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July 14 Saints of the Day – Nicodemus the Hagiorite and Kateri Tekakwitha

On this date in 1969, the United States $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills were officially withdrawn from circulation. But they didn’t get mine. (Because of course I didn’t have any.)

Nicodemus the HagioriteNicodemus the Hagiorite (Νικόδημος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης) (1748 – 1809) was born on Naxos (that’s an island), had an abbreviated education due to Ottoman obnoxity, and matriculated at Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos in 1775.

Immediately (or shortly thereafter) he buckled down to writing and compiling works of Orthodox piety. He is responsible for the publication of the Rudder, a compilation of canons of the Councils and Fathers, as well as the Philokalia, a compilation of writings about the Jesus Prayer stretching from Anthony the Great to Gregory Palamas. (One source enjoins us to read the English translation of the Rudder with care, as the translator interspersed his own opinions with those of the original without indicating which were which. Doesn’t that just untie your chotki!) He also wrote books about the saints (booyah!) as well as service books and collections of hymns, including some of his own (indicating, naturally, which were which).

According to his contemporaries he had no malice, but did have profound concentration (much greater than 100 moles per liter) (no moles were harmed in the making of that joke). He knew the Scriptures by heart, including chapter and verse numbers (whoa!), and could recite long passages from the Fathers (when no other matters were pressing).

Kateri TekakwithaKateri Tekakwitha (ca. 1656 – 1680) was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a captured Christian Algonquin woman. When she was four years old both her parents and her baby brother died of smallpox, and she was left orphaned, scarred, and visually impaired. Thereafter she shunned social gatherings, partly out of self-consciousness about her smallpox scars. When she was about ten, her village was destroyed by the French, and the Mohawk in that area were forced — I should say, agreed by treaty — to accept Jesuit missionaries in their villages. Could have been worse — well, no, probably not. (Just kidding, Jesuits!)

When Kateri’s village was attacked by Mohicans from the east, Father Pierron, the village priest, recruited a number of girls, including Kateri, to help tend the wounded, bury the fallen, and run provender (or victuals, or comestibles – all great words) to the defenders on the walls. After the attackers were subdued, Pierron pleaded unsuccessfully with the villagers to not torture the captives, then turned to tending the torturees, baptizing as many as he could before they died of their wounds.

Kateri (“Catherine”) had long since decided to remain a virgin, and rebuffed her aunts’ attempts to marry her off, once even fleeing the room when a potential suitor sat next to her. She was punished severely, but eventually the aunts gave up (Mohawk, Italian, Anglo-Saxon — this pattern is clearly universal). After two long years of catechesis (the Jesuits were keen to prevent reverts among their converts), she was baptized. She stated her desire to remain a virgin for Christ, and is counted as the first such among the Mohawk. She then went to a religious community (although not a community of religious) and was instructed further in the faith. She became a little too good at self-mortification — her priests told her to slack up a bit (to little effect). At least they got her to trade her bed of thorns for a hairshirt. Finally her mortifications took their toll, and on Holy Wednesday she breathed her last with the words, “Jesus, I love you.” After her death her face glowed with a heavenly radiance, and she appeared to three people to tell them goodbye. Years later (2006) her prayers healed a given-up-for-dead boy from a flesh-eating disease.

Her position among Native Americans is a matter of some dispute — many revere her as a patron saint, while others denounce her as not embodying true Mohawk womanhood (and repeat rumors about her supposed inconstancy). Pope Benedict XVI canonized her in 2012 after intense lobbying by a monastery in Mexico. She is the patron saint of environmentalists and (some) Native Americans, and is the Catholic Church’s first non-Hispanic American native saint.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
July 14 (Wikipedia)
Nicodemus the Hagiorite (Wikipedia) – Main source
Repose of the Venerable Nicodemus the Hagiorite (OCA)
Orthodox Saints commemorated in July (Abba Moses)
Image of Nicodemus from Wikimedia
Kateri Tekakwitha (Wikipedia) – Main source
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (SQPN)
Image of Kateri Tekakwitha by Flickr photographer
Charlyne/Nefertyna is covered under Creative Commons license
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
and its use here should not be taken to imply any endorsement by the photographer of this page or of me (even as wonderful as I am).

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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