Thursday, December 22, 2011

FINALLY!: Kateri Will Become the First Native American Saint

Native American Kateri is a soon-to-be saint who recently entered my life with divine synchronicity. The whole story is too intricate to share here, but I will tell you that I recently bought this book: Kateri – Native American Saint. This beautiful book is great for children or anyone who appreciates nice artwork.

On Monday night, I put this precious book in a display case in my office with a drum. Drums are used in Native American religious ceremonies. That same day, unbeknownst to me, the news came out about Kateri’s upcoming canonization!

I feel like I know Kateri because of all of the little coincidences that have peppered me over the past few weeks. In 2011, I became fascinated with Native American culture again. As a teen, I had turquoise jewelry and Minnetonka thunderbird moccasins. This year, I re-bought some of those items and got the moccasins as an early Christmas present from my husband. I even met a real shaman!

This book features a photo of a Kateri Prayer Group, and one of the women is holding a drum. The drum in this context, for me, symbolizes integration of European and Native American cultural traditions, or at the very least, respect for ancestors who walked American soil before we did.

Why did this canonization take so long? So many people have chosen this woman to be their patron saint even though her status is “Blessed,” a notch below sainthood. The campaign for her canonization was passionate. This book already has her sainted in the title, but included a prayer card for her canonization. Hence, for the past few weeks, I was confused about her status on the canonization track, and wondered why it was taking so long to certify her holiness. She died in 1680!

My instinct is that her ancestry and cultural identity caused some hesitation, or suspicion. The history of Europeans pushing Native Americans off of their land isn’t a story of kindness and compassion, yet Manifest Destiny was still taught by some teachers as if it was an undeniable fact when I was in school. This 19th century concept supported the idea that God wanted the European settlers to take over. Sometimes the push for domination was violent and inhumane, yet under Manifest Destiny, it was justified because the Europeans were be destined to rule. Thankfully, my parents provided some perspective on this when I got home from school.

Nevertheless, this long history of European settlers arising victorious over many indigenous tribes probably meant that it took a long time for Kateri to get her due. Even now, comparative religion textbooks often gloss over or completely skip indigenous spiritual customs as if they don’t matter, or are somehow irrelevant to the story of the human race. Remember that the victors get to write history. However, if most people on this planet before Christ were not Jewish, it seems like we could learn something about how humans interact with their Creator by studying ancient indigenous traditions.

Kateri was brave. She accepted Christ even when it was sure to cause problems in her tribe. Yet, she’s more than just another Catholic saint with a courageous story. She’s a Native American. Hopefully, her canonization will show Native Americans that the Church accepts them, and maybe even pave the way for more sincere and meaningful inter-religious dialogue with people who still practice ancient traditions.

If you want to hear more about this exciting news, try this story from a Montreal-based network.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You Don't Move to D.C. to Get Married?

"You don’t move to Washington, D.C., to get married, you move here for your career.”

Huh? What?

I spotted this line in a new Washington Post article about the supposed plunging popularity of marriage in the U.S. If you have not seen the piece – you can find it here.

In general – I think the headline is overly simplistic. In reality, people still want to get married. Many of them are just delaying the accomplishment of that relationship goal (and in fact, jeopardizing it) by falling into a major modern-day trap: shacking up.

But really, as a third generation Washingtonian, I was most puzzled by the statement above in bold. D.C. is in my DNA. The statement has that sound-bite pinch that tends to gloss over the details of real life.

Plenty of people come to town for the social scene and to be among more singles. The restaurants are awesome, and it's a good place to meet people and have fun. D.C. helps people further their career too. It's a two-pronged approach. You get a good job and a nice paycheck, which equals nice cloths, exciting dates, and a great start (or second wind?) to your adult life in general.

This paradigm might be especially beneficial for men, who need good career tracks to be attractive to single women who want a somewhat traditional home life. They can build a career in D.C. and also have their pick of great date locations.

Guys from less electric parts of the country have told me that D.C. girls tend to be more trendy and educated than the girls back home. Men may come here for a job – but that doesn’t mean they go blind and forget about falling in love. They are focused on their career – sure – but they also find D.C. appealing for the “society.” That’s the silver lining that maybe they weren’t anticipating, but are happy to embrace.

Women, if they don't get married at a very young age in more rural or central areas of the U.S., can find both social and professional opportunities in D.C. People marry later on the East Coast than other parts of the country, so a mid-twenties single in downtown D.C. may be perceived differently than they would in other locales. If their girlfriends are all married up in their hometown, D.C. can provide a new circle of single lady friends, more social activities, and interesting professional options.

Even for D.C.-area natives, singles commonly meet downtown. When they get married, they move to the burbs. This is a common pattern, and it just irked me to see that misrepresented in the press.

Happiness and fulfillment, for most people, are about more than a job. I think people carry their full satchel of hopes and dreams with them when they come to D.C. and try to achieve it all. Many of them do!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Haunted Weekend in Gettysburg, Pa

We went to the Farnsworth House, a haunted bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, Pa this weekend. My parents gave us a gift certificate to this place last year for Christmas, and we only just got around to going there.

It was very interesting! The house was in the middle of some fighting between Union and Confederate soldiers, as demonstrated by the many bullet holes in the brick. The Confederates ultimately claimed it, so most of the stories are about Confederate soldiers.

The restaurant there was very good. If you go, try some of the traditional, old-style dishes. We did and were happy that we stepped outside the box.

We went on a ghost investigation from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (okay, we turned in early!). I got a lot of hot spots using a K-II meter in a nearby battlefield, which is now school property. A hill there was the sight of a lot of violent deaths. The people who live in the homes nearby will hear screams, call the police, and the police will come to find nobody out there.

I’m no K-II expert, but if my K-II hits were real and not a result of interference from some wiring, I can say that I felt that the soldiers may have been more receptive to particular people (young women?) in the group. I say that because I got a pretty constant K-II reading in one spot, and then my husband and the tour guide came over, and it temporarily stopped. Another time, me and another woman were getting hits in the same spot, and two other people came over with their K-IIs and didn’t get anything.

My husband has told me before that guys are more inclined to share how they really feel with a woman, so I wonder if the soldier spirits on the battlefield were following that instinct? I guess I can see a soldier telling a woman, “Oh, that really hurt!” and maybe trying to be tough in front of a guy. My guess is that if I walked onto the battlefield dressed as a Civil War nurse, I’d probably get a lot of activity.

When we investigated the house, a woman who was with a man who claimed to be a skeptic got a big jolt. She was opening a door and it jerked out of her hand and swung open.

My husband had an intense nightmare where Confederate soldiers were trying to break into our room. While he didn’t think anything disrespectful or try to provoke any spirit activity, he is a total Northerner. It was not a normal dream, so we’re still trying to unpack it!

I, on the other hand, felt oddly comfortable. My relatives fought in the war as Confederates and we were in a Confederate house, so I wonder if the spirits decided not to bother me!

At any rate, people talk to angels and people who have become saints, so I don’t see any problem with recognizing that individuals on the other side can still communicate and make their presence known.