"Lily of the Mohawks"
"Genevieve of New France"
by Fr. N. V. Burtin, OMI
One might say that Kateri's
life was a continual
round of illnesses from her earliest age. She did not worry about the
she had felt in her eyes from the age of four, or her almost constant
and her stomachaches accompanied by vomiting in what she thought to be
the last year of her life. Her joy in being away from Iroquois country
and the Heavenly consolations God filled her with made her count her
as nothing, while her diligence at work greatly shortened her days. Her
cheerful, smiling face made people think she was no longer suffering
worst of her ailments.
Nonetheless, her infirmities
were ever on the increase. Kateri was attacked by a slow fever, which
her lethargic. But the more her flesh weakened within her, the more her
strength of soul increased, and she thought only of the means she had
take in order to please God and acquire holiness. She consoled herself
by the pious conversations she had with Theresa and Anastasia, her two
friends with whom she was in perfect conformity of sentiment. They
talk about the love of Our Lord Jesus, about His Passion and Death, and
the goodness He shows in giving Himself to us in Holy Communion.
of her sufferings,
Kateri devoted a considerable portion of every day to prayer and spent
a great part of the day in church, kneeling motionless or resting on
bench when she could not do otherwise. By the tears that bathed her
one could see the ardent sentiments that were filling up her heart.
had a great devotion
to Jesus Crucified. She always wore a Crucifix around her neck and
kiss it night and day with an admirable expression of love. It is not
to say that she wore a cross around her neck: she wore the
of Christ throughout her entire body, as Saint Paul the Apostle says.
would be difficult to find greater innocence of morals combined with
a great austerity of life. Kateri afflicted her flesh with vigils,
cold, hunger, iron and fire, scourgings and metal belts. One day she
her friend Anastasia what she thought would be the greatest torment
might offer to God in order to bear witness to one's love for him. "It
is fire," her friend replied.
"That is my
opinion, too," Kateri said. And that night, while the others were
in the cabin, she burned her legs in the same way the Indians were
to burning their prisoners. Then she went immediately to the chapel
and offered these remarkable signs of her willing servitude to Christ.
One day Kateri heard
that some Saints had rolled their bodies naked among thorns, so she
into the woods and gathered some large thorn branches. That night,
praying for a long time as was her custom, she spread these thorns on
bed and rolled herself in them for part of the night, thinking about
Passion of Christ. She did this again four nights in a row, but it was
making her body extremely thin.
matter how much care
Kateri took in hiding this practice of penance so that God alone would
see it, her friend Theresa noticed it and reproached her. She told
was going too far, that it was sinful to
impose such penances on herself without her Confessor's advice. Since
the shadow of sin frightened her, Kateri hastened to go and admit her
to the missionary. While admiring her act in itself, he reproached her
and ordered her to throw the thorns in the fire. She obeyed him without
delay, making a more meritorious sacrifice by this act of renouncement
of her own will than by enduring great bodily sufferings.
humility was no
less admirable than her obedience. Although she earned the admiration
all, she regarded herself as the vilest of creatures. She strove to
the extraordinary favors God filled her with, and she would blush over
the slightest word of praise spoken to her. She held others in esteem
much as she scorned herself, and she was never heard denigrating or
others or saying anything bad about anyone.
her health was
weak, Kateri's face was always serene. She endured all the sufferings
the long fever that preceded her death with great calm. Mistress of
she put up with the disputes, quarrels, reproaches and harshness of
near to her with an invincible patience. In only one circumstance had
allowed a certain emotion to show: this was when they had wanted her to
get married against her will.
all, Kateri was distinguished
by an angelic chastity which caused her never to feel the sentiment of
impure passion, either in her body or in her soul. When she was
on this subject on the eve of her death, Kateri positively affirmed it
and attributed this remarkable favor to the Queen of Virgins, Whom she
had chosen as her Mother when she first learned about Her. She had
to imitate Her, and she gave Her the most ardent love all her life.
always bore Mary in her heart; Her name was frequently on her lips; she
was always praising Her and saying the Rosary with devotion,
Her feast days with extraordinary piety and preparing for them by
and mortification. This is the abridged portrait of her virtues drawn
by Fr. Chollenec, one of her Confessors. Fr. Chauchetière enters
into greater detail, but what we have said is enough to give everyone
idea of this holy young woman's merit-filled life.
did Kateri get her
courage, fervor and devotion? Her biographers tell us that she drew all
her virtues from the source of the living waters of grace, the one
the Savior of the world opened up for us in the Blessed Sacrament of
Eucharist. She received It often after preparing herself with care,
new delights at the very source of all delight. She preserved the
of the Blessed Sacrament, not forgetting It even in the midst of her
sufferings. Kateri was pleased to pay Him frequent visits when she was
in good health. And even during her illness, she was seen dragging
all the way to the chapel in order to make her fervent prayers. Holy
operated a total transformation within her soul and filled her with the
thoughts, affections and sentiments of our Lord Jesus. No longer did
live her life, but rather, the life of Christ.
