Wednesday, April 22

Wednesday, April 22nd

Good morning. Good morning. 

This letter is dedicated to Miss Julia Mcintosh.  She is a member of the upcoming Confirmation class… when the pandemic lifts.  She is a great kid and is known by most of you through her shared apostolate with some of the young ladies serving in the church every Sunday.  Aka…”Junior Altar Women’s Society.”  Recently I asked her for the optional saints she considered for her confirmation name.  One of the names she mentioned was St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a young 17th century Indian girl from, what is now, upstate New York.  She later moved up a Jesuit mission near Montreal, Canada. 

Kateri’s mother was a captured Algonquin girl, taken during a Mohawk raid on her village.  Kateri’s mother was also a Catholic.  The Mohawks frequently snatched girls from other Indian tribes because the Mohawks had suffered from various blights that reduced their own population.

(Allow a cynical moment.  The Mohawk practice may be emulated some time in our future by the Chinese who currently have millions of young men looking for wives in a society that killed off their daughters at birth.)   Allow an interesting read.

Her mother would later marry the Mohawk chief.  Both would die in a Smallpox epidemic found in the mid regions of modern New York State in the later part of the seventeenth century.  The pox was introduced by the incoming European settlers.  (Ah, beware, a deadly virus from the same region would likewise be introduced to the Europeans many many years later.  Another time for that.

Kateri survived the smallpox virus, with facial scars and damaged retinas.  Through the influence of her maiden aunts and the local Jesuit missionaries she would later convert to Catholicism when she was 19.  After a holy life and example of great virtue she died at the age of 24.  Pope Benedict the XVI recognized her as a saint in 2011. Her shrine may be found in Fonda, New York. (3636 NY-5, Fonda, NY 12068)  Now the rest of the story… and beyond. 

One may wonder if St. Kateri Tekakawitha ever visited the current boundaries of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.  Or, if she ever spent time in the current boundaries of St. Francis De Sales Parish before or after her experience with the smallpox epidemic.  Both considerations seem very very interesting.  Possibly yes, probably not.   But it is a good story.  

The Shenandoah River boundaries of St. Francis De Sales Parish… on the left.

Many years ago when I was stationed at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, in Arlington, I stumbled onto a passage in an old book on the history of the Catholic Church in Virginia.  It spoke of the interaction of the early French Trappers with the Indians of the Shenandoah Valley.  There have been three such books written in the last century.  The most current by a Jesuit professor from the University of Virginia known as, Fr. Gerald P. Fogarty, SJ. The book is titled, “Commonwealth Catholicism.”  It is an exceptional book and I will donate it to our parish library for any who would like to check it out.  Despite the accolades to Fr. Fogarty, his book was not the literary source for the past memory, from over thirty years ago, concerning Indians in Virginia. 

The lost source had to deal with the French Trappers who entered the Shenandoah Valley, in the area of the mid-Valley.  They travelled along a route that is now close to the East-West I-64 interstate that passes on the Southern side of Charlottesville, Virginia.  They were originally identified as explorers but found trapping for furs more lucrative for their livelihood.  



Queen Elizabeth I, “The Virgin Queen”


Please understand, the French were moving through the Valley almost a full century before the English set up their outposts near the coast.   The British counterparts would, much later, identify the territory as, “The” Anglican Colony honoring Queen Elizabeth I, of England, “The Virgin Queen.”    Ironically, the English settlers were quite surprised to find the Indians spoke the European languages. 

As the trappers did not set up settlements in the Valley that threatened the Indian population they found the natives to be friendly and affable.    Although, I don’t think Hollywood ever allowed John Wayne to meet up with an “affable” Indian.  But, again, I digress.   From their trappings they offered fresh meat to the Indian villages.  Some of the trappers even settled in the Indian villages and married members of the tribe.

But now, the rest of the story.  The Indian tribes of the North would migrate south to winter in the current area of North Carolina during the colder months.  They transported themselves along similar routes, through the Shenandoah Valley used by today’s Canadian tourists hauling their trailers to Florida every October/November, along I-81 or Rt. 17.  Who knew?

