About Our Stained Glass Windows
Venerable Kateri Tekakwitha
1656 – 1680
Tekakwitha, an Indian maiden, was born near the present town of Auriesville, N.Y. Her mother had been an Algonquin Christian who had been captured in a Mohawk raid and brought back to be the wife of the chief of the Turtles. When Kateri was born, her mother had planned to have her baptized by the Blackrobes, but war between the French and the Five Indian Nations had prevented the Jesuit Fathers from coming to their village. Hardly four winters had passed when a scourge of smallpox swept over the lodges of the Mohawks. In that dreadful dark day her father, mother, and little brother died, leaving the four year old to her uncle who became the new chief of the Turtles. Here Tekakwitha grew into a real Iroquois maiden with her shiny black, braided hair, deer-skin dress, and beaded moccasins.
When peace finally returned, the Blackrobes once again entered the Indian villages, teaching about Rawenniio, the God of the Christians. Tekakwitha listened and begged to be baptized. She told the Blackrobe how she had been able to see Rawenniio in every leaf and stone. She spoke of her mother and her Christian life. But since she was the niece of the great chief, the enemy of the Christians, and since her aunts were among the most bitter contemners of the new converts, Father made her wait. Broken-hearted she prayed and studied and at last won the heart of Father de Lamberville, who promised to baptize her on Easter Sunday, 1676. To the Indians, both pagan and Christian, this meant a great deal, for it was the adopted daughter of their chief who was being baptized. Tekakwitha was now Kateri, the Lily of the Mohawks. From the time of her First Communion on Christmas of 1677, her progress along the road of holiness became more and more evident. Because she was so much a child of the forests and a true daughter of the Iroquois, she could inflict upon herself such fierce penances that the Fathers had to command her to stop them. She slept on thorns and walked through the winter snows without her moccasins in atonement for the sins of her people.
At the Jesuit Mission she met Therese, a sort of Iroquois Magdalem, who was to become her best friend. Together they prayed and practiced severe penances. They even planned to start an Iroquois sisterhood in imitation of the French nuns. She became the first among her people to pronounce a vow of virginity.
In the blazing fire of her own zeal and desire for holiness, weakened by great penances and afflicted by a serious disease, the Lily wilted rapidly. During Holy Week in the twenty-fourth year of her life, she called Therese to her side, smiled and bade farewell to her closest friend on earth, “I will love you in heaven”. The Lily of the Mohawks, the little saint of the Sault, was hastening along the golden trail that led to the eternal council fire of Rawenniio. There forever and ever she could talk with Him, and look at Him, and love Him.