Celebration of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

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Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend Mass at the St. Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York. It was a dual celebration: today is ten years since the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. The celebration on October 9th was held on Indigenous Peoples Weekend, acknowledging the history and legacy of the Native peoples who were already living and thriving in the Americas at the time of Columbus’ landing in what is now the Bahamas.

It was a chilly, fall day with bright blue skies and vibrant, colorful leaves, mostly still waving from their branches. Mass was held outdoors in the pavilion, a roof the only cover from the elements. As mass is celebrated, an occasional breeze flutters in, and really reminds you of Creation and the Creator. I had time before the mass and so I wandered the grounds a bit, spent some quiet time in the candle chapel, contemplated the words of Handsome Lake, an Iroquois Prophet whose words appear in the Peace Grove; I made a small cross from sticks and twine, reminiscent of St. Kateri’s own according to the sign on the table.

But mostly, I simply settled in with a subdued awe in the anticipation of the mass, the quiet celebration of Kateri’s canonization and difficult life that she never shunned from nor complained about. My eyes were drawn constantly to the bright colors of the Native dress, the feathers adorning and the large eagle feathers carried and used for the Mohawk rituals.

Between the Greeting and the Liturgy of the Word was the Sweetgrass Blessing, the burning of plants and herbs, assisted in its smoking by the motion of the eagle feather. We were invited to proceed up, as if for communion to receive the smoke. I felt as though I was part of something bigger, something ancient, and of course, I was, and I felt honored and humbled to be there. The four sacred plants used in Mohawk ceremonies are cedar, tobacco, sweetgrass, and sage.

Throughout the mass whenever hymns or songs were presented they were by the Mohawk Choir of Akwesasne. I couldn’t understand the words but the meaning was clear. Their voices carried on the wind and through the chapel and transported me far away and very near.

Sister Kateri Mitchell, who played a part in the 2006 miracle for St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s elevation to sainthood was there to share the prayer of the faithful and to talk about the miracles associated with the saint. I have met her before and was happy to see her and talk to her briefly on this day.

Following the mass, there was the annual burning of the prayer petitions. The Bishop said the prayer over them and that concluded this remarkable day.

I have found that attending mass in other cultures deepens my own faith and commitment to my own prayer and meditations. I have included some links throughout this post in the hopes that you will read more about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and her people and their journeys.


The Lord's Prayer in the Mohawk Language

Takwaién:a karonhiá:ke tehsí:teronTakwaién:a karonhiá:ke tehsí:teron
Aiesahsén:naien
Aiesawenniióhstake
Aiesawennaráhkhwake nonhwentsiá:ke
Tsi ní:ioht né karoniá:ke tiesawennaráhkhwa
Takwá:nont né kenwénte
Niationnhéhkwen, nia'tewenhniserá:ke
Sasa'nikónr:hen né ionkwarihwané:ren
Tsi ní:ioht ní:'i tsonkwa'nikór:henhs
Bothé:nen ionkhi'nikonhrasksá:tha nón:kwe.
Nok tóhsa aionkwa'shén:ni né karihwané:ren
Akwé:kon é:ren shá:wiht né io'taksens
Asekenh í:se sáwenhk né io'taksens
Asekenh í:se sáwenhk né kanakeráhsera'
Ka'shatstenhsera, kaia'tanehrakwáhtshera
Tsi nienhén:we e'thó naiá:wen

Election Connection

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Why This Election is Like No Other

If you’ve watched this space for any length of time, you have seen the call to vote in this once in a lifetime, critical election several times since 2016. It is hard to believe that all of these elections are the most important one in your life. I am sad to say that they are.

For many people, more than you may realize, the outcome of this election is important not only to their well-being, but to their very lives.

Dramatic, I know.

