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Aug 14 2012

Meet the new Mohawk saint

A reader named Dan sent in this tip, telling me that the Roman Catholic Church is about to pressgang their very first Aboriginal saint into service. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was baptized at age 20, declared herself God’s wife, fasted and self-flagellated and slept on thorns, and evangelized Christianity to her fellow Mohawks. And now, three hundred and fifty-odd years after she died, she’s apparently curing little boys of flesh-eating disease.

In 2006, a Washington State boy, about five years of age, hurt himself while playing basketball.
The young boy bumped his chin on the ground and ended up contracting Flesh Eating Disease.

Unfortunately, the only treatment for the disease is amputation and the doctors had gotten to a point where they couldn’t do anything for the boy after removing much of his face.

Eventually a priest was brought in to anoint the boy for healing purposes and then spoke with the parish, asking them to pray to Kateri, who is known as a healer.

Articles of Kateri’s clothing were also known to have healing powers, as many people experienced the affects themselves.

A Sister of the parish then went to visit the boy with a relic of Kateri’s and told the mother of the boy to place the relic on her son, and both the mother and sister began to pray over the boy.

A short time later, to everyone’s astonishment, the disease ceased and the boy is now 11 years old, has had reconstructive surgery, and is a very happy little boy.

Kateri’s history is actually quite interesting, coming as it does so hot on the heels of the devastation of the local indigenous peoples’ population by smallpox brought from Europe. The Jesuit missionaries embedded in their culture as part of a peace treaty between the Mohawk people and the European immigrants used a number of concepts from the native mythology to draw cultural parallels between Christianity and their local beliefs; early converts were mostly women, and practiced the same sorts of mortification that their native cultures already practiced.

The use and abuse of Kateri throughout the ages has been rather well-documented — she was fully-baptized and deemed a true convert at 20 and lived to 24, whereas converts to Catholicism were at the time never fully baptized until their deathbeds. She is reputed to have had smallpox scars that disappeared at the time of her death in 1680; in 1943 Pius XII delcared this “an authentic miracle” despite the obvious lack of evidence for the claim. In December 2011, Ratzinger approved this flesh-eating disease remission to be a true miracle, and she’s now up for full sainthood.

It’s mind-boggling that people believe this stuff to be miraculous at all. Barring the fact that the child was actually treated for the disease quite extensively by doctors, what “saved” him is ostensibly being touched by a thing that also touched a Mohawk Christian over three hundred years prior. The bar for sainthood is that someone attributed a long-shot to the person, without any evidence whatsoever. It suffices to say “we don’t know how it happened but we did this other thing that might conceivably have invoked the spirit of a long-dead person who was also Christian.”

I am absolutely disgusted by the lengths to which these people would go to “bring Christianity to the heathen savages” — bringing them a terrible disease (knowingly or not), then taking advantage of their weakened state to convert them, likely by promising that God would cure them. And now, First Nations non-Christians have this nonsense hanging over their heads as well. This kind of slow erosion of an entire culture, and eventual subjugation to a specific religion, is insidious and disturbing. It feels very much like “convert or die”, only played over centuries. There are no logical arguments to be made against this nonsense — all I’m left with is visceral revulsion.

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  1. 1
    kagekiri

    GAH, so stupid. Even getting past the idea that God let this kid get a horrible skin disease just for falling down (because what sin could a 5 year old really commit? oh right, being born), God could have at least stopped the disease before they had to remove most of his face.

    And if God wanted to give real obvious miracles, you’d think instead of just “stopping” the disease, he’d take care of the reconstructive surgery too via magic instead of making the doctors do it.

    Christ on a stick, God’s miracles just aren’t what they used to be. God supposedly reversed death for Lazarus, healed a few lepers and resurrected some children, made the lame walk again, but nowadays, all he’ll do is “bless” doctors with a successful job instead. What a lazy bum. It’s almost like he doesn’t actually exist…

  2. 2
    leftwingfox

    I wonder if part of this might also be the Catholic Church reaching out to the native American population in lieu of working towards actual reconciliation on past abuses by pedophile priests and the residential schools.

