This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17 -- Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Part II)

KT@Nat'l Basilica
I wrote about Saint Kateri two years ago;  you could read that post here.  This post is about the curious phenomenon of shrines honoring her. 

A life-sized (or nearly so) statue of her is in a gallery of American saints and beati in the National Basilica in Washington, DC.  I'd expect nothing less from a national basilica since she was born in upstate New York. 

There's a statue of her at the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Quebec.   This too is appropriate since Kateri died not far from Montreal and is claimed as the first Native Canadian to be canonized as well as the first Native American.  As an aside, it is nice that Americans and Canadians have celebrated their union through Saint Kateri, both lobbying for her canonization, rather than quarreling over who gets to claim her. 

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has a lovely statue of her.  She probably did not wear turquoise, but than again, Jesus probably had a Jew-fro.  (Is that okay to say?  Sometimes I go too far.)  The statue doesn't reflect the fact that she was scarred from a bout of smallpox that killed her parents and brother, but that artist probably preferred to reflect her inner beauty. 

It is easy to say that those statues are all appropriate.  The one in DC honors the saint among Americans.  The one in Quebec honors her as a Canadian.  The one in New Mexico really seems to emphasize her Mohawk and Algonquin heritage.  But the two shines honoring her are perplexing. 

If one were making the long haul (by East Coast standards) across the New York Thruway and wanted to stop for a quick pilgrimage, the town on Fonda is a good choice.  The Franciscan Friars have a shrine to her there, not far from the village where she lived.  Visitors will find a chapel for Mass, a museum with artifacts from the area, a reconstructed village, and of course a gift shop. 

About four miles down Route 5S in Auriesville, pilgrims will find the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, which honors not only Saint Kateri, but Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Rene Goupil, and Saint John LaLande.  [They are collectively entered into the canon (and hagiomajor) as the North American Martyrs.]   This shrine is operated by the Jesuits.  With all due respect to the Franciscans,  the Auriesville shrine looks even more appealing than the Fonda shrine. 

KT@New Mexico
Begun in 1884 and continuously expanded, the Auriesville (Jesuit) shrine has a Coliseum church that seats 6500 and has standing room for another 3500.  Elvis played to smaller rooms than that from time to time.  By contrast, the Fonda site began as just a memorial in 1938.  Father Thomas Grassman, OFM began excavation of the Mohawk village there in 1950.  Although Kateri Tekakwitha was honored there since 1938, it could not properly be called a shrine until her beatification in 1980. 

I wonder if there was grumbling when she was added to the martyrs down the road.  Saints Isaac, Rene, and John were all tomahawked; Saint Kateri died of her frail health.  It feels like poaching to me, perhaps not in honoring her on the grounds, but certainly in featuring her so prominently on the shrine's website.  I will be crossing the Thruway soon, but not soon enough to visit both sites.  While the Jesuit site is already open for the season, the Franciscans won't be welcoming pilgrims until the Feast of Jeremiah the Prophet.  It's probably for the best, since I doubt I could resist an attempt to get the Friars to dish on their blackrobed brothers down the road. 

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