CFN – In Akwesasne, in Kahnawake, in North York, on Manitoulin Island, in Midland and elsewhere in Canada and the U.S., First Nations people and non-aboriginals alike are celebrating a first. Earlier today, World Mission Sunday, following in the footsteps of Paul VI and John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven new Saints. Two of the seven lived in North America. Mother Marianne Cope was a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii. Cope was born in what is now part of Germany, then migrated with her family to Utica, NY the following year. Kateri Tekakwitha was a Native from nearby upstate New York – about a five hour drive from Cornwall. Kateri is the first Native North American to be formally recognized by the Church as a Saint of God.
Born in 1656 of a Catholic Algonquin mother and an Iroquois (Mohawk) Chieftan father, Kateri hails from the village of Ossernenon in what is now Auriesville, NY (between Albany and Syracuse). The Algonquins and Iroquois were at war. Kateri’s mother grew up near Trois-Rivières, QC, was taken prisoner in 1653, and then chosen by a Mohawk chief to be his wife. Kateri’s mother chose not to have her nor her younger brother Baptized out of fear of repercussions from her new community.
Kateri barely survived the smallpox epidemic which claimed the lives of her brother and parents in 1660. The pox severely scarred the young girl’s face and left her almost blind.
Kateri was adopted by an uncle, a Mohawk, who later wished her to marry a young Iroquois, but she refused. Black Robe (Jesuit) Missionary Father Jacques de Lamberville discovered Kateri in 1675 on the banks of the Mohawk River and, due to her zeal, obtained permission to bring her to the mission of St. Francis Xavier at Kahnawake, QC. She received her first Communion there on Christmas day of 1676. In 1679 Kateri privately pronounced a vow of perpetual chastity and consecrated herself to the Blessed Virgin. There, she became known as Lily of the Mohawks, organizing prayer meetings and pilgrimages.
In 1680, Kateri died at the age of 24. Upon her death, her facial scarring completely healed. She is credited with interceding in many healings both during her lifetime and after her death. Her body is entombed in a marble shrine at the St. Francis-Xavier Church in Kahnawake.
She was declared venerable in 1943 and beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. In order to be declared a Saint, the Church required evidence that Kateri interceded in a miracle. In 2006, Jake Finkbonner, a five year old from Washington State cut his lip playing basketball. A flesh-eating bacterium was consuming his skin; surgeons cut away skin at least a dozen times, trying unsuccessfully to stop the infection from spreading. The Congregation of the Causes of Saints concluded that there was no medical explanation for Jake’s recovery. His faith community had been praying for him through the intercession of Blessed Kateri. Accompanied by members of his Lummi tribe from Washington state, Jake, now 12, attended today’s canonization and received Holy Communion from the pope.
The Canonization Celebration
As the sun rose over St. Peter’s Square this morning, the celebration which was attended by some 80,000 piligrims, included an estimated 1,500 Canadians, and some 600 Native Americans, many attired in traditional headdress and tunics, beating drums and singing to Kateri.
According to a news item on The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) website , Grand Chief Michael Ahríhron Delisle, Jr. and Chief Rhonda Kirby represented the MCK at today’s canonization. The chiefs were among an estimated 200 Kahnawa’kehró:non who have made the trip to attend the ceremonies in person. Hundreds of Kahnawa’kehró:non were able to watch a replay of the actual ceremony at 9am this morning at the Kateri School. Additionally, those who were unable to attend the special Kahnawà:ke Mass at 10:30am we able to watch a live broadcast of the event on Paul’s Cable Community Channel 35.
Russell Roundpoint, Executive Director of Akwesasne’s Native North American Travelling College, is reported as saying that the canonization “is a big deal.”
“The canonization of Saint Kateri is a great honour and joyous occasion for the many North Americans and Aboriginal Peoples who cherish her witness of faith and strength of character,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The canonization coincided with a worldwide gathering of Bishops for the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The bishops are seeking a new springtime of the Christian faith, particularly in places where the faith has declined.
Others who were raised to the altar today are Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, and Anna Schäffer.
“May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are,” said the Pope. “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!”
The full Text of Canonization Homily can be found here.
Mohawk Mystic of North America, Model of the First Evangelization and New Evangelization
During his homily at the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Pope John Paul II had this to say about one of the nine young saints and blesseds he had offered to Canada as patrons of the event:
“At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.”
To honour of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, Salt & Light TV produced a feature article and accompanying video tribute in which Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reflects on Kateri Tekakwitha’s life in light of the First Evangelization and the New Evangelization.
Tonight at 8 p.m., Canada’s Catholic television network, Salt & Light TV, will premier the documentary In Her Footsteps: The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha . In Cornwall, S&L appears on Cogeco channel 185.
Here is a short preview:
In Kateri’s honour, several thousand pilgrims participated in a procession and Mass today at the Canadian Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland.
Thousands are anticipated at the Mass of Thanksgiving which will take place at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal on November 4th. According to Mike Budge, organizer of pilgrimages in six area dioceses,
ten three no seats remain for the Kingston-Cornwall coach. A Charter Deluxe Coach will leave Cornwall around 8 a.m. on 4 November for a Prayer Ceremony at Kateri’s Shrine in Kahnawake at 10 a.m. with Bishops Prendergast, Lortie and Damphousse. The bus will leave the Shrine at 11:15 for St. Joseph’s Oratory and you will have some free time there until the Mass of Thanksgiving, which is at 2:30. Bus returns after Mass at 4:30 arriving Cornwall between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Cost is $50/person and includes the $5. admission fee to the Oratory for this event. To book a seat, contact Mike Budge at 613-224-8110. Bishop Marcel Damphousse will be on this bus. No pass is needed to view the simultaneous closed-circuit screening in the Crypt Church.