Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Day 16)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 16 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Guard me, O God,
for I shelter in You.
I said to the Lord,
“My Master You are.
My good is only through You.”
… I set the Lord always before me,
on my right hand,
that I not stumble
So my heart rejoices
and my pulse beats with joy,
my whole body abides secure.
An Opening Word
I love the idea that the Psalmist says “my pulse beats with joy.” It is such an embodied response to the presence of God, not unlike what I have been feeling lately in worship, where people are returning, week by week, and music is so uplifting, almost all of us are moved to tears. Together I think we feel something similar: our pulse beats with joy.
Mystics are known to have these kinds of full-body, tangible experiences of the presence of God, whether in community or in isolation. It is the mystic way I suppose, feeling intensely the presence of God, or maybe more aptly, acknowledging God in the intensity of human experience. Kateri Tekakwitha, whose life is described below, may too have sensed that deeply embodied presence of God.
Have you ever felt like a situation was probably more complex than you could really figure out? Here’s one in my list of mystics, I have the name Kateri Tekakwitha, considered the first Native American saint, beatified in 1980 by Pope John II. She was a “Christian Mohawk” born in 1656. Her mother was Algonquian and her father Mohawk (who was additionally a chief), living in what is now called Auriesville, New York, but was at the time called Ossernenon. Her parents and brother all died of smallpox when she was young and so she went to live with her uncle. The Jesuits were welcomed into her uncle’s village some time later, and Kateri chose to be baptized on April 26, 1676, but she never felt as if her Christian identity was welcomed, and so she moved to Montreal to live with the Jesuits there. One woman from the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) tribe explains Kateri’s faith and compassion in this way, “From the sacred traditions of her Mohawk people she had learned to care for the young and elderly. Now she did this with a deep compassionate love that was rooted in her love for Jesus.”
I want to know more. She stands on the threshold between religious traditions. She had a deep faith, transformed in its own way by the Christian tradition. Her life, its migrations and life trajectory, was impacted by the sometimes beautiful and too often terrible settler-colonizer-relationships. She welcomed in Jesus: his life, death, and resurrection becoming important to her—a sacred story from a very far off place. Her story makes me want to ask so many questions about what it means to be a person of faith and how we live out and experience that faith. How do we know when to risk making our own way—like Kateri did, by moving to Montreal? How do we welcome and name the presence of the divine at the boundary between one religion/culture and another—like she did as a Christian Mohawk? She found a way to trust the wisdom that made itself known to her—the wisdom of her innate, native spiritual tradition, and the wisdom of Jesus Christ, that became intimately her own. How do indigenous people today talk about, critique, or lift up this narrative? I have so many questions, each bringing another question. I want to know more.
Prayer from the Mystics: Kateri Tekakwitha (1656–1680)
Jesus, I love you.
(Last words of Kateri Tekakwitha) Amen.