Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits

By Allan Greer | Go to book overview
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8
Virgins
and
Cannibals

ABOUT THE TIME CHAUCHETIèRE WROTE HIS BIOGRAPHY OF CATHERINE TEKAKWITHA, Pierre Cholenec was at work on his own hagiographic project. This was in 1696, when excitement about miraculous cures was running high and pilgrims were flocking to Sault St. Louis. “Wherever we went, we missionaries from the Sault encountered nothing but talk of Catherine Tegakouita, of the marvels that she performs, of the pilgrimages that will be made to her tomb, of the masses and novenas said in her honor. And always people ask insistently to see her Life.” It is not even certain that the faithful wanted to read her life story, but they do seem to have felt that their visit to the makeshift shrine was incomplete unless they had come into contact with both the saint’s relics and her text. “In the end,” Cholenec modestly observed, “I felt obliged to satisfy the public on that head to the best of my limited ability.”1

It was as if there were no Claude Chauchetière, just across the river at Montreal and already hard at work on his expanded life narrative designed to tell the world about the Mohawk saint. The manuscript may even have been finished by the time Cholenec took up his pen. Why, then, this duplicate effort? It is hard to escape the conclusion that Pierre distrusted his impassioned colleague; indeed, it appears that, right up through the Canadian Jesuit hierarchy, there was a distinct lack of confidence in Claude Chauchetière’s judgment. The mystic’s intuitive sense that God had specially marked this Indian girl seemed at last to have been vindicated by the popular cult and the accompanying miracles, and though the Jesuits

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