Kateri Tekakwitha becomes North America’s first native saint

21 Oct

A believer holds an image depicting Kateri Tekakwitha, the first aboriginal to be declared a saint, before Pope Benedict XVI conducts a special mass to canonize seven new saints including Kateri at St. Peter’s square in Vatican City October 21, 2012.

Roman Catholics, and Protestants like myself who take an interest in Roman Catholic Church developments, will find this of interest: Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk woman (originally from what is now upstate NY, who died at Kahnawake, near what is now Montreal, Quebec) has been canonized at the Vatican, making her the first aboriginal / First Nations / Amerindian / Native Canadian / Native American saint.

Kateri Tekakwitha, a woman credited with life-saving miracles, has become North America’s first aboriginal saint after a canonization mass at the Vatican.


Aboriginal Canadians and Americans in traditional dress sang songs to Kateri as the sun rose over St. Peter’s Square.

They joined pilgrims from around the world at the Mass and cheered when Pope Benedict, in Latin, declared each of the seven new saints worthy of veneration by the church.

In his homily, Pope Benedict praised each of the seven new saints as examples for the entire church.

“With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren,” he said.

Speaking in English and French, in honour of Kateri’s Canadian ties, Pope Benedict noted how unusual it was in Kateri’s culture for her to choose to devote herself to her Catholic faith.

“May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are,” he said. “Saint Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America!”

Kateri, who is also known as “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born in New York state in 1656 before fleeing to a settlement north of the border to escape opposition to her Christianity.

She died in 1680 at the age of 24. Her body is entombed in a marble shrine at the St. Francis-Xavier Church in Kahnawake, a Montreal-area Mowhawk community that was expected be well represented among the 1,500 Canadian pilgrims set to attend the celebrations.

The process for her canonization began in the 1880s and Kateri was eventually beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

According to a longtime deacon at the Kahnawake reserve, an event six years ago is widely viewed as a miracle which sealed Kateri’s canonization.

The case involved six-year-old Jake Finkbonner, who belongs to the Lummi tribe in Washington, said Ron Boyer, who was appointed by the Vatican in 2007 to help make the case for the canonization.

Jake was knocked over while playing basketball, striking his lip on a post. The incident led to the boy developing a high fever which landed him in intensive care where doctors determined he had a flesh-eating disease.

The deacon said Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Mohawk from the Akwesasne reserve, happened to be visiting the area and was summoned by the family. She had a bone relic of Kateri Tekakwitha which was held to Jake’s chest as his family prayed.

According to Mr. Boyer, at that point the infection stopped spreading and began to heal.

Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, is among 17 bishops who were to make the trip to the Vatican, while House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer was also expected to attend Sunday’s mass.

There is a Wikipedia page about her, at which one can read more about her.


Posted by on October 21, 2012 in America, Canada, religion, spirituality


9 responses to “Kateri Tekakwitha becomes North America’s first native saint

  1. chesterpoe

    October 21, 2012 at 11:40 am

    From the wiki article: “After her death, the people noticed a physical change. 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 white that I observed it immediately.””

    I never saw a dead Colored person and am not sure if they come to resemble Europeans in terms of skin color shortly after death. If that is not normal then perhaps we can interpret something out of this 😉 ?

  2. Will S.

    October 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Ha! 🙂

    The Mormons might agree; I’ve read that they originally taught that black people were that colour because of their sin, and if they stopped sinning, they’d turn white. 🙂

  3. ray

    October 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    see? we got a brand new Woman-Of-Color saint for you!

    you can add her as an adjunct to our female Redemptrix of Humanity! is that hip or what?

    Women Rule!

    check how relevant and progressive we are at the RCC…. heck she’s even got a cool, OWS type headband… so very neoSixties, so fresh, so fashionable, so forwardthinking, so felicitous upon the eyes

    this’ll keep the women filling collection plates at the local parish!

    the RCC degrades Christ’s saints by trotting out their fake injun PC princess to tickle the conditioned biases of “new catholics”

    what bullshit

    hey benedict arnold, arent you late for your appointment with High Druid Rowan Williams, capo of the Church of England? send him my love, o podpeas

  4. Will S.

    October 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    @ ray: I’d like to think that the Vatican wasn’t moved by considerations of ‘political correctness’ and ‘diversity’ to do this, and that at the very worst, they were more concerned with PR with natives, due to residential school memories, etc., in terms of winning their affections back, rather than trying to score points with white liberals, or teh wimminz. I don’t even think that’s the case, myself, but if I were more cynical than I even am (hey, it’s possible), I might hold to such a view. But I think it’s genuinely due to the attribution of a miracle to her intervention, as is the usual requirement for canonization. Maybe I’m wrong.

  5. C.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    First native american CATHOLIC saint, you mean. St Peter the Aleut was formally recognized over thirty years ago.

    Of course if you read his story, you can see why Catholics might feel concerned about “PR”, as Will puts it.

  6. Will S.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the info. about St. Peter the Aleut; interesting.

  7. asinusspinasmasticans

    October 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I can see why Catholics would be hesitant about St Peter. He was martyred by Jesuits in California when they called him a schismatic and tried to force him to convert.

    SS Peter and Kateri pray for us

  8. Will S.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    So you recognize Kateri as a saint, even though you’re E.O., asinusspinasmasticans?

  9. Will S.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Prof. Hale thinks this canonization was purely political:

    As a non-Catholic myself, I find his take interesting.


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