Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha or Lily of the Mohawks was born in 1656 in a village called Ossernenon, which is now Auriesville, NY. When she was four years old, a smallpox epidemic took the lives of her younger brother, her father a Mohawk Chief and her mother a Christian Algonquin. Young Tekakwitha survived the disease but it left her weak with poor eyesight, and scaring on her face. This first image above is the oldest portrait of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, painted by Father Chauchetiere some years after her death.
Moving with relatives to the turtle clan village of Cahghnawaga, she began a new life. Her first contact with a priest came in 1667 when three Fathers visited her village. St. Peter's Mission chapel was built inside of one of the longhouses and in 1674 Fr. James de Lamberville took charge of the mission.
During a visit to her home, Tekakwitha told the priest of her desire to become baptized and on Easter Sunday when she was 20 years old, she was baptized and given the name Kateri or Katherine. She is usually depicted with a simply made wooden cross as her favorite devotion was to fashion them out of sticks and place them throughout the woods. These crosses served as stations that reminded her to spend a moment in prayer.

Kateri's family did not accept her choice to embrace Christianity. After her baptism, Kateri became like an outcast in her village. Her family refused her food on Sundays because she wouldn't work and children would tease her and throw stones. She was threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her religion. In the summer of 1677, Kateri fled her village to go and live at Sault St. Louis, St. Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. This difficult 200 mile journey took two months through woods, rivers and swamps but she did arrive at the Sault with the help of friends. Her life was devoted to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and aged until she was struck herself with an illness that would claim her life.

On April 17th,1680 at the age of 24 she spoke her last words: "Iesos konoronkwa", or "Jesus, I love you." Shortly after her death and before the eyes of two Jesuit priests and all the Indians that could fit in the room, the scars that marred her face for twenty years suddenly disapeared.

On January 3, 1943, she was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII.
She was Beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 22, 1980.

The Blessed Kateri continues to spread her devotion and faith hundreds of years after her death. Artists continue to be inspired to carve her likeness in wood or stone, painted on canvas, or cast in bronze. Prayers are recited daily for her canonization.

Local areas I have visited learning about Kateri Tekakwitha:
St. Francis Solanus church
Cross in the Woods

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I went back to Greenwood to look for the black cemetery cat and once again, I didn't see her. But I did find some crows!

You hear and see crows amongst the headstones in movies but I have never come across them at the cemetery except for high in the trees. I counted at least ten on the bright green grass walking, pecking and hopping about. I missed so many great photo opportunities as they flew up and settled on the various stones and crosses but I was too slow and they were constantly on the move. They didn't trust me as I inched along after them.

Groucho Marx comes to mind with this shot. The crow in front hunching over and saying to the other "Walk this way".

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Black Cemetery Cat

I like to take my camera with me when I visit graveyards. I was the only living person wandering around in there yesterday and I like it that way.
Following the narrow paved roads slowly in my car, the sound of the engine amplified as it bounced off each large headstone I passed. A few dried leaves had already fallen from the massive oak and maples which shade the cemetery and I was startled by how loud they crunched under my tires.


Hills and valleys make up the grounds and I found myself following a desending trail that seemed to leave the graves behind. At the bottom of the hill there was a clearing and I noticed movement. This black cat who appeared to have recently given birth was watching me from a safe distance. She looked extremely thin, but had a sleek elegance about her. I had my camera ready and zoomed in to take a few shots but I was wishing I had something with me for her to eat. I left the cemetery and headed for the nearest store, choosing some moist ocean flavor cat food in a little plastic container with the pull-off foil top.
Upon my return however, she was no where to be found. But the food is still in my car and I plan to go back there again...soon

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