Category Archives: Passionists

Sustainable Development Goals


What can we do? We wonder in a world worried about its future. Can we do anything? Let’s not be afraid of big ideas. Why not think big?

In September 2015 world leaders at the United Nations agreed to work for 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The goals aim to “eliminate poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change, while ensuring no one is left behind. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while also tackling climate change and environmental protection.” https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/

Cities have become an important focus for Sustainable Development, because today more than half the world’s population lives in cities and that number is expected to reach two-thirds by the year 2060. In cities “the battle for sustainability will be won or lost,” one UN expert remarked. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2018/07/un-forum-spotlights-cities-struggle-sustainability-will-won-lost/

The 11th goal of Sustainable Development is “making cities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030. Sustainability differs from city to city, but quality of life means among other things, adequate housing, work and employment, clean water and air, access to public transportation.

Mayors throughout the United States have recognized the important role that cities can play in achieving the SDGs. This year, 2018, New York City is the first city to issue a report on its progress towards sustainability. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/international/downloads/pdf/NYC_VLR_2018_FINAL.pdf

Governments, civil society and the private sector are all called upon to contribute to the realization of these goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/05/mobilizing-citizens-of-the-world-to-achieve-the-2030-agenda/

At a time when countries are building walls and thinking only of themselves, why not think big? What can we do?

What Happened to the Native Peoples?

H.Hudson halfmoon

For the injustices against the native peoples and the land God provided here.

“Lord, have mercy.”

The native peoples are often forgotten in the story of the “discovery” of America. Our heroes tend to be the settlers who came on ships, built towns and cities, explored the land and gave us what we have today. But it came at a price.

If you ever visit New York harbor by way of the Staten Island Ferry look towards the various shores where once the native peoples fished, hunted and traded in large numbers. The water was fresher then, fish and shellfish plentiful, the air cleaner, the earth less damaged by human activity.

The National Museum of the American Indian is located in the old customs house across from Battery Park near the ferry. It’s a good place to remember the native peoples in the story of America. The Europeans traded with them; they were their guides into an unknown land; they provided many of the foods that fed growing populations in Europe and America. Their respect for the land was greater than those who came after them.

A young Indian woman, Kateri Tekakwitha and a Jesuit priest, Isaac Jogues, are figures to remember here. They represent the clash of civilizations that occurred when Europeans and native peoples met.

Europeans brought disease.  Smallpox  disfigured and partially blinded Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman who lived along the Mohawk River past Albany, NY. The native peoples had no immunity to small pox and other diseases. Three out of ten died from it. By some estimates 5 million native people lived in North America when the first Europeans arrived. Within a hundred years there were only 500,000. Besides disease, the major cause of their diminishment, the native peoples also suffered from wars and greed.
Museum of American Indian

 

At the museum, besides Kateri Tekakwitha remember Father Isaac Jogues, the Jesuit missionary who, while attempting to advance peace-keeping efforts with the Mohawks at Ossernonon (Auriesville) was killed by a war party on October 18, 1646. Previously, in 1642  Jogues had been captured by this same tribe. He escaped in 1643, fled here to New Amsterdam (New York City) and then was put on a ship for France by a kindly Dutch minister.

The French missionaries came to the New World out of the turmoils of the Old World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples here, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of  foreigners and the seed of the gospel fell on hard ground.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

The Indian woman and the priest persevered. We forget how difficult it is when civilizations clash– like now.

 

Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)

KATERI

Kateri statue, Auresville

Sometime ago I stumbled on a map of New York rivers and lakes.  The rivers and lakes were the roads and highways used by the native peoples and early settlers centuries ago. Even today, the New York Thruway follows the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers from New York City to Buffalo.

Just north of Albany near the town of Fonda are the ruins of the17th century Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, excavated in the 1950s by a Franciscan priest,  Thomas Grassmann. In the excavated village are traces of 12 long houses surrounded by a fortified stockade which was built in 1666 after a French army from Quebec destroyed an earlier Mohawk village at Osserneron (today, Auriesville) a few miles south.

VILLAGE

Model of Longhouses, Fonda

The French army was punishing the Mohawks for their part in the Iroquois- Huron wars, when they plundered and destroyed villages along the St. Lawrence Rive belonging to the Hurons and Algonquins, Indian allies of the French. The Mohawks, members of the Iroquois confederation, wanted to gain control of the fur trade from their northern neighbors.

In destroying Ossernenon, the French army was also probably avenging the deaths of Fr. Isaac Jogues, SJ, and Rene Goupil and Gabriel Lalande, three French missionaries  killed in that village some years before:  honored  today by the Church as martyrs.

In the war against their neighbors to the north, the Mohawks  took women and children captive.  At the time,  native tribes replenished  their own numbers– diminished by wars or disease– by kidnapping members from other tribes. One of the Christian Algonquin women captured in an earlier raid married a Mohawk brave from Ossernenon and they had a daughter,  Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), whom the Catholic Church  honors as a saint.

