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/

Freedom and slaves on the 4th

“You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve YOUR freedom.
I hope you will make a good use of it.”

John Adams

“Act as if every day were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

We often give up our freedom because freedom means doing things for
ourselves, which is a great bother.
We stop working for ourselves and work for someone else who will take care of us.
We stop ruling ourselves because it is easier and even safer to have someone else rule us.
We stop thinking for ourselves because we find it simpler to have someone else think for us.
Then we wake up one morning and find that we are slaves to institutions that are
far out of our control.

Dale Ahlquist
from Knight of the Holy Ghost

I wonder if one day, in the not so near future, it won’t be considered, not only bad form,
but actually an unpardonable sin, to celebrate our own 4th of July—
that of the marking of the beginning of what was to become a great nation?

We seem to be on a hell-bent precarious and most dangerous path of self-righteous indignation
against what made us who we are today…be that a good making or now what many perceive to be
a bad making.

This week, the giant sporting goods maker, Nike has had to pull it’s new Betsy Ross sneaker–
before it even hit the shelves in anticipation of a patriotic 4th—
all because of a now-former football player who has deemed that our flag, our anthem,
and our very country is each a symbol of racism.

This coming from a young man who was raised by white parents in a life of middle-class privilege…
and yet he speaks knowingly of what it is that represents an oppressive past as if he
had lived that experience.

The city council in Charlottesville, Va has voted to no longer recognize the birthday of her
favorite son, Thomas Jefferson, due to his having owned slaves.
Lest we forget that he reportedly fell in love with one of those slaves…
and wrote of his desire to better the lives of enslaved people.

Statues have been removed, emblems taken down, mottos erased and pasts now painstakingly silenced…
all because people are imposing the 21st-century mindset on the mindset of those who lived
hundreds of years prior—those who lived the life they knew and not one of our modern hindsight.

Yet our goal is to expunge our past, at any and all cost- so help us…
(remember, we must not say ‘so help us God’ because that too is no longer acceptable)

Yet erased or not, our past will remain our past.
And the fact is that we are no longer those people.
We have become a better people…that is, until now.

Our current obsession seems to rest in a long ago and thankfully long abolished
use of human beings as free laborers at the hands of
both benevolent and cruel men.

The marketing of men and women bought and sold by other men and women.

Slavery sadly came as part of new world discoveries as old world ways depended on the
strong backs of men, both free and not free, to build a new world.

Slaves had been in the Carribean hundreds of years prior to the establishment of our colonies,
working on the sugarcane plantations for the Spanish.
The British, French and Dutch each soon followed suit.
As we know that Africans sold their kinsmen to both the white men of Europe as well as to the
brown men of the Middle East.

Slavery sadly was not, nor is it, something new.

Today we actually see a new form of slavery taking place…the market of human beings
for that of sex trafficking.

And so we must ask ourselves in this ongoing debate over reparations, are we willing to pay the
countless families, who have lost loved ones as sex slaves?
Those individuals who now must use their bodies in most profane ways at the
expense of others?

This as voices now demand that we pay the families of former black slaves.
Yet how do we determine who was slave and who was owner?

What of the Jews who escaped to the US following WWII?
Those who had either survived the death camps or simply the remaining families
who had lost loved ones, do we or does Germany owe them?
What of those who worked as slaves for the Nazi regime and those who simply were killed?
Should the Germans now pay the families of those who were lost in the gas chambers?

And what of the countless Russians in gulags…those from the days of Communist regimes?
What of the countless numbers of Chinese and Koreans who are imprisoned for
simply expressing free speech.

Who pays their families?

The list is endless.

And it is in the endlessness in which the absurdity is found.

As America begins to wade through the tit for tat of minutia…
fighting over what and who we once were while trying to rewrite it all…
we have actually lost who and what we are—and that is a people who overcome hardships
toil and sorrow while picking ourselves up and having moved forward…all
in order to build a better tomorrow.

Tragically we are now so busy attempting to erase our past, that we’ve forgotten
the very real future that needs us.

Patriotism was once part and parcel of calling oneself an American.
We grew from what was to what might be…

And yet it now appears we are desperately trying to fall backward as we now associate
patriotism with that of racism.
All of which simply makes us slaves to our past.

Yet in all of this, be we free man or slave… there is but one truth that remains…
that in Jesus Christ, the global family of Christian believers,
there is neither slave nor slave owner…
but only freedom for all men and women.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Romans 6:20-22

reparations vs Grace

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself,
‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’
I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

St. Josephine Bakhita

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church

Catholic.org


(St Josephine Bakhita)

Firstly this business about paying reparations for slavery is about the dumbest thing our
legislators have ever opted to take up and pursue…let alone conduct a three ring circus
of unbridled idiocy over.

Now whereas I’ve written about this notion before…as in will we pay those free blacks who
were also slave owners. Will we pay the Native American Indians…and of course will the
Egyptians pay the Jews, will the various African tribes pay the other tribes, will the
Chinese pay the Koreans, will the Russians pay the Russians…yada, yada, yada.

No nation is exempt from this sinful crime.

But this is not so much a post about reparations as it more about Grace.

The following story is about a woman who was born in Darfur in 1869.
As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Arabs.

Her’s is a harrowing tale of slavery, torture, and cruelty that lead to
serving not man, but instead, Jesus Christ.

How could one begin to pay reparations for Josephine’s life of servitude to man?
How could one begin to remove the 114 lasting stripes across her back?

Josephine would never expect nor accept such…her greatest gift,
coming to know Jesus Christ.

If ever there was one who should have quit, given up all the while begging to simply die…
It would have been Josephine Margaret Bakhita.

But she did not…
What can money do in the place of everlasting Grace?
Nothing.

May we all come to know that Grace…

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of
Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and
her uncle was a tribal chief.
Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous,
saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877,
Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders.
Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles
to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice
during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times.
She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel.
Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid.
The assignment was easy until she offended her owner’s son,
possibly for the crime of breaking a vase.
As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month.
After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law
who both beat her daily.
Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general’s wife ordered her to be scarred.
As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour,
then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent.
She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani.
He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her.
When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean,
they arrived in Italy.
She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel
to Sudan without Josephine,
she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God.
According to Josephine, she had always known about God,
who created all things, but she did not know who He was.
The sisters answered her questions.
She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave.
Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters,
but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the
Institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain
to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed
in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave.
She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life.
She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata.
(Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita).
She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day.
These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always
given together in the early Church.
The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto,
the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on
December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896.
She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent.
She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters
and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile.
She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the
“little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped,
she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector.
And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair.
But she always remained cheerful.
If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, “As the master desires.”

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words,
“Our Lady, Our Lady!” She then died.
Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII.
On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable.
Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan.
But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly.
He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day
is celebrated on February 8.

Catholic.org