The First Native American Saint

The Catholic Church is reaching out to previously unrecognized groups…

 

Pope names ‘Lily of the Mohawks’ first Native American saint

Pope Benedict created seven new saints on Sunday including the first Native American to be canonised, as the Roman Catholic Church reaches out to its global flock to rebuff encroaching secularism…

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world converged on St. Peter’s Square to witness the ceremony recognising the saints, who included Kateri Tekakwitha, a sixteenth-century convert known as “Lily of the Mohawks.”…

The crowd included hundreds of pilgrims from theUnited States‘ 2.5 million-strong Native American population, of whom 680,000 are estimated to be Catholic, a legacy of the success of early missionaries in converting indigenous people in America.

Portraits of the new saints, including French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, the Spanish nun Carmen Salles y Barangueras, and German laywoman Anna Schaffer hung from the marble facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the crowds cheered as each name was called.

“Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in North America! May God bless the first nations!” Pope Benedict said in his homily, in which he alternated between French, English, German and Italian.

Saint Kateri, born in 1656 in what is now New York to a Mohawk father and an Algonquin mother, impressed missionaries with her devotion, taking a lifetime vow of chastity and punishing herself by placing hot coals between her toes and sleeping on a bed of thorns.

When she died at the age of 24, witnesses said smallpox scars on her face disappeared, and people reported seeing visions of her.

This began a centuries-old tradition of veneration culminating with her canonisation, bolstered by the survival of the Native American boy in 2006…

Dressed in fringed and beaded regalia with an arctic fox fur collar, Judy Arnouts of the Odawa tribe, whose native name is Bedaben, meaning Blessing of New Day, said the canonisation of Saint Kateri was a boost to the Native American community.

“Our cultural and spiritual history needs to be upheld, celebrated and taught to our younger generation,” said Arnouts, 68, who had travelled from Michigan to present Pope Benedict with a wood-burned cedar log she had made, a traditional craft…

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