When the northern Indians came south they thoroughly thrashed the Indians of Virginia.  They “Terrorized” them, would be a better description.   The French trappers came to the aid of their friendly Indians in the Valley and helped to chase the Mohawk, Iroquois, and Huron Indian federation away from the entrance to the Valley.  The result was the migration was modified to follow along the Shenandoah River to the Potomac River and South around the waterways that skirt the Eastern part of modern day Virginia.  If Kateri had not made the trek south with the tribe in her time her mother and grandmother would certainly have experienced it.

So, what of those Jesuits who were traipsing through the open fields and waterways of our current northern states?  Obviously, some of them are remembered as the North American martyrs.   They also helped provide our youngest saint in America.  But what other dynamic element of their missionary work was manifested to the European settlers going west?  Hmm?  Many of those Indians who met General Custer at the Little Big Horn were themselves Catholic… products of the Jesuit missions.  There is even a thought that Sitting Bull himself may have become a Catholic.  (But that has in itself another story for another time.)  God bless one and all.  Let us pray for one another. 

With this letter I enclose a video from a priest friend  currently stationed in Kenya.  It demonstrates an unexpected phenomenon that the Coronavirus has introduced to Africa.  The same phenomenon is taking place in our own national parks.  The wild animals are returning to their home turf now absent of human visitors.   More to come.

Trivia time.  Name the two famous Indians found on ‘60s televisions series, produced in Hollywood.  Tonto, Jay Silverheels.  From the “Lone Ranger.” In real life he was a Mohawk Indian from Ontario, Canada.  He was also a professional “Lacrosse” player before becoming an actor. 

Mingo, Ed Ames.  From the Daniel Boone series.  He was portrayed as a Cherokee Indian.  In real life he was a Ukrainian Jew raised in Malden, Massachusetts.  He was a wonderful actor and terrific singer… but not a drop of Indian blood in him. 

“Daniel Boone was a Man.”

“Who Will Answer?”

Please allow a commercial from Fr. Heisler and his class, offered every Tuesday night at 7 PM.  Tonight they had about thirty households tune in.  That translates to about 80-90 individuals and their families.  Well done. 

“The Second Vatican Council – Its Inspiration and Interpretation”

In order to receive the Second Vatican Council as inspired, a “gift of the Spirit”, and to interpret the same Council under the influence of the same Spirit, the historical circumstances leading up to the 21st Ecumenical Council and to what the Council was responding as well as anticipating in the future will be covered.

To accomplish this, we will begin with the historical preparatory phase of the Second Vatican Council to include major themes and the influential persons who contributed to the inspiration of the calling of the Second Vatican Council dating back to the Council of Trent through the First Vatican Council, with special emphasis on the 19th century.  

This will allow us the opportunity to understand the theological/philosophical and thus cultural impetus that inspired the calling of the Second Vatican Council by St. Pope John XXIII and its continued inspirational guidance under St. Pope Paul VI of the Council’s analysis of the times and the Church’s critical and hopeful response as read through the Council’s documents.  

The major theme of “rupture/discontinuity” as opposed to “reform” developed by Pope Benedict XVI as a hermeneutic will be covered in order to proceed from a literal grasp of the documents to an interpretation of their deeper meaning within a “proper” context preparing the Church for the beginning of the Third Millennium with particular emphasis up to the year 2015 A.D. (the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s conclusion).

In particular, through an ordered reading of select passages from the four major constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, the student will begin to develop a hermeneutic of interpretation in the same Spirit in which the documents were inspired, namely:  Dei Verbum, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, and Gaudium et Spes.   The inspirational themes which guided the Council discussions will be covered, with special emphasis given to the dialogical manner recommended by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, and continued by his successor, Pope John Paul II as outlined in his encyclical Redemptor Hominis.   Click here for Outline



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