A reader sent me a link to the following story (which unfortunately is on a paid subscription site).
PAXTON— Praying to the east, the north, the south and the west while burning medicinal cedar on the podium, Sister Kateri Mitchell of the Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan sought the blessings of the Creator for graduates at the 56th annual commencement at Anna Maria College yesterday.
As the afternoon darkened with threatening clouds, parents and friends of the 300 graduates crowded under a huge white tent on a field next to the college and cheered on the members of the class of 2005.
President William D. McGarry told the graduates the day marked the end of an important part of their lives, but was the first step on an even more important journey. While the diploma they received would open doors to new careers, he said, “what you do from this day forward will determine what this diploma really means.”
Reflecting on the four years the students have been at Anna Maria, Mr. McGarry said the world has changed in many ways. In those four years, there was the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle, the attack on Iraq and the death of a pope.
“Pope John Paul II, the only pope many of you have ever known, taught us with his actions how to live and, when the time came, how to die,” Mr. McGarry said.
He urged the students to remember what they had learned at Anna Maria and to carry it with them.
“You will forever be a member of the Anna Maria College family,” he said. “No matter how far away you go, we expect to hear from you.”
During her Prayer to the Four Directions, in which she was joined by other Sisters of St. Anne, Sister Kateri had members of the audience stand and face each direction as the prayer was recited.
Facing east, the sisters said the rising sun reminds them each day to thank the Creator for his goodness.
Turning south, they said the soft winds and rains are like the goodness in our hearts and the gentleness of our speech.
Facing west, they noted that the brilliance of the setting sun shows beauty and harmony.
“We pray, Great Spirit, that our journey through life will know the harmony and peace of the setting sun,” they said.
Facing north, they said it is during the times of great storms from the north that we hear the Creator speak. It is then, they said, that the Creator calms our fears and anxieties and gives us strength and courage.
During much of her speech, Sister Kateri banged on an Indian drum in a slow, steady rhythm. The drumbeat, she told the graduates, signifies the beating of their own hearts.
“As we continue on our journey, our sacred journey of life, let us get in touch, let us get in tune with our own heartbeat,” she said. It is our heartbeat that connects us with Mother Earth and the sacred Creator, she said.
She also called on the graduates to share their faith throughout their lives.
“Call out to all, reach out to all, even those who do not feel they are part of the sacred circle,” she said.
Here is a picture of Sister Kateri Mitchell.from her site.
And an example of one of her poems.
Noble Turtle, Mother Earth
Gathers Her People
East, South, West and North
We can be thankful to Father Raymond Bucko, S.J. for managing her page and his own "Fr. Bucko’s Mighty Home Page". They seem to have got the opposite lesson from the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha a Mohawk Indian who became Catholic since they seem to be Catholics who are converting to Mohawk spirituality. And what is the fascination with compass directions and why aren’t they more inclusive towards for example the NE, SW, etc. Why should only directions 90 degrees apart get all the attention? Maybe they are part of the Compass Crusade for Christ.
I can’t help thinking of Terry Pratchett’s hilarious Diskworld series when I see Noble Turtle, Mother Earth. Sister Mitchell might make a fine character in one of his novels.