The Chinmaya Mission is a worldwide nonprofit Hindu spiritual organization with more than 250 centres worldwide. The Mission spreads the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual system of thought found in the Upanishads, which epitomize the philosophical teachings of the Vedas.
Swami Chinmayananda born Balakrishna Menon on May 8, 1916, in Ernakulam in Kerala, India was the eldest son of Kutta Menon, a famous judge and nephew of the Maharaja of Cochin. His mother, Paru Kutty, died while giving birth to her third child, and her eldest sister, Kochunarayani raised Balakrishna.
Balakrishna completed his formal schooling in Sree Rama Varma High School, Kochi and Vivekodayam School, Thrissur. He completed his Fellow of Arts (FA) at the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, and his Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the St. Thomas College, Trichur. He then went to Lucknow University (1940–1943) and earned postgraduate degrees in literature and law, while completing courses in journalism at the same time.
During the years as a student, Balakrishna did not formally accept religion. In the summer of 1936, he visited Shree Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950), widely acknowledged as one of the eminent Hindu gurus of modern times. When Ramana Maharshi looked at him, Balakrishna experienced a spiritual ecstasy. Yet, at that time, he justified it as mere ‘hypnotism’.
The ‘Quit India’ Movement
On August 8, 1942, at the Gowalia Tank Maidan (also now known as August Kranti Maidan) in Mumbai, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched a ‘Do or Die‘ civil disobedience movement to be carried out throughout India, demanding “an orderly British withdrawal” from India. It was called the Quit India Act, or the India August Movement.
The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) proclaimed a mass protest. The British were prepared to act. Within hours after Gandhi’s speech, almost the entire INC leadership was imprisoned without trial.
Balakrishna joined fellow students in writing and distributing leaflets to stir up the national pride amidst the wide-scale attempt by the Indian activists to force the British to leave India. He gave many speeches generating awareness of the inability of the British to solve the problems of India.
Within weeks, more than 100,000 people were arrested nationwide, mass fines were levied, and thousands were killed or injured in police and army shootings.
Balakrishna, went underground when he came to know that a warrant had been served for his arrest. He spent the following year moving around in the state of Abbottabad (the same region where Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, was shot dead by the US Army Seals on May 2, 2011), far from where the British officials would be looking for him. After a year, he left Kashmir and moved to Delhi.
Almost two years after the British had issued the warrant for his arrest, believing his case might have been long forgotten, Balakrishna arrived in Punjab and associated himself with several freedom groups operating over there. He advised students on distributing leaflets and organizing public strikes, but he was promptly picked up by the police and imprisoned.
Living for several months in unhygienic conditions in prisons, Balakrishna was afflicted with Typhus. As was the custom with the British jail officials he and many other sick people were carried out of the prison at night and were dumped on the outskirts of the town.
The next morning, an Indian Christian lady passing along the road where Balakrishna was lying saw him. He reminded her of her own son serving in the British army. The good Samaritan took Balakrishna to her home. The doctor who examined him insisted that Balakrishna be taken to a hospital without delay if he were to survive.
After several weeks, Balakrishna recovered his health. Sri K Rama Rao, the eminent editor, noted freedom fighter and member of the first Rajya Sabha, gave Balakrishna his first job as a journalist sub-editor at the National Herald in Lucknow and later at Delhi. Balakrishna wrote a series of articles — short, critical satires — on socialism in a society where the majority of people were poor. These were soon published regularly in Indian national papers.
Around 1947, working as a journalist, he decided to write an article “exposing” sadhus and made preparations to travel to Swami Sivānanda’s ashram in Rishikesh. He later confessed:
“I went not to gain knowledge, but to find out how the swamis were keeping up the bluff among the masses.“
Father Tony Currer (41) leads Vatican’s first-ever cricket team. According to a released team list, seven Indians dominate the team and Father Curer is its only Englishman. Also, in the team are two Sri Lankans and one Pakistani. All members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club are young seminarians training for the priesthood, many of them aged between 24 and 41.
Preparations for the cricket club began around a year ago due to the enthusiasm of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who said the initiative was an example of “sporting diplomacy”.
Pope Francis, born in Argentina is an avid football fan, but knows little about cricket. He blessed the Vatican’s “underdog” cricket team that will be facing a formidable Church of England XI during their maiden foreign tour to England dubbed “The Light of Faith tour“. The Holy Father signed a cricket bat, which the team will take with them to England.
The papal XI will play matches against chaplains of the British armed forces at Aldershot and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle, as well as two other games. The climax of the tour will be a showdown with a Church of England team in Canterbury on September 19, 2014.
