On this day: Bl. Catherine Tekakwitha

On this day we remember Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha, 1656 - 1680.

Allan Greer places the life of Catherine Tekakwitha and that of her hagiographer, Claude Chauchetière, S. J., in historical and cultural context in Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits, Oxford University Press, 2006.

"Catherine, also known by her Mohawk name, Tekakwitha, was about twenty-four years old at the time of her death. She came from a village on the Mohawk River, at the eastern extremity of the Iroquois country in what is now New York State. A childhood bout of smallpox had left her frail and sickly, and her health had not been enhanced by the punishing habits of ascetic penance she acquired in her twenties. After accepting Christian baptism and then, in 1677, joining the migration from her native land north to the Jesuit-sponsored mission settlement of Kahnawake/Sault St. Louis, she joined a group of Christian Iroquois women who renounced sex and marriage, while disciplining their bodies with fasting, flagellation, and deliberate exposure to the pain of fire and the discomfort of cold." Pages 3 - 4.

"Her one regular visitor in the daytime was Father Claude Chauchetière. This thirty-four-year-old Jesuit from Poitiers had been in Canada for three years, and so he knew enough of her language to communicate with Catherine. . . . Chauchetière's writings make it clear that these encounters were much more important to him, the ministering priest, than they were to her. . . . in a confidential letter to his superiors he reported that a mysterious light surrounded her when she flagellated herself." Page 4.

Greer analyzes the cult of Blessed Catherine and its various promoters in his Epilogue.

"It proved difficult to verify any of the hundreds of miracles attributed to the Mohawk Virgin, but finally Pope John Paul II, unusually generous in such matters and anxious to recognize and affirm the global and multiracial nature of the church, pronounced her numerous unverified miracles equivalent to one certified miracle. And so she was beatified, in 1980, three hundred years after her death. Now officially the 'Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha,' she remains a candidate for canonization."

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