St. Kateri Tekakwitha is very special to me. She was a key instrument in my family’s faith story, and has been an intercessor for me for many years. I select a saint as patron of my blog each year, and several of those years have featured St. Kateri. Given all of this, it’s only natural that I would favor the specific devotion and sacramental that the Church attributes to her.
But first, let us focus on Kateri herself. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” Kateri Tekakwitha grew up in the latter part of the seventeenth century not too far from where I live in upstate New York. Her mother was Algonquin, and a Christian, her father a Mohawk. My dad is Mohawk, and St. Kateri is his confirmation saint (he is a convert). Her family died of smallpox when she was a small child, and the disease also left Kateri with scars and weakened eyesight. When she was 18, she requested to be baptized (I’m certain it was her mother’s prayers that yielded this result!), and received a lot of unhappiness from her tribal community as a result: Catholicism was not looked upon highly by her people because of the tactics of some of the missionaries, as well as the resented intrusion into their already established spiritual lives. Kateri eventually left her hometown for Caughnawaga, in modern day Quebec, Canada. She received her First Communion there, and took a vow to remain unmarried, dedicating her life to Christ. She wanted to form a community of consecrated Iroquois women, but never got the opportunity. She died quite young, in 1680, and is known for the fact that her face cleared of the significant scarring she bore throughout her life as she lay in repose in death. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, and canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. She is the first indigenous person from North America to be declared a saint.
Before I talk about her chaplet, let me just interject a personal anecdote. Kateri Tekakwitha means a LOT to the Native people who have chosen to become Catholic. I live near a fairly high concentration of people of Iroquois descent, and for a time my family attended a parish (the only one in New York State) that is on reservation land. Although the parish isn’t officially named for her, she IS the community’s patron, and when we attended Mass there the congregation prayed for her canonization each time, eyes focused on the beautiful statue of her that is ensconced in the church. I think we can all understand that it’s important to have someone with a similar background as a role model, and Kateri is that for the Native Catholic people in this area. As you might presume, there is not a high percentage of Catholics amongst the Native population. But for those that are devoted to her and share her heritage, she is incredibly special.
I absolutely love her chaplet, which is often called the Kateri Indian Rosary. To pray this chaplet, you begin with the sign of the cross at the crucifix. There are 24 beads, one for each year of Kateri’s life, separated into units of eight. The colors are significant and specific to this chaplet. The crystal clear beads represent water, and on each you pray a Glory Be. The brown are for the earth, and on each you pray an Our Father. These two colors are in tribute to Kateri’s Native heritage. The red beads represent blood/love, and on each you pray a Hail Mary. Kateri suffered for, and devoted her life to, her Catholic faith, and thus the chaplet concludes with red beads, symbolizing a type of martyrdom.
I love my chaplet, which is the one featured in this post. The beads are smooth and heavy and it feels so good in your hand, a perfect reminder for a call to prayer.
St. Kateri, pray for all us that we discern and do God’s will always, just as you did.
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Do you have a devotion to St. Kateri Tekakwitha? Have you ever prayed her chaplet, or is the chaplet of another saint your favorite? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Copyright 2019 Tiffany Walsh