Between the years of 1642 and 1649, St. Isaac Joques and his companions came from France to preach the Gospel in the New World. They were killed by Mohawks while evengelizing the Huron Indians. Ten years after the death of St. Isaac Jogues, Kateri Takakwitha was born in the same village where he had died. (The feast of St. Isaac and the North American Martyrs is celebrated on October 19.)
Tekakwitha was born in Auriesville, New York, in 1656. He mother was a Christian Algonquin Native American. Her father was a non-Christian Mohawk chief. Tekakwitha's parents and brother died of smallpox when she was four. The same disease left Tekakwitha with impaired vision and a disfigured face. Her uncle, a Mohawk chief, raised her. This is how Tekakwitha met the missionaries. One one occasion, her uncle had three jesuit missionaries as his guests. Tekakwitha began to receive instructions in the faith. She was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1676. That is when she took the name Kateri, which means katherine.
The village in which she lived was not Christian. In fact, there were no other Christians in her lodge. The Indians did not appreciate her choice to remain unmarried. They insulted her and some resented that she did not work on Sundays. But Kateri held her ground. She prayed her Rosary every day, even when others made fun of her. She practiced patience and suffered quietly. Kateri's life grew harder because of the villagers' persecution. She fled to a Christian village near Montreal. There, on Christmas Day, 1677, she received her First Communion. It was a wonderful day for her. 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. Kateri made a private vow of virginity on March 25, 1679. She was just twenty-four when she died on April 17, 1680. Three hundred years later, on June 22, 1980, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a blessed by Pope John Paul II. She is known as the "Lily of the Mohawks." (Blessed Kateri will become a saint later this year)
Blessed Kateri received the gift of belief in Jesus because of the sacrifices of the missionaries. We can thank Jesus for those who brought the Catholic religion into our lives, too. Who are they? Our parents, grandparents, other relatives, religious education teachers, priests? We can ask Blessed Kateri to teach us how to be grateful by sharing our faith with others.