Tag Archives: NY

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.

You Want a Sign

 

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 11: 29-32) our Lord says :

    ” This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

    Our Lord seems so frustrated and annoyed with the people of His time ( and I’m sure with us too!) . Like them we want easy fixes to so many sufferings, complications, and problems that plague our personal lives and our society. ” God, please manifest Your great power and heal our world!”

    Our Lord seems to imply that the solutions begin with our changes of heart, where, like the people of Nineveh, we listen to God’s word, repent, and become servants of God’s will which is always our welfare and happiness.

    But we want a ” great sign” to startle us out of our stupor. Our Lord seems to say that His own death and resurrection is that sign.

    Only 2 weeks ago we remembered the anniversary of the passing of my wonderful friend, Fr Owen Lally,CP, the leader of our prayer group. His spirit still lives in us. Our group still stands strong. Through Fr Owen’s guidance we always strove to be ” the sign of Jonah”. Fr Owen wrote:

    ” Our Resurrection with the Lord is the sign of Jonah. Our old self transformed by grace into our true self IS our resurrection. Our entire life’s journey has as it’s goal the renewal of the old man of sin into the new man of grace in Christ. Individually this is wonderful to see, but to bring several brothers and sisters into unity is the true icon of the risen Lord.

    Mutual Indwelling is the result of becoming human together. The sign of Jonah was the survival of our Lord’s being in the belly of the earth. We are in the belly of the whale by our baptism and deep immersion into the water. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. ‘ Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name I am there.’ ‘ This is the Sign by which all shall know that I have come forth from God, that you love one another.’ The primary way to make new Christians and to get vocations is to love one another and become one in community.”

    The Passionist Community has graciously allowed our Prayer Group (Fr Owen’s Prayer Group) to meet on Sundays, after mass, at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY. Sometimes when I walk into that Monastery Chapel in the middle of our prayer meeting, I am struck by the awesome power of 30 to 40 people, who have given themselves fully to song and praise, to love and support for one another.  In this place the Spirit of the Risen Jesus is alive in all His Glory, a sign to the world that Love is supreme, that there is hope, that our Lord reigns!  In a way we feel like God’s prophets. We are compelled to walk through our own Nineveh and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom!

Orlando M. Hernández

The Angels are Coming!

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I saw them in  church this morning, hovering over the people getting ready for Mass.

The angels. All colors, carrying all kinds of things. It looks like the world above is coming.. All we have to do is look up, and then look at the Crib.

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Visiting Elizabeth Seton’s New York

Twelve of us from St. Mary’s Parish, Colts Neck, NJ, visited Elizabeth Seton’s New York yesterday. We took the 10 AM boat from Atlantic Highlands for pier 11 in downtown New York City and walked to St. Elizabeth Seton’s shrine and home on State Street nearby.

One of New York City’s distinguished citizens, she was born in 1774, a couple years before the American Revolution.  She’s also the first American saint to be honored by the Catholic Church.

Our first stop was a colonial house and a shrine near the ferry terminal at the end of Manhattan Island where Elizabeth Seton and her family lived for a short time. Most of her New York years were lived in this old section of the city.

Approaching Manhattan through New York harbor let’s you see the city as the earliest European explorers saw it. The island is the gem at the harbor’s center; on its left the Hudson River flows to the north, on its right the East River flows out to the coast.

In 1524 Giovanni Verranzano came upon New York harbor–he thought it was a lake– searching for a passage to the Pacific. The Verranzano Bridge stands at the entrance to the harbor today.

In 1609 Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch, sailed into the harbor and then up as far as Albany on the river that now bears his name.  The Dutch realized how valuable this place was and made a small settlement on the island. They called their trading post New Amsterdam and traded with the many Indian tribes here and along the Hudson River. Before any Europeans came, numerous Indian tribes fished, hunted and traded here.

The English had their eyes on the place too and in 1642 took it over. New Amsterdam became New York, and it was under English control till the American Revolution in 1776.

Millions of immigrants have come through New York harbor since then. This was their gateway to the new world.  Through the harbor, this country also traded the new world’s resources with the rest of the world.

We began our tour of Elizabeth Seton’s New York here because she and her family were closely connected to the harbor. Her husband, William Seton, invested in the ships that made New York one of the richest ports in the world.  But ships were a risky investment; they brought handsome profits but they could also bring bankruptcy if they didn’t come in. The Setons experienced both.

William Seton was one of Wall Street’s first venture capitalists. In 1801 the Seton’s went bankrupt after the loss of a ship at sea and the family moved to the rented house on State Street, our first stop on our tour.

Elizabeth Seton’s father, Doctor Richard Bayley, was the first Health Officer for the port of New York; (1796) he dealt with many of the first immigrants and travellers passing through here.

His job was to keep New York City safe from disease, and one of his tasks was to keep travellers who were dangerous health threats isolated. So, quarantine stations were set up for immigrants with yellow fever, cholera and small pox.

