"Kateri was a child of nature. Her sainthood will raise the minds and hearts of those who love nature and work in ecology."
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) is honoured by the Catholic Church as the patroness of ecology and the environment. Her baptismal name was Catherine which, in the Iroquois languages, is Kateri. She was born near the town of Auriesville, N.Y. Her father was a Mohawk chief while her mother was a Catholic Algonquin. At the age of four, smallpox attacked her village, taking the lives of her parents and baby brother, leaving Kateri an orphan. Although forever weakened, scarred and partially blind, she survived. Her poor eyesight is supposedly the reason she was called Tekakwitha which means "she who feels her way" -- according to some historians.
When she was about 18 years old, the Jesuits set up a mission near her village and Kateri, remembering her mother perhaps, was attracted to the religion of the "Blackrobes". There was much opposition from her uncle who had adopted her, but he was finally persuaded to allow Kateri to attend religious instruction. She was now 19. Kateri was baptised the following Easter at age 20.
Her family and her village did not accept her conversion and she was threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her faith. Because of this increasing hostility and because she wanted to devote her life to serving God, she fled her village and walked more than 200 miles (322 km) through woods, rivers and swamps to the Catholic mission at Sault Saint-Louis near Montreal. The journey took her over two months but she was rewarded by finally being allowed to make her first Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1677.
She was now able to lead a life of prayer, doing penance for the sins of her people. She also taught the young and helped those who were poor or sick. Her favourite devotion was to wander through the woods near the mission, planting wooden crosses which she formed out of sticks. These, she said, would be reminders of Christ to those who wandered through this area and would cause them to lift their hearts to God.
Her poor health finally caused her death at the age of 24. Her last words were "Jesus, I love you." Moments after dying, her scarred and disfigured face was miraculously cleared, leaving her looking extremely beautiful. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 -- the first Native North American to be declared blessed. I pray for the day when the Church will declare her to be the first Native North American saint.
Above is one of the oldest portraits of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. It was painted by Father Claude Chauchetiere, s.j. around 1696 -- 16 years after her death.
So there you have one of my latest icons and the story that goes with it. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I have been working on additional icons for my novena icons book -- the third book in my series of devotional books.
Today has been a very busy day for me and I am tired, but it's a good tired. I taught a marriage preparation class, visited with a very dear friend and managed to work out at the gym for over an hour! It was a good day thanks to the grace of God.
May peace be with you all.