The canonization of the first Native American saint by Pope Benedict XVI means that more than 1 billion Christians around the world now are encouraged to learn more about Native American spiritual vistas. These insights are poignant because this deep religious wisdom was opened to the world even as tribes were decimated by the collision of American and European cultures. Today, while millions of native men and women across the North American continent maintain only their ancient spiritual traditions, millions more blend both their ancient cultures and Christian spiritual traditions.
What St Kateri Tekakwitha’s Canonization Means
In declaring the sainthood of the 17th-century convert Kateri Tekakwitha, Benedict is telling all Catholics around the world that she is, indeed, a heroic saint worthy of spiritual reflection and inclusion in prayers of the saints in any congregation. Her influence also extends far beyond the Catholic church into other Christian communities and national cultures. Some criticism remains of ongoing Christian evangelism among Native populations, but St. Kateri’s canonization is widely celebrated as an honor for all Canadians and all Native Christians.
In his declaration, Benedict said: “Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer, and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. Saint Kateri, Protrectress of Canada and first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of faith in the First Nations and in all of North America! May God bless the First Nations!”
Bringing Native American spiritual wisdom into your congregation
One way to bring this discussion to your congregation is through the spiritual memoir of Odawa teacher Warren Petoskey, called Dancing My Dream. Visit the book page for Warren’s memoir to learn more about how Warren weaves his own deep American Indian traditions through his conversion to Christianity. You will come away from Warren’s story inspired and humbled by the tragedies his family suffered and the soaring spiritual insights he shares with all of us today.
Care to learn more about St. Kateri? You’ll enjoy Stephanie Fenton’s column about her, marking her saint’s feast day earlier this year.