Thursday, July 14, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Today Catholics in the United States remember Kateri Tekakwitha, the 17th-century "Lily of the Mohawks" who was received into the Church at age twenty by Jesuit missionary Jacques de Lamberville and persevered in her faith despite persecution and exile. (I should note that Catholics in Canada remember Kateri too, but on April 17th.) Kateri was beatified in 1980, and her cause for canonization is currently being considered. Kateri spent much of her short life in the company of Jesuits; after her baptism by Father de Lamberville, the young woman had to flee her home village and found refuge at a Jesuit mission near present-day Montreal. That mission is now a shrine and was administered until relatively recently by the French Canadian Jesuits. In the vicinity of Kateri's home village of Ossernenon (now known as Auriesville, New York), one can visit a chapel and museum dedicated to Kateri at the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, a ministry of the New York Province Jesuits. I used to stop at the Martyrs' Shrine in Auriesville whenever I happened to be passing through on the New York State Thruway, though I confess I was drawn more by the Jesuit martyrs than by any devotion to Blessed Kateri. (In fairness, I should also note that the Conventual Franciscans run another Kateri shrine near the Jesuit one at Auriesville, but I've never seen the place.) In yet another link between Kateri Tekakwitha and the Society of Jesus, the postulator of Kateri's cause - that is, the principal advocate for her canonization - is Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, who is himself something of a legend in hagiographical circles. In other words, the relationship between Kateri Tekakwitha and the Jesuits is an enduring and important one.

At a time when collaboration with the laity is a critically important and oft-emphasized theme of Jesuit ministries, we should be mindful of our 17th-century sister Kateri. Today we generally remember Kateri Tekakwitha as the first representative of North America's indigenous peoples and the first North American laywoman to be proposed for sainthood. As we remember her in this light, let us also remember that the Lily of the Mohawks was a friend and collaborator as the Society of Jesus. Thus I'll be using her memorial as a special opportunity to pray for the many laypeople who bring their gifts to ministry as partners in Jesuit apostolates. AMDG.


At July 15, 2005 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice post on Bl. Kateri, but let me quibble with one comment:

"Today we generally remember Kateri Tekakwitha as the first representative of North America's indigenous peoples . . . ."

We shouldn't forget St Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe (who appeared as a "local" in many respects) as representatives of "North America's indigenous peoples" from way back in the 16th century.

Keep on truckin,' brother.

At July 15, 2005 10:20 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Point well-taken. I did think about Juan Diego when I wrote the post, but as far as I'm aware her process started before Juan Diego's (she was beatified a full decade earlier), hence the "first representative" talk. That said, it's true that Juan Diego has been canonized and Kateri is still waiting. I think it's safe to say that Juan Diego and Guadalupe command a lot more devotion among American Catholics than the Lily of the Mohawks, so I'm willing to do whatever I can to boost Kateri's profile.


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