  • But tell that to kids who are being taught BOTH SIDES of the Holocaust.
  • Tell that to kids trying to read The Diary of Anne Frank in Oklahoma, but being told it’s banned due to its being a “graphic” novel. The folks doing the banning think it’s graphic, as in adult when it’s actually really a bound comic book.
  • Tell that to transgender youth who see no way apart from suicide.
  • Tell that to women who have and will die IN HOSPITALS (with doctors beside them) from treatable emergencies because of new anti-abortion/anti-women laws.
  • Tell that to kids and adults with rheumatoid arthritis who can’t get their medication because regardless of their future plans, they are of child-bearing age and can’t get their regular medicine because it MIGHT cause a miscarriage.
  • Tell that to married couples who can’t get birth control because a pharmacist doesn’t agree with contraception. This has already happened recently.
  • And all of this is in addition to the Insurrection on January 6th that this country as yet to come to grips with. Many of the insurrectionists are still SERVING in Congress.

Video was released just last week of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi on the phone with then-Vice President Pence discussing what was going on in the Capitol. She was telling him to be safe while the President of the United States was encouraging a mob to “find” him. In the room witnessing this were GOP (Republican) leadership who subsequently went out and denounced her for not doing enough. I’m speaking specifically of Rep. Steve Scalise of LA and others. He knew she was taking care of business and lied, trying to blame her for not calling the National Guard, which she is legally not authorized to do.

That is the real problem with today’s elected Republicans. They lie. They’ve lied about things they’ve witnessed, things we’ve seen on video, things we know to be true. If this is their demeanor when we see the lies, what are they saying about things we don’t know first hand?

Have you watched the debate between Georgia Senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker? It is no exaggeration to say that Walker is barely intelligible. His past and his lies about his past are disqualifying. And in polls, they’re tied.

The hit-job they’re doing on John Fetterman against carpetbagger, Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania is reprehensible. Yes, Fetterman had a stroke and is in recovery, but anyone can see that his cognitive function (and physical for that matter) is equal to what it was before. They refer to his accommodation of using closed captions during interviews as if they don’t use teleprompters or that perhaps they feel the deaf and hard of hearing should be excluded from running from office.

The Supreme Court is outdated, and that’s the least of its problems. It would not be hyperbole to say that two of the nine justices are sitting in stolen seats. Three of those Justices were appointed by a man who tried to and fortunately failed to stage a coup and overthrow the government. This has been painfully shown over and over again through witness testimony under oath to Congress. Most of those witnesses are lifelong Republicans.

I’m begging you: Vote Democratic across the board, from dog catcher to US Senator. We need to hold the House and expand the Senate, not to mention Governors and local legislatures.

We need to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would protect elections from voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the continuing sabotage of insurrectionists.
The bipartisan January 6th committee showed us how things could be if honest people work together.

Visit Vote Save America and see what you can do in your region to help save America. Everything begins with voting and free and fair elections.

Other sites to visit and support include:
Fair Fight
Democracy Docket
ACLU
When We All Vote
Vote dot Org

We have 20 days to get it done. Let’s get it done!

Thank You, Jes—Angela. <3

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I watched a lot of television as a child. One of my deepest memories is lying on the living room couch, sick from school, and watching Happy Days. It wasn’t this particular episode, but I actually watched live as Fonzie jumped the shark. I wonder when my own teenagers use that phrase if they know where it came from or if they realize that Mom and Dad were there when history was made.

Consequently, when I think back on my childhood television watching it is blended together. I can’t distinguish how old I was when I watched certain things. Was it in elementary school? High school? College? And the plethora of genres and actors are infinitely uncountable.

I went through an Abbott and Costello phase. A Claudette Colbert phase. Katherine Hepburn. Cary Grant. Grace Kelly. Harrison Ford. Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys. Simon & Simon. Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. Lou Grant. The list goes on and on. I even wrote Star Wars fan fiction, which I hope is buried deeply in an abyss somewhere never to be found again.

I was especially drawn to shows about detectives, lawyers, and writers. If they were all three, well, that was the ultimate trifecta jackpot.

