important symbols from her culture, the tree of peace. By the mid-15th century blood feuds had almost destroyed her people.
A holy man named Dekanawidah appeared, preaching peace and reconciliation. He taught that all people were brothers and sisters and that differences were better resolved by discussion than war. Through his influence the five Iroquis tribes formed a unified government and stopped fighting among themselves. The symbol of this vision was a huge tree under which all peoples could find place. When more people would come, the branches of the tree would simply grow longer. An eagle lived at the top of the tree and warned the people whenever peace was treatened. The tree, like all the earth, rode on the back of a giant turtle´s back.
The symbols of the Iroquois remind us that differences in culture are not threats to Church unity, but gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every people and culture brings to the Church new insights for understanding the Gospel. After three centuries, Kateri´s people are beginning to return to the wisdom of their own culture. They may have first received the Gospel from the French, but they remain Iroquois Christians.
St. Kateri is often depicted holding a simple wooden cross because 3 weeks after her death, Kateri appeared to her mentor Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo "kneeling at the foot" of her mattress, "holding a wooden cross that shone like the sun."
She is also shown with liles, alluding to her purity and her nickname, "the Lily of the Mohawks", & birch trees, among which she lived.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. She was born in 1656, in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon. Her mother was an Algonquin, who was captured by the Mohawks and who took a Mohawk chief for her husband.
She contracted smallpox as a four-year-old child which scarred her skin. The scars were a source of humiliation in her youth. She was commonly seen wearing a blanket to hide her face. Worse, her entire family died during the outbreak. Kateri Tekakwitha was subsequently raised by her uncle, who was the chief of a Mohawk clan.
Kateri was known as a skilled worker, who was diligent and patient. However, she refused to marry. When her adoptive parents proposed a suitor to her, she refused to entertain the proposal. They punished her by giving her more work to do, but she did not give in. Instead, she remained quiet and diligent. Eventually they were forced to relent and accept that she had no interest in marriage.
At age 19, Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ. Her decision was very unpopular with her adoptive parents and their neighbors. Some of her neighbors started rumors of sorcery. To avoid persecution, she traveled to a Christian native community south of Montreal.
According to legend, Kateri was very devout and would put thorns on her sleeping mat. She often prayed for the conversion of her fellow Mohawks. According to the Jesuit missionaries that served the community where Kateri lived, she often fasted and when she would eat, she would taint her food to diminish its flavor. On at least one occasion, she burned herself. Such self-mortification was common among the Mohawk.
Kateri was very devout and was known for her steadfast devotion. She was also very sickly. Her practices of self-mortification and denial may not have helped her health. Sadly, just five years after her conversion to Catholicism, she became ill and passed away at age 24, on April 17, 1680.
Her name, Kateri, is the Mohawk form of Catherine, which she took from St. Catherine of Siena.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012. She is the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans.
Father Cholonec wrote that Tekakwitha said,
"I have deliberated enough. For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for wife."
Tradition holds that Kateri's final words were. . ."Jesus, I love you", after which she embraced her creator for all eternity.
Witnesses reported that within a few minutes of her death, the pock marks from smallpox completely vanished and her face shone with raqdiant loveliness.
Lord God, You called the virgin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, to shine among the American Indian people as an example of innocence of life. Through her intercession, may all peoples of every tribe, tongue and nation, having been gathered into Your Church, proclaim your greatness in one song of praise. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Collect of the Mass in honor of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha from the Roman Missal.
A prayer to St. Kateri Tekakwitha
In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
God of all creation, goodness and love, our
hearts are filled with gratitude and praise
for you. In our beloved St. Kateri you have
found gentleness and peace. In her you
have heard once more “Jesus, I love you”.
In St. Kateri Tekakwitha you have given
your Church a new maiden of the Gospel
for your Son.
As the indigenous peoples of North America
celebrate her goodness and as all the
Church honors her holiness we raise our
voices in praise and joy. You have given us
a gift beyond all measure and we ask you
to help us celebrate this treasure as we live
holy and peace-filled lives in your name.
Please continue to grant our request and
the needs of our brothers and sisters
through St. Kateri’s intercession in her
heavenly home. -Amen.
Novena to St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Kateri, favored child, Flower of the Algonquins and Lily of the Mohawks, We come to seek your intercession in our present need: (mention it here).
We admire the virtures which adorned your soul: love of God and neighbor, humility, obedience, patience, purity and the spirit of sacrifice. Help us to imitate your example in our life. Through the goodness and mercy of God, Who has blessed you with so many graces which led you to the true faith and to a high degree of holiness, pray to God for us and help us.
Obtain for us a very fervent devotion to the Holy Eucharist so that we may love Holy Mass as you did and receive Holy Communion as often as we can. Teach us also to be devoted to our crucified Savior as you were, that we may cheerfully bear our daily crosses for love of Him Who suffered so much for love of us. Most of all we beg you to pray that we may avoid sin, lead a holy life and save our souls. Amen.
In thanksgiving to God for the graces bestowed upon Kateri: one Our Father, Hail Mary and three Glory Be's. Kateri, Flower of the Algonquins and Lily of the Mohawks, pray for us.
From Fr. Lovasik's book: Kateri of the Mohawks
Food ~ Mohawk Corn Bread
This recipe is from Gordie Soaring Hawk (Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario Canada) who learned it from her grandmother and great-uncle, Six Nations, Grand River.
Corn flour [masa harina works really well if you can’t get the real stuff from the bush], about 2 lbs
Salt, to taste
 No. 303 cans kidney beans
Big Kettle of boiling water
Mix the flour and about 1 Tablespoon salt with the beans and some water till you form a stiff dough, kneading it with your hands.
Form into flattened cakes about 6 inches in diameter, and about 2 inches thick.
Boil in the water in a covered kettle till they rise [about 1 hour]
Lift out of the kettle, slice and serve with butter.
Traditions & Customs
In our family, we set up our Catholic Iroquois peace tree with the icon of St Kateri, light our candle and say the feast day prayers. We try to follow the recipes above and have a Mohawk meal. We may have a race or try to get a sort of lacrosse game together, and we read If You Lived with the Iroquois and our book about St. Kateri.