Today is the Feast of St. Kateri tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks. Her story is a compelling one, since she converted to Catholicism from her Native American spiritual heritage, causing her tremendous pain. She was rejected and excluded by her people and ended up contracting smallpox, a horrible plague in her day. She remains a powerful intercessor for people in need of healing. Given the current pandemic, St. Kateri is a healing witness to the power of prayer.
Also, in this time of societal examination of racial attitudes and influences, we need to remember the horrible experiences of our Native American brothers and sisters. St. Kateri can guide us through the ways the shared history of our country and its “founding” is rooted in the lives of Native Americans. As the Europeans came to America in the 17th century, it had already been “founded” and cultivated by a variety of beautiful cultures that were simply brushed aside and denigrated.
As various sports teams across the spectrum are reassessing their names, e.g., “the redskins,” we need to go well beyond the area of names given to sports teams. As a nation, we need to acknowledge the many ways that Native Americans experienced such brutality and violence, as they and their tribes were dislocated in the name of “manifest destiny.”
The results of this brutality and aggression are poverty, alcoholism in high numbers, displacement, and bigotry. Native Americans and their Reservations are struggling to regain and strengthen their beautiful and ancient culture. Our government must do everything it can to right the wrongs, to make certain reparations needed for healing and to encourage artistic representations from the Native American community to be honored publicly.
St. Kateri, Pray for us.