The manager of Papal XI Father Eamonn O’Higgins, and “spiritual director” of the team, said:
“Realistically, we are the rank underdogs with a very outside chance, but that’s OK. None of us has played first class cricket. The boys have not had a lot of time to practice. What we hope for, above all, is a good match.”
The Vatican cricketers will be praying and playing during the eight-day tour of England organized by the Anglican weekly newspaper The Church Times and Kent County Cricket Club. They will be visiting several holy sites and raising money for the Global Freedom Network, which fights against modern slavery and human trafficking.
Father Jery Njaliath (36), a priest from Kerala said:
“We’re going over there to beat them, to play to the maximum. But we’ll certainly play in the spirit of the game.”
Father Tony Currer, the captain of Saint Peter’s Cricket Club said:
“Win or lose, the first cricket match in history between the Vatican and the Church of England will be an event to remember and to build on.”
On September 13, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the first match of The Light of Faith Tour against the Chaplains of the armed forces played at Aldershot Army Cricket Ground. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 81 runs.
St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) 152/2 (20 overs)
Chaplains XI 71/4 (20 overs).
On September 14, 2014, in the 2nd match played between St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) Vs. St. Peter’s CC (Brighton), the Vatican team won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s Vatican lost the T20 game to St. Peter’s Brighton.
St. Peter’s Brighton 168/6 (20 overs)
St. Peter’s Vatican 114/9 (20 overs)
In the third match of The Light of Faith tour played yesterday, September 14, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) faced the Authors XI at Ascott House. It was a 30 overs match. The Authors XI won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 4 runs.
St. Peter’s 151 (29 overs)
Authors XI 147/4 (30 overs)
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
— Mathew 5:43-48
I had a very difficult time trying to write about loving my enemies. I wrote and deleted, wrote and deleted, more than a dozen times. Then I remembered having read long ago a thought provoking speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., on this subject.
I am just a mole hill before the colossal mountain called Martin Luther King, Jr., the greatest champion of Jesus, who still lives in and will never fade away from our memory. So, today, I have taken the easy way out. I want our beloved King to talk to us on loving our enemies.
This is a very long speech; so take your time to read it. I request you to digest, understand and follow his way of loving our enemies if you really love Jesus.
Here is the speech “Loving Your Enemies” by Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 17 November 1957.
I want to use as a subject from which to preach this morning a very familiar subject, and it is familiar to you because I have preached from this subject twice before to my knowing in this pulpit. I try to make it a, something of a custom or tradition to preach from this passage of Scripture at least once a year, adding new insights that I develop along the way out of new experiences as I give these messages. Although the content is, the basic content is the same, new insights and new experiences naturally make for new illustrations.
So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation.
Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.
But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.
And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.
A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.
I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”
So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
The Greek language, as I’ve said so often before, is very powerful at this point. It comes to our aid beautifully in giving us the real meaning and depth of the whole philosophy of love. And I think it is quite apropos at this point, for you see the Greek language has three words for love, interestingly enough. It talks about love as eros. That’s one word for love. Eros is a sort of, aesthetic love. Plato talks about it a great deal in his dialogues, a sort of yearning of the soul for the realm of the gods. And it’s come to us to be a sort of romantic love, though it’s a beautiful love. Everybody has experienced eros in all of its beauty when you find some individual that is attractive to you and that you pour out all of your like and your love on that individual. That is eros, you see, and it’s a powerful, beautiful love that is given to us through all of the beauty of literature; we read about it.
Then the Greek language talks about philia, and that’s another type of love that’s also beautiful. It is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. And this is the type of love that you have for those persons that you’re friendly with, your intimate friends, or people that you call on the telephone and you go by to have dinner with, and your roommate in college and that type of thing. It’s a sort of reciprocal love. On this level, you like a person because that person likes you. You love on this level, because you are loved. You love on this level, because there’s something about the person you love that is likeable to you. This too is a beautiful love. You can communicate with a person; you have certain things in common; you like to do things together. This is philia.
The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.
And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.
Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends.
Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”
Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.
Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are telling us today that the more we hate, the more we develop guilt feelings and we begin to subconsciously repress or consciously suppress certain emotions, and they all stack up in our subconscious selves and make for tragic, neurotic responses.
And may this not be the neuroses of many individuals as they confront life that that is an element of hate there. And modern psychology is calling on us now to love. But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It’s not enough for us to hate your friends because—to to love your friends—because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.
I think of one of the best examples of this. We all remember the great president of this United States, Abraham Lincoln—these United States rather. You remember when Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of bad things about Lincoln, a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, “You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States.” He went on and on and on and went around with that type of attitude and wrote about it.
Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. And if you read the great biography of Lincoln, if you read the great works about him, you will discover that as every president comes to the point, he came to the point of having to choose a Cabinet. And then came the time for him to choose a Secretary of War. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: “Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he has done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?” Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: “Oh yes, I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job.”
Mr. Stanton did become Secretary of War, and a few months later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made by, about Abraham Lincoln was made about this man Stanton. And as Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said: “Now he belongs to the ages.” And he made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man. If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would have not transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.
That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words.
History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.
Not only did Jesus discover it, even great military leaders discover that. One day as Napoleon came toward the end of his career and looked back across the years—the great Napoleon that at a very early age had all but conquered the world. He was not stopped until he became, till he moved out to the battle of Leipzig and then to Waterloo. But that same Napoleon one day stood back and looked across the years, and said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”
Yes, I can see Jesus walking around the hills and the valleys of Palestine. And I can see him looking out at the Roman Empire with all of her fascinating and intricate military machinery. But in the midst of that, I can hear him saying: ‘I will not use this method. Neither will I hate the Roman Empire.’
Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.
But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others?
This brings to my mind two sayings in Tamil:
“இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”
(Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?)
Meaning: “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”
Meaning: “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investigate thoroughly.”
So, we must investigate thoroughly before condemning others. Also, we must learn to forgive those who displease us.
All of us have a right to our justified anger.
Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.
Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.
Martin Luther King Jr., said:
“First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.
The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.
For the Hindus, there are five important points to keep in mind:
Give with the heart not with the head.
Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance.
For the Buddhists,
Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).
In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.
Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).
True Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” — Luke 6:36-38
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. — Luke 6:41-42
In the United States, July 14, is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. In Canada, the feast is celebrated on April 17.
Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native North American saint and the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church after Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin – canonized on July 31, 2002, at the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City by Pope John Paul II, and two other Oaxacan Indians. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the “Genevieve of New France“. Like St. Francis of Assisi she is also the patroness of the environment and ecology.
Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquin virgin and laywoman belonging to the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois nation. She was born in Auriesville, now part of New York in As a child she lost her parents to a smallpox epidemic. She survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. Her paternal uncle, a village chief, a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area, adopted the orphaned girl.
Shunned by her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, Tekakwitha settled for the last years of her life in the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada.
She was baptized as Kateri Tekakwitha at the age of 20. The name “Kateri” is derived from the French “Catherine”. She professed the evangelical vow of chastity and corporal mortification of the flesh.
Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680, aged 24, at Caughnawaga, Canada. Her last words were “Jesos Konoronkwa” (“Jesus, I love you”).
It is alleged that after her death, the scars on her face cleared. Various miracles and supernatural effects are assigned to her intercession.
In 1943, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared venerable by the Catholic Church, and was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. However, the Church needed a further confirmed true miracle to canonize her.
The miracle the Church wanted happened in 2006, when a five-year-old Seattle boy named Jake Finkbonner while playing basketball fell and cut his lip. Jake was in intensive care fighting a deadly flesh-eating bacterium that was cankering the skin on his face. Though the doctors tried various medications and surgeries, the infection on the little boy’s face continued to spread.
A local priest, Fr. Tim Sauer, knowing Jake was half Lummi Indian, asked his parishioners to pray to Kateri Tekakwitha to intercede for his recovery.
After three weeks, the infection stopped spreading and Jake recovered.
“I certainly believe in miracles,” said Dr. Hooper, one of the doctors who treated little Jake, while talking to CBC News, “It’s a different meaning for everyone. I’m just really happy when things work out well.”
Jake’s recovery was the proof that the Vatican needed.
On October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica.
At the end of 1679, Kateri fell ill. Her afflictions increased day by day. Whenever she was able to leave her cabin, she would go to the chapel and rest on the benches and pray, and when she could support herself she would kneel before the altar.
During the Holy Week of 1680, Tekakwitha’s health was failing overcome by migraine headaches, fever and severe stomach pains accompanied with frequent vomiting.
On Tuesday, April 16, 1680, her friends knew she had, but a few hours left to live. They and the villagers gathered at the longhouse. Kateri was too weak to be moved to the chapel. Father Chauchetière and Cholenec hurried to the longhouse. Father Cholenec gave her Holy Viaticum. Until then, carrying the Blessed Sacrament to a longhouse was unheard of in the village for it was the custom for the sick to be carried on a board of bark to the chapel.
In the morning of Holy Wednesday, April 17, 1680, Kateri’s illness became worse and Father Cholenec administered the last rites – Extreme Unction.
Kateri Tekakwitha died around 3 pm in the arms of her friend Marie-Therèse. Father Chauchetière reports her final words were: “Jesos Konoronkwa” (“Jesus, I love you”).
