Gentle Reader, I am on vacation. Yes, here in the wilds of Cohasset, Massachusetts, a town on the "South Shore" (pronounced "South Shaw") of Boston, at a large, rambling house owned by the Jesuit Community of Boston College, along with many other young and young(ish) Jesuits. (The bluff on which the Jesuit house sits is one from which Native Americans shot arrows at the incoming ships of Captain John Smith.) On Friday we make our way up to the Jesuit novitiate in Syracuse for the annual vow Mass, where the novices will pronounce their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Why am I telling you this? Because of the connection to the following piece of good news, which I saw online this morning after I punched in the word "Vatican" under Google News: There is a report of a miracle for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Native American convert to Catholicism known as the "Lily of the Mohawks."
For the last few years, en route to Syracuse a few of us have stopped to pray at the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, which is also the birthplace of Kateri. It is always a deeply moving trip, particularly the visit to the ravine where St. Rene Goupil, one of the North American martyrs was killed, and where St. Isaac Jogues searched for his body--which was never found. As you descend into the ravine you read excerpts from the letters of Fr. Jogues home to his French Jesuit superiors, which describe his fruitless search for his friend, near the site of Kateri's birth. The confluence of the lives of those three saints only adds to the holiness of the place.
But back to the good news: Today this story appeared on the Canada.com site under the title Mohawk Woman Could be Proclaimed Saint by Vatican.
"More than 320 years after her death, a Mohawk woman is on the cusp of canonization as the Vatican reviews newly collected evidence of a miracle that could place her among the saints. Just what the recent miracle is that's been attributed to the intercession or divine intervention of Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, remains a closely guarded secret. Evidence of the miracle -- which took two years to compile -- was sent to Rome last month in a diplomatic pouch through the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., said Monsignor Paul Lenz, the church official who was charged with finding a miracle that could qualify Kateri for sainthood. The matter now rests with the Vatican's Secretariat for Beatification and Canonization, which will issue a recommendation to the Pope, who will make a final decision on Kateri's beatification, said Lenz. 'Only God knows' how long the process could take, Lenz said this week in an interview with Canwest News Service."
Kateri is astonishing. (A good summary of her life is at the Catholic Encyclopedia.) What must it have meant for her to become a Christian in the midst of a culture that often considered the Christian missionaries not simply a threat, not simply "sorcerers," but the bringers of death and disease? And unlike her French Jesuit friends, Kateri did not grow up in a thoroughly Christian culture, and so she had no warm childhood memories of happy times in a local parish church upon which to draw in difficult times, nor did she have a deep knowledge of Scripture, tradition and the lives of the saints to support her in the midst of persecution, as did Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, Jean de Brebeuf and the others. Her heroism was just as great as that of the Jesuit martyrs.