My grandmother would often send me home with “goodie bags”. Sometimes they’d be treats for the kids, or something left over from dinner, or her much-sought-after chocolate fudge cake. Sometimes it was sacramentals. She’d give me medals of saints or rosaries or scapulars. It was all part of her loving her grandchildren & great-grandchildren – by giving to them and by passing on the Faith.
Yesterday I was looking for a medal for a friend. I went right to my stash that my grandmother had given me (and I did accumulate quite a bit as the years went on). There was a great variety of medals, and some unique ones I had never really noticed before. Interestingly enough, there was a medal of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), the saint whose feast we celebrate today.
What struck me about finding this medal was the thought of how much the Church unites the most unlikely people.
“Ma” was born in 1908. She grew up in Scolley Square in Boston’s west end. That generation wasn’t the most open-minded and accepting of people of different ethnicities or races. Irish, Italian, Armenian, black, white, native American – they all had their beefs against each other, & this generation spoke freely about it. My grandmother certainly had her foibles in this area.
I do, however, remember her talking about Blessed Kateri, the Lily of the Mohawks, with great love.
Kateri was born in 1656 to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief. When she was 4 years old, smallpox entered their village, and her mother, father & brother died from the disease. She survived but was left badly scarred and with poor eyesight as a result of the epidemic. She was taken in by her avidly anti-Christian uncle, and at 8, her marriage was arranged, as was the Mohawk custom. But Kateri wanted to dedicate her life to God.
At 18, Kateria secretly began instruction in the Catholic Faith, courtesy of the “black robes”, the French Jesuit missionaries. She was rejected and threatened by the other members of the village and eventually escaped to the Indian mission of St. Francis Xavier in Canada. She made her First Holy Communion on Christmas of 1677, and she made a vow of perpetual virginity on the feast of the Assumption, 1679. She was known for the holiness of her life.
Somewhere along the way, my grandmother made a visit to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs (formally known as the shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs) in Auriesville, NY and to the Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha a short distance away. It was there that Ma fell in love with Kateri. We never really talked about her pilgrimage, but I think I know what might have happened.
I, too, made a visit to both shrines about 15 years ago, going first to the shrine of the North American Martyrs and then to Blessed Kateri’s shrine.
Something happens when you visit the shrine of a martyr. I remember most distinctly standing in the spot where St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brébeuf, St. René Goupil, and several lay missionaries ran the gauntlet, were tortured and died at the hands of the Iroquois in the 1640s. Their blood watered the seeds of missionary vocations to New France, which brought the Faith to Kateri.
The sacrifice of all martyrs breaks down the barriers that divide us, uniting us in the ultimate sacrifice, that of Jesus on the cross. His blood sets us free. His blood makes us new. His sacrifice unites us in His body under his headship, so that you & I, my grandmother & Kateri, become sisters & brothers. I am so grateful for the sacrifice of those who came before me and pray only that I may be a faithful steward of the gift.
So today, let us pray in thanksgiving for the blood of the martyrs. Let us pray through the intercession of Blessed Kateri for the Native American peoples and for those in the world who are persecuted for their faith. Let us pray for one another, that we may be faithful stewards of their gift.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us! Anne
In her last post, Barbara wrote about plenary indulgences. I thought you might be interested in seeing what I discovered as I was writing today.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has granted a plenary indulgence on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs (also known as the shrine of the North American Martyrs):
…the Holy Father, through the Apostolic Penitentiary, grants to you, or to those in Purgatory, a Plenary Indulgence if you:
- Make a pilgrimage to the Shrine between June 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011
- Make a Sacramental Confession
- Receive Holy Communion
- Pray for the intentions of the Pope
- Detachment from sin
Those who cannot make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs due to old age, serious illness or other serious cause may venerate the image of Jesus. They must fulfill the other conditions as listed or at least have the intention to fulfill as soon as possible. (taken from the website)
I encourage you to try to make a pilgrimage this year. (It’s about 45 mins west of Albany.) You won’t regret it! Click here for more info.