After her death, the people noticed a physical change in her. Father Cholenec later wrote:
“Then she had a slight spasm at the right side of her mouth. She died as if she was falling into a light sleep and we were for along time not certain of her death. Sometime before 4 o’clock, her face had suddenly changed and became in a moment so beautiful, smiling and white. Her face had an appearance of a rosy colour, which she never had and her features were not the same. I saw this immediately, because I was praying beside her and cried out for my astonishment. Her face was so scarred with smallpox from the age of four years old, and with her infirmities and mortification contributed to ruin her even more. And before her death she had taken a darken complexion. Her face appeared more beautiful than when she had been living. I will admit openly of the first thought, which came to me that Kateri might have entered into Heaven at this moment. After reflecting back in her chaste body a small ray of glory she had gone to possess.“
The day Kateri died, the villagers passed it with an extraordinary devotion. Kateri’s simple compatriots kissed her hands and passed the evening and stayed the rest of the night near her to admire her face that exuded devotion even though her soul was separated from her.
They placed her body in the coffin with a cross in her hands. They did not cover her face until she was buried because of the pleasure people had looking at her.
Appearances after death
In the weeks after her death Kateri Tekakwitha has been said to have appeared before three persons: Kanahstatsi Tekonwatsenhonko (her mentor), Wari Teres Tegaiaguenta (her spiritual companion) and Father Claude Chauchetière.
Kanahstatsi said that, while crying over the death of her daughter, she looked up to see Catherine “kneeling at the foot” of her mattress, “holding a wooden cross that shone like the sun“.
Wari Teres reported that she was awakened at night by a knocking on her wall, and a voice asked if she were awake, adding, “I’ve come to say goodbye; I’m on my way to heaven.” Immediately, she went outside, but saw no one; then, she heard a voice murmur, “Adieu, Adieu, go tell the father that I’m going to heaven.“
Chauchetière reported seeing Catherine at her grave; he said she appeared in “baroque splendour; for two hours he gazed upon her” and “her face lifted toward heaven as if in ecstasy.”
Chauchetière had a chapel built near the site of her grave.
The settlers of New France spoke in whispers that a saint had been living among them. The Jesuits ground her bones to dust and placed it in the newly rebuilt mission chapel to symbolize her presence on earth. By 1684, pilgrims started coming to Kahnawake to honour Kateri Tekakwitha. Miracles were attributed to her intercession.
Kateri’s physical remains such as the crucifix she wore, the utensils she ate with, and even dirt from her grave, were all known to affect cures and were used as holy relics for healing.
Father Chauchetière was convinced that he had been in the presence of holiness. He told settlers in La Prairie to pray to Catherine for intercession with illnesses. He wrote the first of his many biographies of Kateri Tekakwitha in 1695. He was followed in 1696 by the equally prolific Father Pierre Cholenec. Through their writing, the legend of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Miracle Worker of the New World, reached across the sea to France and from there to the Vatican. Even the Jesuits in China and their converts, came to know about Kateri’s fame through Father Chauchetière’s writings. At least 300 books have been published in more than 20 languages on the life of Kateri Tekakwitha based on the accounts written by the two Jesuit priests who knew her.
The Jesuits ground her bones to dust and placed it in the newly rebuilt mission chapel to symbolize her presence on earth. Her physical remains were sometimes used as holy relics for healing.
Because of her singular life of chastity, she is often associated with the lily flower, a traditional symbol of purity among Roman Catholics and one often used for the Virgin Mary. Religious images of Tekakwitha are often decorated with a lily and the cross, with feathers or turtle as cultural accessories. Colloquial terms for Tekakwitha are The Lily of the Mohawks, the Mohawk Maiden, the Pure and Tender Lily, the Flower among True Men, the Lily of Purity and The New Star of the New World.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s tribal neighbors praised Kateri Tekakwitha as “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the red men.” Now, reverence of Kateri Tekakwitha transcends tribal differences. Indigenous North American Catholics have taken her to heart and identify themselves with her by portraying her in their art, and in their own traditional clothing.
Many consider her virtues as an ecumenical bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.
The Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha
After her death, Tekakwitha became an honorary yet unofficial patroness of Montreal, Canada, and Indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The process for Tekakwitha’s canonization was initiated by the United States Catholics at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884. It was followed by the Canadian Catholics.
On January 3, 1943, Pope Pius XII declared her venerable.
She was beatified as Catherine Tekakwitha on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II.
On December 19, 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints certified a second miracle through her intercession, signed by Pope Benedict XVI, that paved the way for her canonization.
