As promised, this week’s Trivia returns to the blessed and holy canon of Kates. My Katerific editor, Ms. Torgovnick, so astutely wondered in a recent correspondence whether or not we could justify claiming the newly sainted Kateri Tekakwitha. (Even in doubt, Kate so helpfully forwarded me this interesting NY Times article.) After a bit of poking, I can unequivocally affirm that the first Native American Saint recognized by the Catholic Church is indeed a Kate!
Well to be more accurate, the name “Kateri” is derived from the French Catherine, her baptismal name. There is a bit of mystery surrounding this holy woman. Some question her story because much of the information about her life comes from the Jesuit missionaries’ records. Still, those intrepid travelers were keen on keeping detailed written accounts. So this is part of what we know:
Saint Kateri was born around 1656 in a Mohawk village in what is now New York state. During a catastrophic outbreak of smallpox, she lost her immediate family and much of her eye sight to the disease. It also badly disfigured her face.
Being raised by an Algonquin Christian mother, she was familiar with Christianity, but was not baptized into the Catholic faith until she was 20. Until her untimely death at 24, Kateri lived a sparse, devout life marked by self-flagellation and ritual mortification. Her aspiration to devotion speaks of a soul believer and faithful servant. And this has been evidenced in the miracles attributed to her.
After death, Kateri has blessed many seeking the intercession of the saints and the healing power of God. Her friend Marie-Therèse Chauchetière reported that her final words were, “I will love you in heaven,” and Saint Kateri has been true to her word. At least two miracles of healing through prayer to Saint Kateri have been certified by the Vatican, but many more believe that invoking her name or her memory have healed them from maladies ranging from cancer to gout. In this she has proven her continuing love of humanity and respect for the faithful.
There is so much to know about this fascinating historical figure regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs. Kateri’s life speaks of pain and perseverance, personal loss and the power of faith. Even in this disenchanted and disillusioned age, there is something awesome about the miracle of life and connection that Kateri Tekakwitha represents. While I am at times inspired, proud or psyched about being Kate, today I am humbled and grateful. We are blessed.