St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American woman to be canonized. This was in 2012, the same year I joined the church with my ongoing attendance. It would be another two years before I came into full communion and participation.
There were many reasons that I was attracted to St. Kateri as I considered her among others while I discerned a confirmation name (ultimately choosing St. Elen of Caernarfon as many of you know).
I have always felt a connection to the Native American people and interested in their culture and spiritual practices. As kids our parents took us to the pow-wow out on Long Island with the Shinnecock Indians. It’s hard to live anywhere in New York State and not find nearby towns with Native names.
A gift from my friend in South Dakota. It is a dream catcher and it has helped me at times when I’ve had trouble sleeping. It is Native made near the sacred Black Hills. (c)2021
Kateri was from nearby; just west of the Capital District. She was born in the village of Ossernenon, now known as Auriesville. The village is mapped out at the Martyrs Shrine. After a small pox epidemic killed her family and left her scarred, the remaining Mohawk burned the village and moved (as was done when a disease ran rampant through their homes).
They moved further west and to the other side of the river to what is now Fonda, above where the current Kateri Shrine is located in the village called Caughnawaga. The footprint of the village can be seen and can be reached either by car or by walking the trails to the village and the spring.
(These photos were taken on my most recent visit to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Auriesville. This is the spot or near the spot in the Mohawk village where the Jesuit martyrs were tortured and martyred. It is called the torture platform and it was covered up for repairs on the previous visit. I think this is the reminder that Jesus travels with us regardless of everything else. These were a few of my journal entries and thoughts while I was sitting there in contemplation.)
The air is cool, crisp, not cold but damp. It is just as quiet as the first time. I’ve come today for two things – to see the museums and the wayside crucifix. Unfortunately, the museums are closed for the season and the crucifix is gone – it came down last year and needs replacing.
I’m still content.
The torture platform is out in the open this time. Easily enough sad and imposing – again, I describe this place as idyllic and pastoral but Father Jogues and LaLande, his companion were tortured there for days. We think of our parents and teachers as tortuous and unfeeling. We cannot imagine what it means to be tortured for anything, let alone our belief in Jesus.
It’s more than a duality, more than two sides of the same coin. How do I describe something so at odds with the other? Even the trees dying are filled with burning, blazing colors and that is under a cloud-filled sky; overcast, wanting to burst with rain.
You know how people say music and singing is like praying twice? What is writing then if not the same thing? Writing is often my prayer; my hug, my comfort. All things can be done with a little prayer; however it is that we pray.
I’m still not sure what to call my Shrine visit. Since I live so close, about an hour, it feels odd to call it a pilgrimage, but really what else was it? Retreats have leaders and in my mind, they last more than one day or part of one day. It was a few weeks ago that I went on a day pilgrimage to the Shrine of North American Martyrs in Auriesville, NY [Technically, it’s the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs]. I couldn’t believe how close it was, practically in my backyard. It is so much of what I run away from home looking for and all the things I picture a shrine should be: pastoral, bucolic, natural, historic. Should I use serene? That seems cliche but it does fit. Strolling the grounds costs nothing but time, and it’s beautiful and quiet, and yes, serene, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. It is the perfect place to think and to pray and to reflect and contemplate on anything; everything.
These grounds are a reliquary to the North American Martyrs, St. Isaac Jogues and his Companions, St. Rene Goupil and St. John LaLande. In 1642, the same year Rene Goupil was martyred, the first known recitation of the Rosary was prayed here. This was also the birthplace ten years later after St. Jogues and St. Lalande’s martyrdoms, of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
The view of the Mohawk Valley and River from the Shrine Grounds
Three Crosses bearing the names of the North American Martyrs at the Entrance, at the edge of what was the Mohawk village.
Unfortunately, I’ve been ill all morning so I wasn’t able to post what I intended today; the reflection from my visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs. I am hoping to push my usual dailies down by a day, and start my week tomorrow.