Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

fialleril: [the fires and the black river of loss whose other side is salvation] (Default)

A brief story from my absence:

This past Sunday, seven men and women were canonized as saints in the Roman Catholic Church. Among them was St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. Tekakwitha (Kateri was her baptismal name - the Mohawk version of Catherine) was born in what is now Auriesville, NY, which is only about half an hour from Albany. So to celebrate, I took a group of students to the shrine at Tekakwitha's birthplace for a joyful pilgrimage. It was an incredible Mass: several thousand people were there, and the Mass was celebrated in a combination of English and Mohawk.

Like all saints, Kateri Tekakwitha's life was not without problematic elements. Check out her wikipedia entry here for more info. (Trigger warning for self harm at the link.) She lived in the midst and mix of colonization, the clash of cultures, and a period in Christianity that emphasized extreme penance.

Yet for all that, I don't think we can overestimate the importance of Tekakwitha's canonization. She is a Native face of God, and her life and her story is not limited to the 24 years she lived on earth; she has become a symbol. She is an evangelist, a proponent of the simple life, patron of ecology, patron of young people making their own way. She did not rely on the white Jesuit fathers to tell her how to live her faith; she lived it herself, and indeed often refused to listen to them when they tried to correct her. She has long been considered a patron and prayed to as a saint among Native American and First Nations Catholics; frankly, it's about time that Rome caught up.

October 2012

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