An epidemic of smallpox ravaged Ossernenon when Kateri was four years old, killing   many children and adults. The young girl almost died of the disease that left her disfigured. Her early Jesuit biographer says “ She almost lost her eyesight, and her eyes hurt so much from this illness that she covered herself with a blanket when out in strong light.” (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Both parents died when Kateri was a little girl and she was taken in by relatives in the new Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, where she lived most of her life. Her mother was a devout Christian and must have told her about Christianity, but Kateri’s new family and  tribe strongly opposed the religion.

The French military, as one condition for not returning to the Mohawk villages, demanded that Jesuit missionaries be allowed to visit them and minister to captive Christians or others interested in their faith. Jesuit missionaries visited Caughnawaga for three days in 1667 and received hospitality in the long house where Kateri lived with her uncle, a Mohawk leader opposed to Christians.

According to witnesses, Kateri  was a normal Indian girl and young woman.  “She brought wood and tended the fire when her aunt ordered her, and got water when those in the long house needed it. When she had nothing to do she amused herself making small jewels and dressing as other girls of her age. She placed shell bead necklaces around her neck, shell bead bracelets on her arms, rings on her fingers and ornaments in her ears.” (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Though sickly, she was not lazy or proud. She never talked about others. Timid, she avoided dances and games. She didn’t like seeing captives harmed or people tortured, witnesses said.

 

In the spring of 1675  Jesuit Father Jacques de Lamberville visited Caughnawaga . Kateri was alone in her long house because a foot injury prevented her from working in the fields and the priest entered her lodge. She spoke to him of her desire to receive baptism and on Easter, 1676, the young Indian girl was baptized and took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, the mystic and a favorite patron of Christian Indian women. She was 20 years old.

Her uncle and relatives in the long house opposed her conversion to Christianity and pressured her to marry and follow their ways, though against  her beliefs. The early Jesuits considered it a miracle for a Christian to resist family and tribal pressure such as Kateri experienced in Caughnawaga. Yet, her early biographer says “She practiced her faith without losing her original fervor and her extraordinary virtue was seen by all. The Christians saw her obeying their rules exactly, going to prayers everyday in the morning and evening and Mass on Sunday. At the same time she avoided the dreams feasts and the dances,” practices endangering her belief.  (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Father de Lamberville finally recommended that Kateri escape to the newly-established  Indian Christian village in Kahnawake near Montreal, where she could live her faith more easily. In 1676, aided by other Christian Indians, she made the dangerous journey northward.  There she lived a fervent life of prayer and faith;  she died and was buried on April 17th, 1680.

KATERI 2

Early Painting of Kateri, Fonda

She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012, Her feast day is July 14.

“Where are you?”


“Where are you?”

I’m beginning a retreat today with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, near Lake Michigan. The sisters have a college and a large motherhouse here. They serve the church as educators and spiritual directors and in health care.

We’re reflecting in the retreat on Pope Francis’ recent exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et exultate. “Where are you?” God asks us:

“The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3)
That call of God to Adam is also a call to Eve, to all humanity, to you and me. “Where are you?”
It’s not an angry call that God makes in the garden. In the end there’s mercy.

Yes, man and woman, humanity, you and I, are part of a fallen world and must recognize our nakedness, our nothingness. Before God no one can boast, but addressing the serpent, God announces a merciful redemption:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
They will strike at your head,
while you strike at their heel.” (Genesis 3, 15)

We’re promised victory in the battle of life.

“Where are you?” God asks. In a retreat we hear that question, try to answer it and wait for the merciful grace of God.

Pray for us.

12th Week in Ordinary Time


June 24 SUN THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
Solemnity
Is 49:1-6/Acts 13:22-26/Lk 1:57-66, 80 (587)

25 Mon Weekday (Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time)
2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18/Mt 7:1-5 (371) Pss IV

26 Tue Weekday
2 Kgs 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36/Mt 7:6, 12-14 (372)

27 Wed Weekday
[Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church]
2 Kgs 22:8-13; 23:1-3/Mt 7:15-20 (373)

28 Thu Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr
Memorial
2 Kgs 24:8-17/Mt 7:21-29 (374)

29 Fri SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES
Solemnity
Vigil: Acts 3:1-10/Gal 1:11-20/Jn 21:15-19 (590)
Day: Acts 12:1-11/2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18/Mt 16:13-19 (591) Pss Prop

30 Sat Weekday
[The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church;
Lam 2:2, 10-14, 18-19/Mt 8:5-17 (376)

1st and 2nd Kings are Old Testament books that relate the history of the Jewish people after the time of Judges when Israel was ruled by kings, but they are not historical accounts as history is written today. Prophets like Elijah and Isaiah have an important part of play in these accounts. However grim and violent the accounts may see, the destiny of Israel is in God’s hands,. We might see them too much like the violent stories of today and turn away from them, but they’re reminders that our destiny is in God’s hands, no matter how bad our times are.

The saints we remember this week, Peter and Paul, Irenaeus, Cyril of Alexandria, take us back to the first centuries of the church. God provides leaders for every age, from the first centuries till now. The graces of the prophets are never lacking from age to age.