St. Kateri, lessons of love

“Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God that I may do it?”
St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Rarely if ever in the many millennia of human civilization has there been a people group
who has not committed some atrocity.
American Indians are no exception

Casey Chalk, The Federalist

Kateri Tekakwitha—
Her feast day was July 14th and yet I just recently learned about her and her life.
She was of Algonquin and Mohawk roots.

Kateri’s baptismal name is “Catherine,” which in the Haudenosaunee (“Iroquois”)
language is “Kateri.” Kateri’s Haudenosaunee name, “Tekakwitha,”
can be translated as “One who places things in order” or “To put all into place.”
Other translations include, “she pushes with her hands” and
“one who walks groping for her way” (because of her faulty eyesight).

Kateri was born in 1656 at the Kanienkehaka (“Mohawk”) village of Ossernenon,
which is near the present-day Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York.

Kateri’s father was a Kanienkehaka chief and her mother was an Algonquin Catholic.
At the age of four, smallpox attacked Kateri’s village, taking the lives of her parents and baby brother,
and leaving Kateri an orphan. Although forever weakened, scarred, and partially blind,
Kateri survived.
Kateri was adopted by her two aunts and her uncle, also a Kanienkehaka chief.

(Kateri.org)

History teaches us that many of the Native Americans contracted smallpox from the Europeans
with some Europeans purposefully infecting resident tribes.
Yet history also teaches us that tribal violence and attacks upon other tribes was
a constant threat to a tribe’s way of life.

A Mohawk war party in 1647 attacked and practically exterminated an Algonquin community.
The Iroquois, who practiced both slavery and cannibalism,
routinely tortured to death captured enemy warriors.
Kateri witnessed the torturing of Mohican warriors who had attacked her Mohawk village in 1669.

(The Federalist)

Kateri, upon meeting Jesus, put all of the difficulties of her past behind her.
Her sole focus became Christ.

Kateri often went to the woods alone to speak to God and to listen to him in her heart
and in the voice of nature.

When Kateri was eighteen years old, Father de Lamberville, a Jesuit missionary,
came to Caughnawaga and established a chapel.
Kateri was fascinated by the stories she heard about Jesus Christ.
She wanted to learn more about him and to become a Christian.
Father de Lamberville asked her uncle to allow Kateri to attend religious instructions.
The following Easter of 1676, twenty-year-old Kateri was baptized.

Not everyone in Kateri’s village accepted her choice to fully embrace Jesus,
which for her meant refusing the marriage that had been planned for her.
Kateri became a village outcast. Some members of her family refused her food on Sundays
because she would not work.
She suffered bullying, as some children would taunt her and throw stones.
She was threatened by some with torture or death if she did not renounce her religion.
Because of increasing hostility from some of her people, and because she wanted to be free
to devote her life completely to Jesus, in July of 1677,
Kateri left her village and traveled more than 200 miles through woods and rivers
to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier at Sault Saint-Louis,
near Montreal.
Kateri’s journey through the wilderness took more than two months.
At the mission, Kateri lived with other Indigenous Catholics.

(Kateri.org)

Katei lived a life dedicated to serving Christ and Christ alone– because of
her virtue, modesty and humility, many Native Americans who knew her referred to
to her as a “Holy Woman.”

Kateri died on April 17, 1680, at the age of 24.
Her last words were, “Jesus, I love You.” Like the flower she was named for,
the lily, Kateri’s life was short and beautiful.
Moments after dying, her scarred face miraculously cleared and was made beautiful by God.
This miracle was witnessed by two Jesuit priests and all the others
able to fit into the room. Many miracles were to follow.

Three people had visions of her in the week following her death.
A chapel was built near her grave, and soon pilgrims began to visit,
coming to thank God for this Holy Woman.

Kateri is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the “Beautiful Flower Among True Men.”
She is recognized for her heroic faith, virtue, and love of Jesus,
in the face of great adversity and rejection.

(Kateri.org)

Our Patron Saint

I learned about Saint Kateri when I read an article by Casey Chalk, a columnist for
The American Conservative, Crisis Magazine, and The New Oxford Review.
The article, Saint Kateri’s Story Dispels The Myth Of White People As Uniquely Evil,
brought to light the story of St. Kateri but it also highlighted the complexities of
early Native American tribes.

Indeed, tribes in the American southeast in the 18th and 19th centuries managed plantations
that “rivaled those of their white neighbors.”
In 1860, citizens of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Cree, and Chickasaw tribes owned more
than 5,000 black slaves.
So much for simplistic narratives about the white,
European oppression of American Indians and people of color.

And whereas our past, be it black, white, red, brown, yellow—slave, freeman or tribal member…
the one underlying thread is a single, yet deeply important component—
it is single fact that we are all the children of one God, one Father,
and as those children we have but one Savior found in Jesus Christ.

Mr. Chalk’s article reminds us that history is complicated—
and that man is perhaps even more complicated than his own history.

Certainly, the United States has an obligation to right past wrongs,
of which there are many, against indigenous peoples.
But we also have an obligation to avoid superficial,
Manichean portrayals of history that unnecessarily divide our nation and
inflame ignorant ideologies of hatred and outrage.

“There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that
true peace which is within the souls of men,” said Black Elk,
a Lakota medicine man who was present at both the Battle of the Little Bighorn
and the massacre at Wounded Knee. Later in life,
he converted to Catholicism and became a renowned catechist.

He, too, is being considered for sainthood.
The humble, pious, and patient witness of St. Kateri Tekakwitha
and Black Elk offer a better way of overcoming our national distemper,
one marked by love, forgiveness, and truth.

https://thefederalist.com/2020/07/14/saint-kateris-story-dispels-the-myth-of-white-people-as-uniquely-evil/

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17