On February 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI decreed the canonization of that Tekakwitha. Speaking in Latin, he used the form “Catharina Tekakwitha” while the official booklet of the ceremony referred to her in English and Italian, as “Kateri Tekakwitha”.
Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. In the official canonization rite booklet, “Catherine” is used in the English and French biographies and “Kateri” in the translation of the rite itself.
Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native North American saint and the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church after Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin – canonized on July 31, 2002, at the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City by Pope John Paul II, and two other Oaxacan Indians.
The Jesuit mission of Saint-François-Xavier du Sault-Saint-Louis
Father de Lamberville advised Kateri Tekakwitha to go to the Jesuit settlement of Saint-François-Xavier du Sault-Saint- Louis located along the St. Lawrence river in Quebec, Canada, opposite Lachine (later Montréal).
The historic mission was first established in 1667 when the Kanienkeha’ka (Mohawk) community located to the northern part of the Territory at Kentake, now known as Laprairie, Quebec. The community moved four more times due to economic, agricultural as well as political changes.
The Jesuits had founded the mission for the religious conversion of the natives. When it began, the natives built longhouses for residences. They also built a longhouse to be used as a chapel by the Jesuits. As a missionary settlement, it attracted other Iroquois, but it was predominantly Mohawk.
In 1677, Kateri was spirited away from the Mohawk the village of Caughnawaga by her brother-in-law and a Huron of Lorette with the assistance of Father de Lamberville. Kateri and her rescuers proceeded on foot to Lac du Saint-Sacrement (Lake George). After a long and harrowing journey , of about two weeks on the Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Richelieu River corridors, they completed their 200-mile journey and reached the mission. In all it took almost three months for the whole journey.
On arrival after the long and harrowing journey, Kateri was lodged in the longhouse where her mother’s close friend, Kanahstatsi Tekonwatsenhonko, was the clan matron. Her sister (the daughter of her adoptive parents) and her brother-in-law, and many other people who had migrated from Caughnawaga lodged in the same longhouse.
In the village, she found many Iroquoian-speaking Mohawk converts and the Jesuits whom she had met in 1666.
Kanahstatsi and other Mohawk women introduced Kateri to the regular practices of Christianity. She spent hours in prayer in the chapel.
Kateri made her first communion on Christmas Day 1677. She spent hours in prayer in the chapel. During the winter hunting season she continued her pious exercises while taking part in the work of the community, and she created a place of worship near a cross carved on a tree beside a brook.
According to the historian Allan Greer, most of these early native converts to Christianity were women. They followed a way they thought was integral to Christianity by devoting their bodies and souls to God and participated in mortification of the flesh in groups. There were similar practices of mortification of the flesh traditionally carried out by Mohawk warriors. Piercing the body to draw blood was a traditional practice of the Mohawk and other Iroquois nations.
Though the women in the village usually followed the directions of the Jesuits, at times, they eluded their control. The Jesuits opposed the practice of mortification of the flesh, but the women claimed it was needed to relieve them of their past sins.
Kateri learned more about Christianity under her mentor Anastasia, who taught her about the practice of repenting for one’s sins. Kateri put thorns on her sleeping mat and lay on them while praying for the conversion and forgiveness for her kinsmen.
Two French Jesuit missionaries, Claude Chauchetière and Pierre Cholenec, played important roles in Kateri Tekakwitha’s life.
Father Pierre Cholenec arrived in New France in 1672, before Father Claude Chauchetière.
Father Claude Chauchetière and Tekakwitha arrived at the village in the same year, in 1677. Jesuits generally thought that the natives needed their guidance in Christianity to be set on the right path. However, Chauchetière’s close contact with and deeper knowledge of the natives in the village changed some of his set notions about the people and the differences among human cultures.
Father Chauchetière was the first to write a biography of Kateri Tekakwitha’s life in 1695, followed by Father Pierre Cholenec in 1696.
Father Chauchetière wrote that he was very impressed by Kateri, as he had not expected a native to be so pious. He believed that Catherine Tekakwitha was a saint. In his biography of her, he stressed her “charity, industry, purity, and fortitude.”
Father Chauchetière recounted the steps Kateri and some of her peers took in the name of their faith. Their mortifications were extreme, and Chauchetière says:
“They covered themselves with blood by disciplinary stripes with iron, with rods, with thorns, with nettles; they fasted rigorously, passing the entire day without eating. These fasting women toiled strenuously all day – in summer, working in the fields; in winter, cutting wood. (…) they put glowing coals between their tows, where the fire burned a hole in their flesh; they went bare-legged to make a long procession in the snows; they all disfigured themselves by cutting off their hair, in order not to be sought in marriage…“
Kateri Tekakwitha took a vow of chastity on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, 1679. The Roman Catholic Church considers that on this day her conversion was truly completed and she became the “first virgin” among the Mohawk.
