Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 to a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief. When she was four years old, her parents and brother died of smallpox. The disease also left Kateri legally blind and badly scarred her face. Her aunts and uncle took her in and strongly opposed Christianity.
As a teen, Kateri received her first knowledge of Jesus from the Jesuit Fathers who visited her village. In 1676, at the age of 20, her uncle allowed her to be baptized provided she remain in the village. Following her Baptism, Kateri lived a pious and faith-filled life, spending hours in prayer and making crosses out of twigs. She also refused to marry, desiring only Jesus for her spouse, and refused to work on Sundays.
Her family and village began to taunt and ridicule her – she even received death threats. She never intended to leave her home until, fearing for her life, she fled to a Christian Mohawk village in Kahnawake, Quebec. There, she received her First Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1677 and later professed a vow of Perpetual Virginity in 1679. Kateri was known for her deep spirituality, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, teaching prayers to the children and caring for the elderly and the sick.
Kateri’s health deteriorated in the last year of her life. She was only 24 years old when she died, uttering the words “Jesus, Mary, I love you”. Witnesses said that within minutes of her death, her smallpox scars disappeared and her face became radiant with beauty.