The progress of Kateri's
illness became more
and more alarming. On Palm Sunday, 1680, it was agreed that her fatal
was drawing near. On Thursday of Holy Week it was judged appropriate to
give her Holy Viaticum. This news gave her great joy. It was the custom
in the Sault village that when Communion was given to the sick, they
be carried to the chapel on a woven bark mat. Kateri was too weak to be
carried in this manner, so an exception to the established rule was
for her. This extraordinary occurrence in the village drew a large
which desired to escort the Blessed Sacrament, see a Saint die and
themselves to her prayers. The priest entered her cabin to hear her
Confession. In his presence, she renewed the gift she had made of
to God and thanked Him for all the graces she had received since her
especially that of having preserved the integrity of her body. Despite
her humility, the priest prevailed upon her to address a few words of
to the crowd that pressed around her deathbed. She gave in to his wish
and used the time remaining to her in this life in this exercise of
and in continual acts of the love of God, as much as her strength would
Unction on Wednesday of Holy Week, the last day of her life. After
this Sacrament, she said her good-byes to her friend Mary Theresa
telling her to persevere in her good resolutions and promising to pray
for her when she got to Heaven. Kateri turned her face towards Heaven
they read the prayers for the recommendation of her soul. She lost the
use of her voice, but retained her hearing until her final breath. She
united herself continually to the prayers being said for her and to the
invocations of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary that were suggested to
her. Kateri died quietly on the same day, at the age of 24. The Indians
assembled in her cabin showed her all kinds of marks of veneration. The
entire village was filled with the odor of her virtue and her
for sanctity. When they gathered in the chapel for evening prayers as
their custom, Fr. Chollenec presented her eulogy, showing them what a
God had given them in the person of this pious young woman and what a
they had just sustained.
They could not get enough
of looking at her
face. It appeared transfigured by the supernatural beauty of holiness.
Two Frenchmen from Laprairie who had come to the Sault entered the
in which Kateri lay and thought at first upon seeing her that she was
sleeping. When they were told that she was a pious young woman who had
just died, they re-entered the cabin, knelt by the bed in which she lay
and recommended themselves to her prayers. They took it upon themselves
to provide a fine coffin in which Kateri was placed, but everyone took
such pleasure in looking at her that they left her face uncovered until
Celebrated on the
following day, her funeral was a day of both mourning and rejoicing.
everyone was sad over losing her so young, they rejoiced over the hope
of having a powerful protectress in Heaven.
God was not content with glorifying this humble maiden in Heaven; He
to glorify her on earth as well. All the Jesuit missionaries who passed
through Sault admired and invoked her. When the Lord Bishop of Quebec
came to Sault with His Honor the Marquis de Denonville, they went to
at the tomb of the one the Honorable Marquis called the Genevieve of
Many inhabitants of the parishes near Sault came every year to sing a
Mass to the Holy Trinity in order to recommend themselves to Kateri
The pastor of Lachine, Fr. Remy, was advised of this custom by his
and answered he did not think his presence there should authorize a
cult which the Church had not yet permitted. He fell dangerously ill
same day and was suddenly cured upon vowing to follow his predecessors'
example. The pastor of Laprairie, Fr. Geoffroy, claimed he was an
to the marvels Kateri was performing in his parish, and that he was
to publicize them everywhere. Among the events following Kateri's
Rev. Fr. Chollenec mentions the fervent piety seen throughout the St.
Xavier Mission at Sault St. Louis as one of the most marvelous. Nothing
but fervent exhortations to Christian piety were heard in the Indian
These exhortations were made not in word only, but especially in works.
Married people separated by
and a number of young widows vowed perpetual continence. Others made
same promise in the event their husbands should die before them, and
kept their promise later.
occurred that two
15-year old girls believed they could do nothing more pleasing to God
His Handmaid than pledge themselves to virginity. They prayed Kateri to
help them accomplish their design. They encountered an insuperable
in their parents who said they would never consent to this. Therefore
girls began entreating Kateri to obtain for them the grace to die if it
were impossible for them to live in this state, as they desired. It is
at least permissible to believe this pious and heroic request was
Indeed, shortly afterwards-----to the great surprise
of the entire village-----they were withdrawn from
Kateri's death there
was also a great zeal for bodily mortifications among the Indians. They
devoted themselves ardently to the practices mentioned above and vied
one another in inflicting on themselves such mortification as would
be met with in the most rigorous monasteries. About six months after
death God glorified her by the brilliance of the miracles she performed
in almost innumerable quantity throughout all of Canada. The very dust
taken from her tomb served as a remedy to cure all kinds of ailments.
came from all over the colony to give thanks to God for benefits
by Kateri's intercession and to venerate her relics. Cures were
by her images, by the simple invocation of her name, by the promise of
a pilgrimage to her tomb, and by contact with her blanket, her clothing
and objects she had used. Fr. Chollenec mentions two certificates [one
signed by Abbé de la Colombière, Grand Vicar of Quebec
Clerk Councilor of the Council of New France, the other by Captain
of a company of infantry]. Both declare expressly that, having gone to
Kateri Tekakwitha's tomb, they had obtained complete cure of serious
through her intercession.
The Jesuit missionaries
at Sault St. Louis received many letters from France in which they
were told that Kateri
Tekakwitha had come
to the aid of many who had implored her assistance. Fr. Chollenec adds
that among all the miracles she performed, the greatest of all in his
was Kateri herself, whom he called the true Thaumaturge of the New
All these miraculous occurrences have not been submitted to judicial
no doubt, but in view of the concourse of people to Kateri's tomb and
declarations of so many priests and laymen distinguished by their
and piety, one cannot help but admit that Kateri Tekakwitha died in the
odor of sanctity and has obtained extraordinary graces for those who
trusted in her intercession.