Father Cholenec introduced the traditional items of Catholic mortification – whips, hair shirts and iron girdles – to the converts at the village so they would adopt these items, rather than use Mohawk practices.
Father Cholenec quotes Kateri Tekakwitha as saying:
“I have deliberated enough. For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for a wife”.
In the spring of 1678, Kateri met Wari Teres Tegaiaguenta, a young Oneida widow, for the first time. They became inseparable friends. Aspiring to devotion, they practiced mutual flagellation in secret.
Father Cholenec wrote that Catherine could flog herself between one thousand and twelve hundred blows in one session.
Tekakwitha’s dedication to the ritual mortification became more intense and consuming over the rest of her life; she included prolonged fasting, flogging, cutting, sleeping on a bed of thorns, and burning herself with hot coals.
Her spiritual directors became concerned because of her practice of self-mortifications were impacting her health and advised her to lighten the rigorous devotion. Father Cholenec suggested that she retire to the wilderness with her relations who were then engaged in the winter hunt to restore her strength, with proper diet and the fresh air in the forest.
But she replied:
“It is true, my Father, that my body is served most luxuriously in the forest, but the soul languishes there, and is not able to satisfy its hunger. On the contrary, in the village the body suffers; I am contented that it should be so, but the soul finds its delight in being near to Jesus Christ. Well then, I will willingly abandon this miserable body to hunger and suffering, provided that my soul may have its ordinary nourishment.”
When Kateri and Wari Teres learned of nuns and convents for women, they asked the Jesuits for permission to form a group of native disciples, but they were told they were too “young in the faith” to form such a group. So, they created their own informal association of devout women. Wari Teres eventually left the group, supposedly due to personal issues. Kateri tried to reintegrate her into the group until her death.
In the mid 15th century, the Mohawk interacted with both Dutch and French colonists. Originally, the Dutch, who had settled in Albany and Schenectady traded fur with the Mohawk while the French traded with the Huron.
In 1666, when Tekakwitha was around ten years old, the French trying to make inroads into Iroquois territory in present-day central New York, attacked the Mohawk, and after driving the people from their the longhouses and wigwams they burned all three Mohawk villages and their corn and squash fields.
During the skirmish, the Mohawks took refuge in the forest. Little Tekakwitha spent the cold winter in the forest along with her aunt’s family.
After the defeat by the French forces, the Mohawk was forced to accept a peace treaty that required them to accept Jesuit missionaries, whom they called “Black Robes,” in their villages for converting them to Christianity. The Jesuits established the mission of Saint-Pierre de Gandaouagué on the north shore of the Mohawk River and quickly studied Mohawk and other native languages to reach the people and taught them Christianity using terms the natives could easily identify.
Tekakwitha went with her people to the mission of Saint-Pierre de Gandaouagué. She was impressed by the courteous manners and the piety of the Jesuit missionaries she met for the first time.
The Mohawk crossed the Mohawk River to rebuild Caughnawaga on the north bank
In 1667, Tekakwitha met the Jesuits Jacques Frémin, Jacques Bruyas, and Jean Pierron, who had come to the village. But, her uncle opposed any contact with them because he did not want her to convert to Christianity since one of his daughters had already left Caughnawaga to go to the Iroquois Catholic mission village near Montreal in Quebec, Canada.
The records of Jesuits who knew Tekakwitha describe her as a modest, shy girl who avoided social gatherings, and wore a blanket over her head to cover the pockmarks on her face. She learned the traditional way of making clothing and belts from animal skins; weaving mats, baskets and boxes of reeds and grasses; preparing food from the game, crops and gathered produce. She took part in the women’s seasonal planting and intermittent weeding.
Although small-pox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight, her aunts started pressurizing her to marry, even at the young age of 13. As she grew older, she shrank from marriage with great aversion.
In the summer of 1669, a band of several hundred Mohican warriors, advancing from the east attacked the village of Caughnawaga. The Mohawks fought off the invaders who kept the village under siege for three days. Tekakwitha along with other girls of the village carried food and water to the defending warriors on the palisades. They also helped the Jesuit priest Jean Pierron who tended to the wounded, and buried the dead.
When reinforcements arrived from other Mohawk villages the Mohican warriors retreated. The Mohawk villagers led by chief Ganeagowa, pursued the Mohicans in the forest, killing over 80 and capturing several others. When the Mohawks returned to Caughnawaga amidst widespread celebration, they tortured the captive Mohicans – thirteen men and four women – for two days and had planned to kill them on the third. Father Jean Pierron who was tending to the captives also, implored the Mohawk to stop the torture, but they ignored his plea. He then instructed the captives in Catholic doctrine as best he could and baptized them before they died under torture.