On our way through the harbor we saw some of the harbor’s early quarantine stations at Bedloe’s Island (1758-1796), Governor’s Island (1796-1799), Thomkinsville in Staten Island (1799-1858), just south of the St. George ferry station.

In the summer of 1801, Elizabeth was staying with her father at the Thomkinsville quarantine station when a boatload of sick Irish immigrants were brought in. She describes the dreadful conditions in a letter:

“I cannot sleep–the dying and the dead possess my mind. Babies perishing at the empty breast of the expiring mother…Father says such was never known before: twelve children  must die for want of sustenance…parents deprived of it as they have lain for many days ill in a ship without food or air or changing…There are tents pitched over the yard of the convalescent house and a large one at the death house.” (Letter July 28, 1801)

That same year, Richard Bayley died from yellow fever contacted while caring for a boatload of Irish immigrants off Thomkinsville. He’s buried in the family plot next to the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew in Richmond, Staten Island.

From Mother Seton’s shrine and house on State Street we walked to Trinity Church and then St. Paul’s Chapel, the Anglican parish she belonged to until her conversion to Catholicism in 1805. She lived her early years as a happily married woman with five children on Wall Street and Stone Street, close by these colonial churches.

As a devout Anglican, Elizabeth devoted herself to her family and to the poor. In 1797 she and other public-spirited church women began an aid society for destitute women and their children. “The poor increase fast: immigrants from all quarters come to us. And when they come to us they must not be allowed to die.” (Description of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows and Small Children.)

Looking eastward down Wall Street from Trinity Church on Broadway , you can see many of the founding institutions of America: the docks and slave market (no longer visible) on the East River  the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal building, a short walk from Broadway, and finally Trinity Church and King’s College on the western side of Manhattan. King’s College built on lands belonging to Trinity Church became Columbia University after the Revolutionary War, and later relocated in northern Manhattan.

Our final stop on our visit to Elizabeth Seton’s New York was St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Barclay Street, near to World Trade Center. Here she was received into the Catholic Church.

In June 1808, she left New York City with her family for Baltimore, where she founded a school on Paca Street, the beginning of the Catholic parochial schools system in the United States. Shortly after, Mother Seton moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where other women gathered around her and took vows as the Sisters of Charity. Her religious followers continued her work through schools, orphanages and hospitals found throughout the United States.

Mother Seton died at the age of 46 in 1821. She was canonized on September 14,1975

Yesterday, from St. Peter’s Church we walked to Broadway and then down Wall Street to catch the 3 PM ferry for the Atlantic Highlands.

The Resurrection of Jesus

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We’re concluding our parish mission in Shelter Island, NY, today with some reflections on the Resurrection of Jesus.

People today wonder about life after death. That’s because we want to live. We wonder about ourselves, first of all. Do we live after we die? A couple of books on the subject are popular these days: one by a scientist who claims he’s come back from death, the other is an account of a little boy who supposedly died and went to heaven and come back to life. Both are best sellers.

Our questions about life beyond this one also surface in  popular culture; the media is big into life in space and dark alien forces that invade our ordinary world. Must be life out there, but it looks scary, according to the media.

As Catholics we believe this world is connected to a world beyond. We believe in “the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” Big beliefs. We believe there are tangible signs of our connection with this world, for example, apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes and Fatima.

Besides wondering about ourselves, we wonder too about our universe. Will it go on forever?

A couple of years ago I followed Harold Camping on television, who predicted the end of the world was coming on May 21, 2011 at 6 PM. The world was going to explode in fire, he said, destroying everything and everyone except those who read the bible; he didn’t have much hope for the world or most of the people in it.

A lot of people wondered if his crazy calculations were accurate. They weren’t. The world is still here and most of us are too, but at a time when many have lost confidence in our institutions, including our churches, people listened to him.

We  believe in Jesus Christ, who came into our world to teach, heal and offer the promise of eternal life. His death and resurrection answer our questions about death and life beyond this one; he also offers hope for our created world.

“On the third day, he rose from the dead,” we say in our creed. At first, his startled disciples spoke of their experience of Jesus risen from the dead in short statements like that, because his risen presence was unlike anything they had experienced before or knew from the past. They knew he was real, but his new existence was something they could hardly put into words. Their initial confusion is evident in the New Testament.

Jesus did not come from the tomb the same as he was before. He was not like Lazarus who came from the tomb and was easily recognized by all as he rejoined his sisters and went back to his own home in Bethany and took up his daily routine. Lazarus would die again.

Risen from the dead Jesus would not die again. He did not a return to the normal biological life he had before, but entered a new level of being; he experienced an evolutionary change that not only enhanced his humanity but ours too. Death would not affect him. He was changed, yet his love and care for his own in this world remained.

The Resurrection of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, is “an historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it. Perhaps we may draw upon analogical language here, inadequate in many ways, yet still able to open a path towards understanding…we could regard the Resurrection as something akin to a radical ‘evolutionary leap,’ in which a new dimension of life emerges, a new dimension in human existence.”

Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, is a good source for understanding the mystery of the Risen Jesus.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are later statements about the resurrection of Jesus meant for particular churches and situations, so we should read them with their world in mind. Each gospel offers its own unique insight into mysteries of Jesus.

At our mission today we read from Luke’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, which centers on the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like the other gospels, Luke begins with the women at the tomb on Easter morning, but they don’t find  Jesus at the tomb. The Lord enters the world at large to share his risen life with his disciples and all creation.

In his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, Luke sees God’s plan of salvation realized in Jesus who brings God’s salvation to all humanity through his church as it goes out from Jerusalem to Rome, then considered the center of the world.

The two disciples on their way to Emmaus represent the church on it’s journey through time,  one of the themes of Luke’s gospel.  As he did with the two disciples, the Risen Lord walks with his church on its mission through the ages.

Not an easy journey. Like the journey of the two disciples, it’s no triumphant march. Disillusionment, questions and gradual enlightenment are part of their journey. If the Risen Lord were not with them, they would continue in  hopelessness. The church ends up hopeless too, if Jesus were not with her.

Like the two disciples we find the Risen Christ slowly in the scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. Like them, he makes our hearts burn within. He is always with us.

The resurrection narrative from Luke is a good corrective to a triumphalist view that sees the church as perfect. It isn’t. It’s also a good corrective to a perfectionistic view of ourselves. We aren’t.

Like the two disciples, we have questions and  disappointments, but the Risen Christ walks with us. He engages  our questions and helps us understand, slowly. He is present in the breaking of the bread, the Holy Eucharist. We don’t see him; the Risen Lord has vanished from our sight, but he’s with us, guiding us to his kingdom.

Jesus also brings all creation into the mystery of the resurrection. “He took flesh and now retains his humanity forever, he who has opened up within God a space for humanity, now calls the whole world into this open space in God, so that in the end God may be all in all and the Son may hand over to the Father the whole world that is gathered together in him. (cf. 1 Cor 15,20-28) (Benedict XVI)

Harold Camping didn’t understand this.

Shelter Island Thoughts

 

I spent this past week on vacation with two other members of my community on Shelter Island at a retreat house for youth that we’ve recently closed and now are in the process of selling. It’s a place of memories for us, a summer paradise for swimming and sports and a vibrant place where thousands of young people over the years found spiritual nourishment in programs for the young.

Now, like so many other good places devoted to spiritual purposes throughout the county, it’s closing. You have to feel a sense of failure and disappointment. What’s happening, we ask?

Finances and personnel are the reasons we point to, but these don’t answer the question adequately. Our society has lost its interest in God. Not everybody, to be sure, but for many the search for God has fallen down the list of their priorities. As I write, I’m watching an instructor teaching children how to play tennis in this place where young people were once taught to pray.

Religious people like ourselves, supposedly the guardians and promoters of religion, wonder if we are to blame. On EWTN the other night, Fr. Benedict Groeschel seemed to think so; he criticized religious communities for their “worldliness” and there’s some truth in his criticism, but it’s not the complete answer by any means.

I’m reading Pope Benedict’s book “ Jesus of Nazarth” these days and there are two sections in it I find particularly helpful. The first, is his section on the Kingdom of God, and as I read it this place came to mind.

The Kingdom of God is a complex concept; the first disciples of Jesus were not sure what it was. They had  kingdoms of their own in mind that they thought might fit the bill. But Jesus said his kingdom was not like theirs. If it were, his followers would have risen up to stop his enemies putting him to death, but his kingdom was not of this world.

Our kingdoms tend to be like those of Jesus’ first disciples. They may be treasured, holy,  wonderful places in themselves, but they’re kingdoms of the world. Our temptation, like the last temptation of Jesus in the desert, is to hold on to them as if they were the Kingdom of God. But God lets them pass away so that we may search again. Is that what God is doing now?

“Thy Kingdom come,” we say in our prayer, not “My Kingdom come.”

The second section of the pope’s book I found helpful was his thoughts on “Resurrection Thinking,” (my phrase, not his). After the resurrection the disciples of Jesus did a lot of thinking about what had happened before. “When he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2,22) Over and over the gospels tell us his disciples remembered something he said or did, sometimes they were terrible things like the events of his passion and death, but now they saw them in a new light.

They didn’t even delete their own sinfulness and lack of faith from the remembered story.

“The Resurrection,” the pope says, “teaches us a new way of seeing.” (p.232) We can look into ruins and see another life rise in them. “Behold, I make all things new.”

What will be the new life we see rising from here? The pope says “all” the disciples were involved in this “Resurrection Thinking.” It takes place through prayerfulness.  A guide, the Spirit of Truth, is there to point our way to the future.

What’s involved today here at Shelter Island, and in so many other places like it, is more than waiting for a buyer.