Sunday, 21 October 2012

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Icon, "St. Kateri Tekakwitha", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
Any of you who follow such things as canonizations or who read or listen to Catholic news media will have already heard a great deal about the canonization of this native North American who died at age 24 and who, as a saint, is now claimed by both the U.S. and Canada!

Daughter of a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin Indian woman who had converted to Catholicism, Saint Kateri was born in present-day New York in 1656. A smallpox epidemic in 1661-1663 left her an orphan, with a badly scarred face and impaired eyesight. Because of her poor vision, Saint Kateri was named “Tekakwitha,” which means “she who bumps into things.”

On Christmas Day 1677 Saint Kateri made her first holy communion and on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679 made a vow of perpetual virginity. She also offered herself to the Virgin Mary, asking Our Lady to accept her as a daughter. A Jesuit priest quoted Saint Kateri as saying: “For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary. I have chosen Him for my husband and He alone will take me for wife.”

During the last years of her life, she endured great suffering from tuberculosis. She died on April 17th, 1680, shortly before her 24th birthday, and was buried in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada. Her final words were “Jesus — Mary — I love you.” The Jesuit priest Fr. Cholenec later wrote: “This face, so marked and swarthy, suddenly changed about a quarter of an hour after her death, and became in a moment so beautiful and so clear that I observed it immediately.” She is venerated as the Protectress of Canada and the patron saint of Native Americans and ecology.

Drawing, "St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Above you see my drawing of St. Kateri Tekakwitha which was based on the painting below by Fr. Chaucheti√®re. I did not want to make an exact copy of his painting, but, rather, to give my own interpretation of what he had painted so many years ago.  I must admit, however, to being a real coward as I did not have the heart to show her face as reddened and disfigured as it really must have been. 

On thing you might be wondering about in both Father's painting and in my drawing:  why does St. Kateri have this blanket looking thing on her head?  The smallpox not only left her face disfigured but also damaged her eyes making sunlight almost unbearably painful.  So, whenever she had to go outside on a sunny day, she would bring her head covering down so her eyes were in deep shadow.

The only known portrait from life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, painted by Father Claude Chauchetière in 1696.

And so the day has finally arrived -- Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks is now St. Kateri Tekakwitha.  Her cause for canonization was opened in 1884 and in 2006, a second miracle was attributed to the intercession of Blessed Kateri.  During the following years, the Vatican confirmed the miracle leading to Blessed Kateri being canonized and declared a saint.  The miracle, just in case you do not know, was that of a five-year-old boy who was miraculously cured of necrotizing fasciitis or the flesh-eating disease.  The boy's physicians informed the family that they should prepare for his death.  Then the priest of their family's parish church recommended that they ask for the intercession of Blessed Kateri.  While they were doing this, they were visited by a sister who introduced herself as Sr. Kateri.  The sister prayed with them and then left a relic of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha on the boy's bed.  From that point on, the boy began to recover quickly -- so much so that even the doctors had to admit that what they were witnessing was definitely beyond any medical intervention.  The boy and his family are in Rome today and were present as the Holy Father declared Kateri Tekakwitha to be a saint.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, please pray for us.



I wanted to show you this new photograph of Braden without any other photos to distract you.  Why?  Because I truly think this is one of the most beautiful pictures I have yet seen of this blessed boy.  Although his shirt has the word "beware" on it with the picture of a shark, this little fellow is anything but predatory.  What a great guy he is -- can you tell I'm in love?

"Braden Sweetly Sleeping"



Suki and one of her many "aunties" saying their hellos
Well, Miss Suki has had quite a busy week. 

I have been blessed with visits from three dear friends during the past 4 days and each one of these friends is also a friend of Suki's.  So, just like royalty receiving tributes from the members of their court, Suki has sat in her bed and waited while each one of these friends approached her quietly, asking, "is it all right if I pat you, Suki?"  Giving them an almost imperceptible and very queenly nod, each "courtier" is allowed to approach and pat and rub and scratch while softly speaking endearments.  She tolerates this for a period of time (especially if they are scratching her chin bone) until she tires of it all.  At this point, she gives a big yawn and indicates her desire to return to her nap!

Were you talking about me?

All of this extra attention does not seem to affect her behaviour in any noticeable way -- it is almost as though she expects such treatment.  She still leaves too much food in her dish, still races around the apartment at 3 a.m. and still tries to give me a head to toe bath with her tongue about 5 a.m. (also known as "breakfast time for Suki!"). 

Looking ahead to the coming week, I shudder to think of what tricks she may try to play on my friend, Brenda, who will be staying at my place for the next 8 days -- especially once Suki realizes that I am not coming home for a few days and that Brenda is the one who will be feeding her while I am in the hospital...

Speaking of the hospital, yes, this Tuesday is the day for the big surgery.  Afterward, if all goes well, I will be in the hospital for at least a couple of days, maybe as many as five.  I am really not anticipating any problems and am very hopeful that I will be allowed to come home after 2 days -- especially once they learn that Brenda is a retired nurse and that she will be staying with me for a week after the surgery.  We'll see how it goes. 

This means that I probably will not be posting again before next weekend -- depending on how I am feeling, of course.  I am sure I will have lots of funny hospital stories to tell you as well as new Suki escapades -- she will have Brenda and another friend, both, looking after her in my absence.  I am going to have to warn them to make certain that they keep one another informed about who fed Suki when; otherwise, she will pretend not to have been fed each time another person comes into the apartment!

At any rate, I feel very well prepared for Tuesday.  On Friday, a dear priest from the Cathedral came by and I was able to receive three Sacraments:  Confession, Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist.  What a gift we have in the Sacraments.  Not only do they bring joy to my heart and soul, but also the graces which flow from them leave me feeling very much at peace and very grateful for all God's goodness and loving protection.  Whatever happens, I am in His merciful care and as dear Julian of Norwich said:  "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well."  And so it shall be.  A special thanks to each and every one who has offered prayers or who will be praying for me on Tuesday.  I am very grateful.

May the peace of God be with us all.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.  Amen.

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