The Iroquois Feast of the Dead
In late 1669, the Iroquois Feast of the Dead, held every ten years, was convened at Caughnawaga. It was the Mohawk custom to carefully exhume the cadavers of those who had died in the previous decade, so that their souls could be released to wander to the spirit land.
A few Oneidas and Onondagas came to attend the feast led by sachem Garakontié.
Father Pierron who was present in the village boldly censured the beliefs and logic of the Feast of the Dead. The assembled Iroquois, upset over his remarks, ordered him to be silent. But Father Pierron continued, exhorting the Iroquois to give up their “superstitious” rites. Under duress, Father Pierron left the gathering, but returned along with Garakontié, the Onondaga sachem. Under Garakontié’s protection Pierron finished his speech. He demanded that, to secure a continued friendship with the French, the Iroquois should give up their Feast of the Dead, their faith in dreams as a guide to action, and the worship of their war-god. Eventually, the assembled Iroquois relented. Exchanging gifts with Father Pierron, they promised to give up the customs and rituals he had denounced.
Sachem Garakontié himself later became a Christian.
Family urges Tekakwitha to marry
Around 1674, when Tekakwitha turned 17, her adoptive parents, and other relatives became concerned over her lack of interest in young men as romantic partners or potential husbands. They urged Tekakwitha to marry a young Mohawk warrior. When she refused to marry the man chosen for her, she incurred the family’s displeasure, ridicule, threats, and harsh workloads. But Tekakwitha stayed firm in her resolution of resisting marriage, while submitting to their work demands.
Conversion and Baptism
In the spring of 1675, when she was about 18, Tekakwitha met the Jesuit priest Jacques de Lamberville. He taught her catechism.
Convinced that Tekakwitha was ready for true conversion, Father de Lamberville baptized her on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1676, and gave her the name “Catherine” after St. Catherine of Sienna. The Victorian author Ellen Hardin Walworth conceived the alternate name “Kateri” which was first used in 1891.
Tekakwitha’s family opposed her conversion to Catholicism and continued to persecute her. They deprived her of food because she did not want to work on Sundays. People threw stones at her when she went to the chapel to pray. Some Mohawks accused her of sorcery and sexual promiscuity.
I am a flower of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among thorns, so is my friend among women.
– Song of Songs 2:1-2
July 14, is the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North American declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, and the fourth Native American to be declared a saint after St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and two other Oaxacan Indians. She is known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the “Genevieve of New France“. Like St. Francis of Assisi she is also the patroness of the environment and ecology.
Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquin virgin and laywoman belonging to the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois nation. She was born in Auriesville, now part of New York in As a child she lost her parents to a smallpox epidemic. She survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. Her paternal uncle, a village chief, a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area, adopted the orphaned girl.
Shunned by her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, Tekakwitha settled for the last years of her life in the Jesuit mission village, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada.
Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680, aged 24, at Caughnawaga, Canada. It is alleged that after her death, the scars on her face cleared. Various miracles and supernatural effects are assigned to her intercession.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s extraordinary life and reputation for piety have made her an icon to the native Roman Catholics of North America.
In 1943, the Catholic Church declared Kateri Tekakwitha as venerable. In 1980, Pope John Paul II beatified her, and on October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized her at Saint Peter’s Basilica.
According to one of her biographers, no other native American’s life has been more fully documented that of Kateri Tekakwitha. At least three hundred books have been published in more than twenty languages based on the writings of French Jesuit missionaries, such as Claude Chauchetière, Pierre Cholenec, and others who knew her personally.
Because of her singular life of chastity, she is often associated with the lily flower, a traditional symbol of purity among Roman Catholics and one often used for the Virgin Mary.
The fleur-de-lys is a heraldic symbol of the French monarchy. Four lilies are depicted in the flag of Quebec. The French associated Kateri with the lily.
It was Father Claude Chauchetière who first evoked the lily metaphor when he wrote,
I have up to the present written of Katharine as a lily among thorns, but now I shall relate how God transplanted this beautiful lily and placed it in a garden full of flowers, that is to say, in the Mission of the Sault, where there have been, are, and always will be holy people renowned for virtue.
Religious images of Tekakwitha are often adorned with a lily and the cross. Feathers and turtle are incorporated as cultural accessories.
Colloquial terms for Tekakwitha are The Lily of the Mohawks, the Mohawk Maiden, the Pure and Tender Lily, the Flower among True Men, the Lily of Purity and The New Star of the New World.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s tribal neighbors praised Kateri Tekakwitha as “the fairest flower that ever bloomed among the red men.” Now, reverence of Kateri Tekakwitha transcends tribal differences. Indigenous North American Catholics identify themselves with her by portraying her in their art, and in their own traditional clothing.
