Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bl Kateri Tekakwitha

VEE: Today is the feast of Bl Kateri Tekakwitha and while I had heard her name many times I had not read about her until today. I was not altogether surprised to learn she died at the age of 24, I tend to be more surprised when saints (and blesseds) make it out of their 20s! While reading this article, it reminded me of another I had read in my diocesan paper. What gets on my nerves is the mis-representation or misuse, or something, of Bl Kateri in conjunction with American Indian culture.

In an article titled "Celebrating Bl Kateri and the Medicine Wheel" I read about a parish retreat that was led by two Sisters, based on the teachings of the Ojibway medicine wheel with other ceremonies of hand drumming and smudging also included. The article says nothing about oh I dont know... Bl Kateri and the cross, or Bl Kateri and the Eucharist, or that Jesus guy?

From the CNA article about her life

The life of the Mohawk village had become violent and debauchery was commonplace. Realizing that this was proving too dangerous to her life and her call to perpetual virginity, Kateri escaped to the town of Caughnawaga in Quebec, near Montreal, where she grew in holiness and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Kateri lived out the last years of her short life here, practicing austere penance and constant prayer. She was said to have reached the highest levels of mystical union with God, and many miracles were attributed to her while she was still alive.

Jesus, the cross, the Eucharist, the Rosary, all transcend cultures, they are universal they are Catholic and it is in them people will understand themselves, and find healing and life. This is what Bl Kateri knew and followed not the religious practices of her tribe.

In Bl Kateri I also think young women, especially young American Indian women, can be taught and find a model of chastity and purity when so many of them become pregnant and/or sexually active at a young age. In her they can see hope and an example even when it means going against the grain. Retreats and seminars need to be taught on this kind of thing and forget the darn medicine wheel.

DS: Bl. Kateri was born in what is today New York state. When she was only a small child, she lost her family to smallpox. She herself was affected physically from the disease. It left her disfigured in her face and with limited eyesight. Her very name, "Tekakwitha" means "she who bumps into things." (Vee says, if she had an Indian name, it would mean, "she who drinks beer." :P)

VEE: (and if DS had an Indian name it would be "hole in head")

DS: <_< Anyways---

When Kateri was a teenager, she converted to Catholicism. Unfortunately, Kateri suffered greatly from the others in her family and her tribe when they persecuted her for her Christian beliefs. She even received death threats. She moved to Canada, to a settlement of Christian Indians. There, she lived out the rest of her short live in prayer, piety, works of charity and devotion to God. She died from the ravages of disease. She is known as "the lily of the Mohawks."

You can find more about her on her shrine's website:

To address the abuse of inculturation Vee mentioned, I want to direct readers to take the time to actually read the Vatican II document, "Sacrosanctum Concilium." Inculturation was never meant to include pagan beliefs and pagan rituals as legitimate forms of worshipping God. A person's cultural practices need to conform to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the Christian view and understanding that takes precedence over a culture's traditions. If Bl. Kateri could be here, she would have opposed the use of the teachings of the Medicine Wheel at a Christian retreat. The document can be found here: Although it addresses the Mass, we can easily deduce that the same directives should be used in all aspects of our Faith, and the spreading of the Faith.

1 comment:

  1. Along with the Doctor Doolittling of St. Francis, the use of Blessed Kateri as an eco warrior really bothers me. Not only does it diminish the reason why she is a Blessed, but it's kind of racist and ignorant. "Hey who can we get to represent eco-awareness?" "I know we can use Blessed Kateri, and we all know Indians are all about tree hugging!"
    Anyways, through out the world there are Christians persecuted for their faith, many loosing their lives, let us ask Blessed Kateri for her intercession on their behalf.