Between the years 1642 and 1649, Saint Isaac Jogues and the North American martyrs came from France. They were killed while evangelizing the Indians. Ten years after the death of Saint Isaac Jogues, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village where he had died. (We celebrate the feast of Saint Isaac and the North American Martyrs on October 19.)
Kateri means Katherine. Kateri was born in Auriesville, New York, in 1656. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin. Her father was a non-Christian Mohawk chief. Kateri’s parents died of small-pox when the girl was fourteen. A Mohawk uncle raised her. This is how Kateri met the missionaries. On one occasion, her uncle had three Jesuit missionaries as his guests. Kateri began to receive instructions in the faith. She loved Jesus very much and wanted to please him in all that she did. She was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1676. That is when she took the name Kateri.
The village in which she lived was not Christian. In fact, in her lodge there was not one other Christian. The Indians did not understand her choice to remain unmarried. They did not understand why she did not work on Sunday. But Kateri held her ground. She prayed her Rosary every day, even when others thought it strange to do so. She practiced patience and suffered quietly. Kateri’s life grew harder. Some people did not treat her with kindness. She fled to a Christian village near Montreal. There on Christmas Day, 1677, she received her First Communion. It was a wonderful day. Father Pierre Cholonec, a Jesuit, guided her spiritual life for the next three years. She and an older Iroquois woman named Anastasia lived as joyful, generous Christians. They helped the poor and gave aid to those who were sick. Kateri made a private vow of virginity on March 25, 1679. She was just twenty-four when she died on April 17, 1680. Exactly three hunded years later, on June 22, 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared “blessed” by Pope John Paul II and canonized a saint on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Saint Kateri's feast day is celebrated on July 14.
Saint Kateri received the gift of belief in Jesus because of the sacrifices of the missionaries. She was willing to make many sacrifices for the love of Our Lord. We can thank Jesus for those who brought the Catholic religion into our lives, too. Who are they? Our parents? Grandparents? Other relatives? Parish priest? Religion teacher? We can ask Saint Kateri to teach us how to be grateful by sharing our faith with others.