Today is the optional memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Her story is one I should know better, given that it’s local history – local meaning upstate New York and southern Ontario and Quebec – but for this morning, I’ll pull together a quick post.
Algonquins and Hurons lived in Ontario and Quebec; the Iroquois Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca were joined later by the Tuscarora) lived in upstate New York. French Jesuit missionaries (the “Blackrobes”) were sent to evangelize and were martyred over the years of 1642 to 1646.
Sometime after that, the Iroquois capture a Catholic Algonquin woman and gave her to be the wife of the Mohawk chief. In 1656, Kateri Tekakwitha was born to that Mohawk chief and Algonquin woman at modern day Auriesville. Kateri was four years old, smallpox scarred her face and left her with poor vision, and her parents and brother were killed.
Kateri was adopted by her uncle, who became chief of the clan. Having lost part of his family, her uncle was hostile to the missionaries, which dissuaded Kateri from seeking instruction from the missionaries. Eventually, she was baptized in 1676, taking the name Kateri (Catherine). Kateri was pledged to a Mohawk brave, whom she refused as she did not wish to marry. Between that and her conversion, Kateri faced ridicule and maltreatment such that she fled to southern Quebec, where she died in 1680. When she died, all the scarring of her face cleared up.