July 11, 2011: Lily of the Mohawks

~ by Mary Galvano

In the early 1990s my parents and I had the opportunity to visit EWTN in Irondale, AL. After attending Mass there, a mysterious woman came up to my mother and handed her a prayer card. She then disappeared from the room. The prayer card was that of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. We had never heard of Kateri before, nor did most people at that time. On returning home, Mom anxiously looked her up. We were immediately touched by her life and fell in love with her.

For those who don’t know about Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, she was born in the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon near present-day Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and Tagaskouita, a Roman Catholic Algonquian woman. When Kateri was four, smallpox swept through Ossernenon, and Tekakwitha was left with unsightly scars on her face and poor eyesight. This outbreak took the lives of her brother and both her parents. She was then adopted by her uncle, who was chief of the Turtle Clan. As the adopted daughter of the chief, many young men sought her hand in marriage, in spite of her disfigured face. She realized that this was only for political purposes and was disgusted by the idea of a loveless marriage. She converted to Christianity when she was a teenager. Her mother was Christian and had given Kateri a rosary, but her uncle took it away and discouraged conversion. But that didn’t stop her!

Kateri was baptized on Easter Sunday on April 18, 1676 at the age of twenty by Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit, and incurred great hostility from her tribe. She took the name Kateri, a Mohawk pronunciation for Catherine, at her baptism. Tekakwitha literally means “she moves things.” Although she suffered greatly for her faith, she remained firm in it. Eventually, Kateri went to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified. Kateri died on April 17, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. Her last words are said to be, “Jesus, I love You!”

She is called “The Lily of the Mohawks,” the “Mohawk Maiden,” the “Pure and Tender Lily,” and the “Flower among True Men,” the “Lily of Purity” and “The New Star of the New World.” According to Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik’s “Kateri of the Mohawks,” her tribal neighbors called her “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the red men.”

Tradition holds Kateri’s scars vanished at the time of her death revealing a woman of immense beauty. It has been claimed that at her funeral many of the ill who attended were healed on that day. It is also held that she appeared to two different individuals in the weeks following her death. Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980. Work is currently underway to have her Canonized by the Church.

Blessed Kateri Teckakwitha is the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. Her feastday is July 14. She is the patroness of the environment and ecology as is St. Francis of Assisi. On her feastday this week, I hope you will fall in love with Blessed Kateri as I have. She “ROCKS!”

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Mary Galvano-Bajohr is a singer/songwriter, LPGA golf instructor, speaker and author. On the golf course she is a dedicated professional, but go to a Yankee game, a Pro-life event or other venue and you just might see her step up to the microphone and sing the National Anthem or the Ave Maria.

Visit Mary’s website at www.marygalvano.com.

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