Kateri was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on 21 October 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. In his homily at the beatification Mass, John Paul II honored her life with the following: “This beautiful crown of the newly beatified, God’s bountiful gift to his Church, is completed by the sweet, frail yet strong figure of a young woman who died when she was only twenty-four years old: Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks”, the Iroquois virgin, who in seventeenth-century North America was the first to renew the wonders of holiness of Saint Scholastica, Saint Gertrude, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Angela Merici and Saint Rose of Lima, preceding, along the path of Love, her great spiritual sister: Therese of the Child Jesus.”
She spent her short life partly in what is now the State of New York and partly in Canada. She was a kind, gentle and hardworking person, spending her time working, praying and meditating. At the age of twenty she was Baptized. Even when following her tribe in the hunting seasons, she continued her devotions before a rough cross carved by herself in the forest. When her family urged her to marry, she replied with great serenity that she had Jesus as her only spouse. This decision, in view of the social conditions of women in the Indian tribes at that time, exposed Kateri to the risk of living as an outcast and in poverty. In what was a bold, counter-cultural and prophetic gesture: on 25 March 1679, at the age of twenty-three, with the consent of her spiritual director, Kateri took a vow of perpetual virginity, as far as we know the first time that this was done among the North American Indians.
The last months of her life were an even clearer manifestation of her solid faith, straight-forward humility, calm resignation and radiant joy, even in the midst of terrible sufferings. Her last words, simple and sublime, whispered at the moment of death, sum up, like a noble hymn, a life of purest charity: “Jesus, I love you.”