One of my favorites was Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. I have always continued to admire her and follow her career as much as possible. In reading celebrations of her life, I’ve learned new things, although while they sound new, they also sound familiar. Perhaps I’ve heard them before and they sit in the back of my brain waiting for the reminders.

Two stand out in particular. Her daughter had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was abusing drugs, being encouraged to steal from her family. Angela moved the entire family to Ireland. The person influencing her daughter? Charles Manson. The second to stand out was that Angela hired, and even wrote specific characters for specific actors so that they would get their acting hours in to remain eligible for their union benefits. She was good people.

I was much younger than the core demographic for the show, but I was drawn in, to the stories, the characters, and the writing – both Jessica Fletcher’s writing as well as the writing of the show itself. I would find myself being able to anticipate plot points and guessing who the murderer might be and why I thought that. This is one of the reasons I love Only Murders in the Building so much. It gives me the same interactive feeling of being a part of the show.

With Murder, She Wrote since I was so much younger than Jessica, I had something to look forward to; something to attain, to reach for. She started writing later in life – a middle age that was far off for me – and so it was never an impossible dream, but something to sit on in patience; to strive for.

The picture I’ve used of Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher epitomizes my idea of a writer. I sit at my dining room table right now, clicking and clacking my keyboard as the words form on the screen. Where the sink and window are behind her, mine are within my field of vision, a tea kettle quietly bubbling, its blue light illuminating its base in place of Jessica’s tall, silver coffee pot. Next to me, there is a cup and a straw of Diet Coke, but it is often hot tea. I have papers and pens, pencils, and markers strewn about the surface of the table, a three-hole hole puncher, a pencil case, a church bulletin, a handful of bills, and of course, I’m wearing my glasses. It’s as if the fantasy life of Jessica Fletcher has come alive for me here.

And it is alive. I’m teaching a writing class, I’m writing a book, among other things, I’m drinking something full of caffeine, and I’m moving onto the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about chapters lately, but that needs another sheet of paper, and the groceries need buying. Maybe I still have a little Jessica Fletcher in me after all.

Thank you Jessica. And thank you, Angela Lansbury. Rest well.

Black Poetry Day

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I only just discovered that this was Black Poetry Day. I saw it on the calendar, and was excited to find that it falls during the week when my class is focusing on poetry. For a subject I consider my weakest, I’m learning quite a lot about poetry, including from my book club facilitator who is a poet and who I’ve included in my class notes.

Black Poetry Day is official in New York State, thanks to adopted resolutions in the state Assembly and Senate and Governor Kathy Hochul. Now that these digressions are out of the way, let me tell you about the origins of Black Poetry Day.

It was created in 1985 as a commemoration to African-Americans and in celebration of their literary works and contribution Black poets hae made to our culture in America. The date of October 17 was chosen to honor to honor the birthday of Jupiter Hammon, considered to be the first published Black poet.

Jupiter Hammon was born on Long Island in New York on the Lloyd Manor. He was enslaved his whole life, serving several generations of the Lloyd family. However, unlike many enslaved peoples at that time, he was allowed to receive an education, and so he read and wrote. When he was fifty, he published his first poem, An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.

He was a preacher and a clerk and as an evangelist, he wrote about slavery and the Gospel, eventually using his gifts to criticize slavery. He did this safely through layering his writings with metaphors and symbolism.

He was a great admirer of Phillis Wheatley, viewed to be the first female Black author. He wrote a poem to her in the hopes she would follow a Christian journey. It consists of twenty-one rhyming quatrains and included related Bible verses.

At 76, and still enslaved, he addressed the African Society in New York City with his Address to Negroes of the State of New York. This work has been reprinted by many abolitionist groups including the New York Quakers. In it he talks about keeping high moral standards, and since “being slaves on Earth had already secured their place in heaven.”

He is thought to be buried in an unmarked grave on the Lloyd family property.