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article imageBlessed Kateri Tekakwitha becomes Canada's first aboriginal saint

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By Nancy Houser     Dec 21, 2011 in Religion
The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, commonly known as Lily of the Mohawks, is scheduled to be canonized next year through the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican statement was made on Monday with Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of Tekakwitha's second miracle.
Two miracles have now been attributed to Kateri Tekakwitha, needed proof before her possible canonization for sainthood is able to move forward to the final step:
* Her first miracle was recognized when she was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII on January 3, 1943. A Venerable is when a deceased Catholic is declared a Servant of God by a bishop and proposed for beatification by the Pope. The miracle was at her funeral, when her scars disappeared from her face and everyone who was ill was miraculously cured. One example present was a person who was seriously disfigured with ringworm, becoming healed.
* Her second miracle was the 2006 healing of five-year old Jake Finkbonner, when his parents prayed to her as the little boy's face was being eaten away alive from a vicious flesh-eating bacterium. Already beatified, the Blessed Tekakwitha had healed the child after 3 weeks of 29 surgeries could not. At age 11 now, he is still healed.
The Blessed Tekakwitha was beatified on June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II, a final step before sainthood. She is honored through the Roman Catholic Church in both the United States and Canada, leading the way for her to become Canada's first aboriginal saint. According to the Toronto Star, Kateri Tekakwitha had hundreds of undocumented miracles attributed to her, which Pope John Paul II accepted as proof for the beatification.
The Star also reported that, "Pope John Paul II was an enthusiastic promoter of saints of different ethnic backgrounds, allowed her to be beatified on the strength of many cures, rather than one fully researched and verified miracle as is usually required for beatification."
A Mohawk-Algonquian Native American woman who was a member of the Iroquois Confederacy, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in an Iroquoist village of Ossernenonunder. She was given a French name, Catherine, at New France in 1656, now known as present-day New York. She died at age 24, with Catholics working toward her sainthood for more than 100 years, beginning in 1884.
"More is known about her life than any other native person at the time of European contact," says Allan Greer, a McGill University history professor and author of Mohawk Saint — Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits." (Toronto Star)
At four years of age, Kateri's family would die of smallpox, a deadly disease that would reduce Massachusetts and other Algonquin tribes in the area from an estimated thirty thousand to only three hundred. With the death of her parents and brother, she was adopted by her uncle who was the Chief of the Turtle Clan. The smallpox had scarred her face severely and affected her eyes so bad she would have limited eyesight for the remainder of her life, in a life of intense devotion to her faith and extreme physical mortification.
Zealous in her prayer and penitential practices  Kateri Tekakwitha became the first Native American ...
Zealous in her prayer and penitential practices, Kateri Tekakwitha became the first Native American to be beatified. This sculpture of Vermont marble is by Dale Lamphere and is the gift of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. It was blessed and dedicated Nov. 16, 1992 by John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York. The Catholic Church commemorates her feast day on July 14. She shares the honor of being the patron of the ecology and environment with St. Francis of Assisi.
Catholic Church: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
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Kateri was born the daughter of Kenneronkwa, a Mohawk chief, and Tagaskouita, a Roman Catholic Algonquian. Her mother had given her a rosary at a young age, which was taken away by her uncle after their death, violently disapproving of her childhood religious faith.
In 1676, she would become baptized at the age of 20 on Easter Sunday by a Jesuit named Father Jacques de Lamberville, a Catholic missionary who had come to the area from France at the age of 34; he was a part of the Iroquois missions with his brother, Jean de Lamberville, also a missionary.
During that time, Catherine Tekakwitha would take on the name of Kateri Tekakwitha, as Kateri was the Mohawk pronunciation of Catherine; her name now meant "one who puts things in order" or "she who moves things." She chose the name after Catherine of Siena, born on March 25, 1347 to April 29, 1380, who had her first vision of Christ when she was five years old, saying that Jesus smiled at her, blessed her, and left her in ecstasy. At age seven she would vow chastity, according to the book Skårderud, Finn (2008). Holy anorexia: Catherine of Siena. Oslo: Tidsskrift for norsk psykologforening. p. 411. She also is one of the two patron saints of Italy, along with St. Francis of Assisi.
The Native American tribe of Kateri did not understand her Roman Catholic faith, and punished her severely when she returned to her village. Historians, such as Allan Geer, say she took this as a testament of her faith and began practicing physical mortification as a chosen route to a life of being holy and sacred. She placed thorns on her sleeping mat at night, praying for God to forgive her kinsmen, and would later walk on hot coals.
"Piercing the body to draw blood was a traditional practice of the Hurons, Iroquois as well as the Mohawks. Kateri believed that offering her blood was in imitation of Christ’s crucifixion. In this, Kateri was just continuing traditional tribal ways." (Huletts Current)
She would flee the village due to the continuous persecution, finding safety in a community of Native American Christians in Kahnawake, Quebec. From then, as a Roman Catholic, she would live a life dedicated to prayer, penance and care of the sick and aged for the remainder of her life. She would take a vow of chastity in 1679, as a woman who has been consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church to a life of perpetual virginity in the service of God.
One year later, Kateri Tekakwitha would die with her last words as, "Jesus, I love you." Even though Kateri Tekakwitha has survived the smallpox that had killed her family, as the years went on she had been becoming weaker and weaker. In 1680 when she was preparing to be baptized, it was obvious to those around her that her end was near. On Palm Sunday, she was given Holy Viaticum (the Last Sacrament).
It was tribal custom for sick people to be carried on a woven bark mat to the chapel to receive communion. It was decided that Kateri was too ill to be carried, so an exception was made and the Catholic Priest entered her cabin to hear her general Confession. As this was never done, the entire village gathered around to see a Saint die and recommend themselves to her prayers. Afterwards, it was requested by the priest that she address the crowd upon her deathbed, which she did through continual acts of charity and acts of love of God as long as her strength lasted.
Kateri received Extreme Unction on Wednesday of the Holy Week, the last day of her life. After receiving this Sacrament, she would say her good-byes before turning her face towards Heaven as prayers were read for the recommendation of her soul. At that time she had lost her voice, but could hear the prayers until her final breath.
She is buried at St. Francix Xavier Church in Kahnawake, Quebec, south of Montreal. According to eyewitnesses, including two Jesuits and many Indians, the scars on her face suddenly disappeared after her death.
Devotion to Blessed Kateri is clearly manifest in at least three national shrines in the United States alone, including the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York, the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C." (Huletts Current)
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