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.
fialleril: [earth of light / sky of earth] (desert sky)
Long time no post. Life has been busy - the semester is in full swing, which means I have student activities, liturgies, service projects, and other events nearly every day of the week. It is wonderful work, and I love it, but it doesn't leave me with a lot of mental energy for in-depth LJ posts, alas.

Anyway, some things I have been up to since last posting:

- Saw Florence + the Machine in concert, which was AWESOME. It would have been more awesome if I didn't have a cold/sinus infection at the time, but it was still completely awesome.

- Went to a Scottish festival and found out a little more about my family along the distaff line: My mother's mother's mother's mother was a Calhoun, the name that particular branch of the Colquhoun clan took when they came to USAmerica. The clan badge is a stag, which I find interesting because I have always had a particular fondness for deer.

Also, on a very geeky note: I am Scottish-descended on both sides of my family. My mother's side is Colquhoun, whose motto is "if I can" (which to me sounds like "I do what I want if I can get away with it" - an excellent motto), while my father's side is part of the Robertson clan, whose motto is "glory is the reward of valor." Sounds like Clan Slytherin and Clan Gryffindor to me.

I have been oddly into family history recently, and am considering doing some more in depth research into my roots, since everything seems to be very mysterious. My parents only know their own history about two generations back, and then very hazy vague knowledge of the distant past (like, supposedly my dad's family came to USAmerica from Scotland via Nova Scotia, but nobody really can say how or when or who). My interest is probably partially because I'm now the family member who lives closest to my maternal grandmother, so we've taken to meeting up regularly, and she has always had an interest in family history. I got to visit her house last Christmas, and she showed me the old Colquhoun family silver and whatnot. So I do know a bit more about my mom's family history than my dad's, but the more I learn the more it piques my curiosity.

- Took a group of students apple picking, which was lots of fun. And also kind of amusing for me as a farm kid, because several of the city kids had never picked their own fruit before. It was great to see them get so excited about it, and to see their interest in how fruit grows, what the difference between varieties is, how you know when it's ripe, etc.

- I did get a couple days' vacation and went to Columcille in Pennsylvania. Such an excellent place. I spent a day just meditatively walking and being in nature and refreshing my energy. I wish it was a bit closer to Albany, so I could take students there.

And there you have it: the State of Fia.
fialleril: [hai thar bb] (Azula/Ty Lee)
Hey there internet! Long time no post!

Alas, work is my life. I don't even know where to begin with all the stuff I've been up to in the campus ministry department since my last post, but here's a quick run down: New Orleans was some good times, there were some service events and faith sharing things and personal crises of every stripe, sometimes I felt like I was on call 24/7, we are renovating the office, and also Lent is coming up fast!

So that made no sense. Let us talk about something more interesting. Specifically, Valentine's Day!

Now, you might be saying, "Fia, I wouldn't expect you to be into Valentine's Day? It's kind of not your idiom at all." But I would disagree! I submit to you that delicious chocolate is always my idiom, no matter the day of the year.

Seriously though, I am a big fan of the legend of St. Valentine. In fact, we are having a Theology on Tap tonight with the students who are of age, and I'm going to be talking about him and leading a discussion of how we can reclaim the counter-cultural reality that was at the heart of St. Valentine's work.

I have been thinking about making my return to LJ with a series of posts on saints for queering the church. While St. Valentine doesn't exactly fit that, he is definitely related, so I'll start with him.

There are several different St. Valentines, all of them martyrs, and not much is known about any of them historically. Legend, however, is a different matter, and when it comes to early saints, especially, legend is likely to be more important than history. It's the story that has lasting power.

My favorite legend of St. Valentine goes like this: Valentine was a priest under the reign of Emperor Claudius II (268-270 CE). Claudius was involved in several unpopular wars, and in a desperate bid to recruit more soldiers, had forbidden marriage for men eligible for conscription into the military. Some versions of the legend actually say that he suspended marriage in the city of Rome entirely.

Valentine went against this edict and spent his time marrying couples in secret. This is, of course, where we get the connection with romance and romantic love in the modern holiday, but I think we've forgotten a very important part of the story.

Valentine was caught marrying a couple against the edict and arrested. He was brought before the Emperor, who had him beaten and executed by beheading. He was executed as an enemy of the state (much like Jesus, in that sense), because marrying the people he was marrying was a political action. By performing marriages, he was actively denying soldiers to the military and making a very real protest against the war.

This is the element of the story I think we've lost. The legend of St. Valentine isn't just about love; it's about a revolution. It's about a political act of protest - the original "make love not war."

And I think this is why St. Valentine is a good saint for queering the church. I think the modern parallels are pretty obvious. Marriages that are illegal and thus contentious political acts? I suspect if Valentine were alive today, he'd be getting himself excommunicated for officiating at gay marriages. And then getting himself put on the FBI watch list for acts of military sabotage.

I'd love to see this element of Valentine's legend reclaimed. Valentine's Day: the day you buy your sweatheart some chocolate, write some cute cards, and take direct nonviolent action for greater justice in the world.

October 2012

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