  3. 3
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    then spoke with the parish, asking them to pray to Kateri, who is known as a healer.

    So praying to any ol’ dead person might yield miracles, and calling someone a ‘saint’ is the church’s way of recognizing the ones that presumably did something…

    From Wikipedia – Saint:

    In Orthodox and Catholic teachings, all Christians in heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered to be worthy of higher honor, emulation, or veneration.

    The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make or create saints. Rather, it recognizes them. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. [...]
    All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfect in holiness.

    From Wikipedia – Canonization:

    Beatification is a statement by the church that it is “worthy of belief” that the person is in heaven, having come to salvation. [...] it must be proven that a miracle has taken place by his or her intercession: that is, that God has shown a sign that the person is [in heaven] by God performing a miracle in response to the Blessed’s prayers.

    So those on the short list of saints are the only people the church has any confidence went to heaven!? Narrow is the way indeed.

  4. 4
    Aliasalpha

    So what evidence do they have it was kateri that did this rather than her 3 century old hand me downs being exposed to some other form of magic over the years?

    Do the different bits of clothing do different tricks? Say her socks could cure athletes foot, her shirt could help when you have a chesty cough and her underpants could help cover up when you make an arse of yourself…

  5. 5
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Why couldn’t god just tell them which item to take from inventory and use to cast the spell in the first place?

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    AliasAlpha / F: They really should have just checked the Gamefaqs and gotten the spell recipes, save themselves all the damage of not healing the kid before he had half his face cut off.

    The whole idea that saints have to intervene to fix things that God foreordained is just… nonsensical. Yeah.

  7. 7
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    The whole idea that saints have to intervene to fix things that God foreordained is just… nonsensical.

    It’s fucking witchcraft and idol worship is what it is, something I swore their Holy Book expressly calls a no-no.

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Jason

    Pff. If they’d hit GameFaqs, they probably could have dug up one or two handy cheat codes while reading the walkthroughs or in-depth FAQs.

    It’s not just the intervention with the foreordained, but the idea that the family or priest couldn’t reach god directly, period, and needed to go through the proper channels first for the miracle. (Apparently not dealing with tissue necrosis in the first place was not an option.) Luckily, someone had the phone number to the right office.

    I love it when the all-important intercessory prayer gets upstaged by ritual sorcery. Burn a witch, or make a saint. Decisions, decisions.

  9. 9
    Juicyheart

    So, she tortured herself into believing in Christ, and that a good thing? Or is it a good thing despite the self-torture? How much do I have to hurt myself to truly believe?

  10. 10
    Zeno

    During his long tenure, John Paul II cranked up the sainthood machine and began canonizing new saints by the gross lot. I believe that he, more than anyone before him, saw that broadening the saint pool was potentially a good recruitment tool for the Church. Are you a one-legged left-handed Albanian? Well, you can have your very own patron saint! (I think I’m kidding, but one never knows.) The machinery still pops them out like clockwork under Benny Hex.

    I don’t know of an official patron saint for blogging, but give it time.

  11. 11
    Anonymous Atheist

    Great comments, particularly kagekiri!

    Zeno – This guy suggests “St. Francis De Sales (January 24). He is the patron saint of writers and journalists. Therefore, I figure he is the patron saint of people who write blogs, too.”

  12. 12
    timgueguen

    It should be noted that as the Catholic Church has introduced more saints others have been “de-recognised.”

  1. 13
    Saint Mister, Patron Saint Of Acne | Meddling Kids

    [...] I was just reading fellow Canuck Jason Thibeault’s Lousy Canuck, and I caught his post Meet the new Mohawk saint, which is about the Catholic saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and how she has healed a child. I’ve [...]

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