Many consider her virtues as an ecumenical bridge between Mohawk and European cultures.
In Canada, the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is celebrated on April 17.
The Story of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Weskarini, an Algonquin tribe, known as Petite Nation des Algonquins (Little Nation of the Algonquin), lived on the north side of the Ottawa River below Allumettes Island (Morrison’s Island), Québec, New France. They had close associations with the Jesuit missionaries.
In March 1643, Jeanne Mance, a French nurse at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal took care of Pachirini Sachem Carolus, a wounded young Algonquin warrior. Sachem baptized on April 2, 1643, in Montréal by Father Imbert Duperon. He was given the Christian name of Charles. He lived in Montréal for some time with the two Jesuits of the post. Most of the Weskarini Algonquin became Catholics, being baptized between 1643 and 1650 by the Jesuits in Montréal and the rest later at Trois-Rivières. They settled in Trois-Rivières, setting up their village near the Fort there. While his fellow tribesmen left for Trois-Rivières, Charles Pachirini led the Jesuits to explore the shore that was later to become Laprairie (a Jesuit mission).
Prior to 1648, Charles Pachirini rejoined his people at Trois-Rivières and became the captain of the Christian Algonquins, even during the lifetime of his discredited predecessor Paul Tessouhat II, the chief of the Kichesipirini, or Algonquins of Allumette Island. He was given a Fiefdom in Trois-Rivières.
This was a time when the Iroquois were at war with the Algonquin.
Earlier, on October 18, 1646, near the village named Ossernenon also known as Gandaouge, Gandawaga and Caughnawaga in the Iroquois Confederacy in New France (present-day Auriesville, New York) the Iroquoi Mohawks killed Saint Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit missionary and threw his body in the St. Lawrence River.
Around 1652-1653, Mohawks of Ossernenon raided the town of Trois-Rivières and the Algonquin village of Sachem Charles Pachirini.
When the Mohawks attacked the area, the women and children sought shelter in the Fort while the braves joined the soldiers in repelling the attack. The raiding party killed many braves and soldiers defending the fort and the Indian village of the Weskarini. They also abducted French and Algonquin children and women. It became the norm to take the women and children of the defeated with them as prisoners and subsume them into their fold.
One of the abducted women Kahontáke (Meadow) or Kahenta also known as Tagaskouita, was an Algonquin, a member of the Weskarini Band of Sachem Carolus Pachirini. She had been baptized and educated among the French in Trois-Rivières. She married Kenneronkwa, an Iroquoi Mohawk warrior. Around 1656, Kahontáke gave birth to a girl at the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, in the village of Ossernenonon on the banks of the Mohawk River. According to some authorities the child was born in the village of Gandaouge.
“Catherine Tekakwitha, so renowned today in New France for the extraordinary marvels that God has bestowed and continues to bestow through her intercession, was born an Iroquois in 1656 in a Mohawk village called Gahnaougé. Her mother, an Algonquin, had been baptized and educated among the French in Trois-Rivières. She was seized there by the Iroquois with whom we were at war at that time, and taken as a slave to their homeland. She lived there and after a little while was married to a native of the place, and had two children: a son, and a daughter, Catherine.” From Catherine Tekakwitha, Fr. Pierre Cholenec, S.J., Her Spiritual Advisor. (Translated by William Lonc, S.J., 2002)
During the years 1661 and 1662, the Mohawk suffered from a smallpox epidemic, the disease brought to the Americas by the Europeans. The disease devastated the village of Ossernenon, causing the death of most of the villagers. Kenneronkwa, his wife, and baby son succumbed to the disease. However, his daughter survived the catastrophe with damaged eyesight and pockmarks on her face. She was adopted by her father’s sister and her husband, a chief of the Turtle Clan, and raised as one of his daughters. The chief was a great foe of the Roman Catholic missionaries from France in the area.
Shortly afterwards, the survivors of the smallpox epidemic of the village of Ossernenon built a new village at the top of a hill, a mile or two west up the Mohawk River along its southern bank and called it Caughnawaga (“at the wild water”).
Because of her weakened eyes, the girl had trouble seeing in front of her, especially in the sunshine. Her uncle and aunts named her “Tekakwitha” meaning “she who feels her way ahead.”
Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.
The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.
Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.
The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai, said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”
However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.“
On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.
On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.
At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.
However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?
Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.
The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.
At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.
After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.
Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.
Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.
Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.
It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.
A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.
Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.
Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said: