Lily of the Mohawks

Today marks the Optional Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Canada, the last time this is celebrated. Next year she will be known as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and the rank of the feast will be promoted as Memorial. In the United States of America, her optional memorial is celebrated on July 14. It is unclear if USA will transfer the memorial to April 17 after her canonization.

During the same liturgy of the consistory for the creation of cardinals on February 18, Pope Benedict XVI also held a consistory for the canonization of saints in which he announced the date of her canonization as October 21, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary time, 2012. She will be raised to the altar together with six other saints, including Marianne Cope (who cared for the lepers in Moloka'i, Hawaii), Jacques Berthieu (the protomartyr of Madagascar), Pedro Calungsod (the protomartyr second saint of the Philippines), and Anna Schäffer (a German mystic and stigmatist).

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in Auriesville, New York, to a Mohawk father and Algonquin mother. When she was four, a smallpox epidemic killed her whole family and left her visually impaired and disfigured. She met a Jesuit at the age of 18 who baptized her two years later on Easter day, and named herself after St. Catherine of Siena. Since then, she offered her sufferings and mortification of the flesh to pray for conversion of her kinsmen and for her own sanctity.

French troops attacked the Mohawk tribe, and in 1677, her mission relocated to Côte Sainte-Catherine, Quebec. There she lived a life of purity, poverty and holiness. When she died in 1680, her childhood facial scars disappeared and witnesses saw how her face transformed to great beauty. Many miracles were attributed to her, including the healing of a non-Catholic smallpox-infected young boy. The miracle for her canonization dates from 2006 to another young boy who suffered from a flesh-eating bacterium.

Today her tomb lies in a shrine dedicated to her in the parish of St. Francis Xavier, Kahnawake, a reserve of the Mohawk nation on the south shore of St. Lawrence River, 10 km south west of Montreal. The church was built in 1720 when the mission finally settled down in Kahnawake and Kateri's relics were brought here too. Pilgrims can touch her marble tomb on the right side in the church. A gift shop and a museum can also be found next to the church.

There is also a small national shrine dedicated to the saint in Fonda, New York, where she once lived. Do not miss the impressive National Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, which is only 8 km away.

Kateri is not only revered by native people but also by traditional aboriginal people. She will be first native American woman to become a saint. Canada and USA proudly consider her as their saint. Next year on April 17, we will be celebrating the 333rd anniversary of St. Kateri Tekakwitha's entry into heaven in even greater fervour.


Anglican Catholics in Canada

On the Sunday of the Divine Mercy of the Lord, the first fourth (see comments below) Anglican group in Canada is received into the Catholic Church with the intent of joining an Ordinariate for former Anglicans. The group includes 40 members of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Ottawa, which has been a member of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) and of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). They were received into full communion with the Catholic Church in St. Patrick's Basilica in Ottawa by Archbishop Terrence Prendercast earlier today.

With Benedict XVI's apostolic constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus (and complementary norms), personal ordinariates can be established in countries where sufficient number of Anglicans wish to enter into communion with the Catholic Church. Similar to a Diocese, an Ordinariate possesses public juridic personality in Canon Law, and has jurisdiction of possibly a whole country. These Ordinariates can celebrate the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments according to the Anglican tradition which have been approved by the Holy See.

Former Anglican bishops who enter an Ordinariate (as Ordinary or not) may receive ordination to the diaconate and priesthood, but only those who are not married can receive ordination to the episcopate. The head of an ordinariate is called an Ordinary. He must receive ordination as priest from the Catholic Church but would have similar power to a diocesan Bishop and be similarly vested. The only difference for Ordinaries who cannot receive episcopal ordination in the Catholic Church is that they cannot perform ordinations.

Canada does not have sufficient members to form a personal ordinariate of its own. Anglicans from the country will join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the United States, established four months ago. This is only the second ordinariate for Anglicans, with the first one being the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, established in 2011. The Canadians will form a Deanery within the Ordinariate, under the patronage of St. John the Baptist, who has special significance to Canada.

Ottawa's Cathedral of the Annunciation will lose its status as cathedral as it is incorporated into the American Ordinariate with the Principal Church of Our Lady of Walsingham (de facto Cathedral) in Houston. The former cathedral will now be known as the "Sodality of the Annunciation", where a sodality is a "parish in waiting". Former Anglican Bishop Peter Wilkinson and Suffragan Bishop Carl Reid as well as some priests belonging to the sodality will undergo formation until they receive presbyteral ordination in the Catholic Church, presumably from Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto. At that time, these new Catholic members will be formally made part of the American Ordinariate which will expand its jurisdiction to cover Canada, and the sodality will be raised to the dignity of a parish.

I was in a business trip in the Canadian capital last year for two days. After work I had a 2-hour tour of seven cathedrals: Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame, Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation and St. Nicholas (Orthodox Church in America), the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Xenia (Russian Church Abroad), the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Elias, the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, and the Anglican Catholic Cathedral of the Annunciation.

It was in the latter cathedral that I attended the Liturgy of the Hours and a Mass, the first time that I attended a high Anglican liturgy. I was very impressed by the beautiful English Mass texts, somewhat similar to the new English translation of the Catholic Mass which would take effect months afterwards. My thought was that it combines the solemnity of the Tridentine Mass and the most elegant English text. I could not receive Communion then (by reason of canon law), but next time I will be able to! I had the opportunity of briefly speaking to the bishop after Mass, when I told him I was anxiously waiting for the parish to become Catholic. He told me to pray for that day. My unworthy prayers were fulfilled today!

Ottawa has lost a cathedral and but has gained more joy. Praise be to God.


Easter Sunday

After Wednesday of Week I and Wednesday of Holy Week, we come back for the last time to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the first church dedicated to Mary in the West on this last day of our stational pilgrimage.

Pope Sixtus V, whose reign only lasted 5 years, was buried in this major basilica. He was responsible for finishing construction of several major basilicas and other churches, and moving moving some of the obelisks to St. Peter's Basilica and other churches. Also buried in the basilica is Bernini, the father of Baroque who designed the baldacchino, tabernacle, dove window and several statues in St. Peter's Basilica.

This concludes our 47th day of our station church pilgrimage in which we visited 40 different churches. I hope you have enjoyed it and benefited spiritually from the stories of the Roman churches and martyrs. Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia! Happy Easter!


Holy Saturday

Returning to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome (see First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday), let us look at the highlight of the archbasilica: the papal altar. The main altar is always the focus and raison d'être of any church. It is the visible symbol of unity when the bishop celebrates the Eucharist with the people, as Christ instructed on Holy Thursday.

The main altar is surrounded by the golden baldacchino. Many people often miss the relics in the upper part, as the basilica may not be lighted when they are there. If you look carefully, you can find two silver busts of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church. In fact, the skulls of the two apostles are stored inside the busts.

The bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul are buried within the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul respectively. Excavation of these bodies showed that the skulls were missing, because they are located in St. John Lateran.

Tomorrow we will end the tour of the Roman stations.


Good Friday

On this epic day of salvation, we come back to the  Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem built by St. Helen to store the relics brought back from Jerusalem. This, however, is not a popular destination of tourists or pilgrims because of its distance from the centre of Rome. This gives the advantage that the basilica is most of the time empty, allowing you to spend quiet time in the basilica, admiring the mosaics under the dome.

Among the relics found of St. Helen, you can see here in display a nail attached to the True Cross, and part of the wood attached to the Cross on which is written "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Latin and Greek (see Jn. 19:19; Mt 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk 23:38).

Helen actually found three crosses at the site of Jesus's burial, but could not determine which one was the True Cross. The bishop of Jerusalem suggested that the crosses be brought to a dying woman. When she touched the first and second one, nothing happened, but on being touched by the third Cross, she was instantly healed.

The piece of wood attached to the True Cross was actually detached when found. It is quite amazing that it can last till today.


Holy Thursday

On this last day of Lent and the first day of the Holy Triduum, we come back to the Cathedral of Rome for the third time (see First Sunday of Lent and Palm Sunday). The Basilica of St. John Lateran was the first public church in Rome, donated by Emperor Constantine to the Church.

The Lateran Palace next to the basilica has been the residence of popes until the 14th century. When popes returned from Avignon to Rome, the palace had been damaged by fire, with the result that the official papal residence was moved to the Vatican Hill.

Once you go inside the basilica, your eyes will fall on the 12 huge statues of the apostles lining the central nave. Above them you can see paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

We'll come back here one more time on Holy Saturday.


Wednesday of Holy Week

Returning to the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Romans surely love this original structure preserved since the 5th century.

The basilica was formerly known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snow because snow fell upon this site on a hill to indicate the exact dimension of the church to Pope Liberius. The day was recorded as August 5, and so it has been celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady the Snow.

This is most likely a legend, but if you attend Mass therein on this feast day, you will see a show of fake snow scattered from inside the dome of the basilica during Mass. Yes, the celebration of the Eucharist can come in 4D too!


Tuesday of Holy Week

"After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila... with his wife Prisca... Paul went to see them because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers." (Acts 18: 1-3) He later travelled with them to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19).

Today's station Church of St. Prisca was built in the 4th century upon Prisca's house. Recent excavations found first century walls marked with Chi Rho ☧, the first two letters of the word "Christ" in Greek. The façade was built in the 17th century.

Cadinal Justin Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, is currently the cardinal priest of the titular church. He retired a year ago when he reached the age of 75. Having served as the secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and the archbishop of St. Louis, he was transferred to Philadelphia in 2003, one of the eight traditional cardinalatial sees in USA. Pope John XXIII was the titular of the church before he was elected to the Petrine see.


Monday of Holy Week

St. Praxades is the sister of St. Pudentiana, whose church we visited on Tuesday of Week III. They are daughters of the senator Pudens who gave hospitality to Peter when he first arrived in Rome.

Built in the 4th century, the Basilica of St. Praxades was one of the first 25 parishes of Rome. The present church dates back to the 8th century. Many relics were brought here by Pope Paschal I, including the bodies of Pudentiana and Praxades.

Cardinal Paul Poupard is the titular of the church. He had been auxiliary bishop of Paris before being his appointment as President of the Secretariat for Non-Believers. The Secretariat was later raised to the status of Pontifical Council before merging with the Pontifical Council for Culture in 1993. The cardinal remained as president of the pontifical council till 2007 when he retired. He was at the same time the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (for dealing with other non-Christian religions) from 2006 and 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI was considering to combine the two pontifical councils.


Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

For the second time in Lent (see First Sunday of Lent), the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of the world, is the station church. Romans will come back here two more times this week to complete the Lenten stations. Although the basilica is in Rome outside of the Vatican City, it belongs juridically to the Vatican City State. Italy has no jurisdiction here. The same is true for other major basilicas, some catacombs and some churches.

Shown here is the central apse with the cathedra of the Bishop of Rome, illuminated by mosaics depicting Christ Jesus and other saints. After a pope is elected, he will come here to take possession of the cathedral. That is why Pope Benedict XVI sat on this chair on 7 May 2005 shortly after his election.

We will return to the Lateran Basilica on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.