Indian, Martyr, Healer, Saint

Reporter Alyssa Newcomb penned a deeply embarrassing bit of silliness at yesterday.

First American Indian on Track Toward Sainthood

Jake Finkbonner was near death for months with a flesh eating bacteria, but made a miraculous recovery that the Vatican credited to The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, marking the second miracle for the 17th century Mohawk-Algonquin woman and clearing the way for her to become the first American-Indian saint.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree Monday approving the miracle attribute to the intercession of the woman, and she could be canonized as soon as February. The Vatican said it believes that the prayers Finkbonner’s family directed to Tekakwitha were responsible for bringing the boy back from the brink of death.

The shrine to this proto-saint is less than an hour’s drive from me, so if I ever contract flesh eating bacteria, I’m gonna rocket over there and get cured. I probably won’t even need the extensive hospital care, or the 29 surgeries Jake Finkbonner received.

Because everybody knows all this “modern medicine” don’t make a lick of difference. As Mother Finkbonner says, “It’s unexplainable as to why he lived.”

At the urging of the family’s priest, the Finkbonners began praying to Tekakwitha, who converted to Christianity when she was 18 and became a fervent follower. Her face was scarred by smallpox as a child, but it is claimed that the scars disappeared after she died in 1680 at the age of 24.

The commenters nailed it:

The Catholic Church lies about the raping of young boys, why not this?

Give me a break. If it were a miracle none of the surgeries would have been necessary. The infection would have completely cleared up and he would have been left without a trace of injury or otherwise. I swear…the church is so full of it.

Isn’t it funny that billions of prayers have been said for a cure for cancer, yet god helps Tebow win football games?

There’s more about “Blessed Kateri” here: The White Martyrdom of Kateri Tekakwitha

One day, Kateri was along in her family’s longhouse when a man burst through the door. He raged at her, brandishing a club. He threatened to kill her if she did not renounce her baptism. Kateri showed no fear in the face of his wrath. She quietly told him he could take her life if he wished, but she would never let him take her faith. As Kateri bowed her head and entrusted her soul to God, it seemed as if she would indeed face red martyrdom. Instead, her serenity unnerved her would-be killer. He threw aside his weapon and fled in the face of that gentle courage.

Reading it as a Christian, it sounds absolutely lovely. Reading it as a non-believer, the same words come across as an ugly tale of an Indian girl seduced away from her people by the liars of Christ.

From her earliest days as a Christian, Kateri Tekakwitha had two great desires. One was to do what was most pleasing God. The other was to receive the Eucharist. We don’t know exactly what the missionaries and Kateri’s mentors taught her of Holy Communion. But we do know that their lessons, like the seeds in the parable, found very fertile ground in Kateri’s heart. From her earliest days as a Christian, she was drawn to the sacrament and eagerly awaited the day she might receive Our Lord herself.

Only a couple of months after her arrival at the Mission, Kateri was permitted to receive the Body of Christ for the first time. Her joy at that moment was beyond description. From then on, having fortified her soul with the Bread of Angels, Kateri began to gradually withdraw from the world and its concerns.

Speaking as a writer, I can appreciate the pleasant fiction they spin about her in these paragraphs. But as someone who respects humanity, I hate the fact that they killed her again by taking her real life and turning her into a mere story, and a silly goddy one at that.

Kateri was strong in character and spirit but, from childhood, she had always been frail in body. She had never let this physical weakness stand in her way, especially in matters of devotion. Now, barely a year after her sublime vow, her indifferent health gave way to constant illness. She could no longer visit her dear chapel; the sickness confined her to her sleeping mat, too weak to move. Days and weeks went by in pain and solitude, but she welcomed this. She tenderly offered her suffering up to the Lord in place of her usual Lenten penance and spent the long, lonely hours in prayer, simply talking to Jesus and Mary.

Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, 1680, her last words – Iesos Kononronka – declared her love of Christ. The friends who knelt in prayer at her side then witnessed a wondrous transfiguration. The smallpox scars, the traces of her long illness, the remainders of all her sufferings vanished. Her features became beautiful, reflecting the radiance of her heavenly joy.

Yeah, like THAT really happened.


For so many reasons, I’m always irritated with these godly-miracle stories. ONE reason is that the life of the real person at the center of the story is obscured by the hooting and back-slapping of the Jesus crowd.

Here’s a reminder to me and others that there’s a handsome, courageous little boy forced to be in this story: Jake’s Site

Jake’s Site reminds us, rightly so, that none of this is his doing, or the doing of his parents.

  • feralboy12

    <blockquote?The smallpox scars, the traces of her long illness, the remainders of all her sufferings vanished. Her features became beautiful, reflecting the radiance of her heavenly joy.

    And then, at long last, bacteria ate her face.

  • Big Mountain

    THANK YOU so much for writing about this! I myself am Mohawk and my family (who is mostly Catholic… go figure) is heralding this as the most wonderful thing to happen to Native Americans since AIM formed. It actually makes me feel belly-sick.
    I don’t want the dirty business of the Vatican to get their dirty fingers on my heritage. The Pope knows exactly what he’s doing.

  • rukymoss

    The kid’s website is OK–it makes clear that they realize that the doctors, nurses, hospital, etc get major credit (although the religious stuff is in there, too) BUT poor Jake is in trouble for another reason: he says “happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

  • I amafreeman

    BIG MOUNTAIN, I hear you brother. Dese guys can keep their dirty paws off everything and everybody, especially little boys and girls.

    If a person wants or NEEDS to “worship” JC or Jehoveh, it can be done without any organized group telling a person how it is to be done.

    That said, I prefer to honor the Earth, the Mother from whence I came.

    Q’ish Ta

  • had3

    But for the organized group, no one would have heard of JC. Organization is the only thing distinguishing religion from superstition. Both are delusional beliefs.

  • prtsimmons

    There’s a lot of religions that will try to mess with you while you’re alive, but only the Catholics and the Mormons are really keen on co-opting you after you are dead.

    I lived near a Catholic elementary school (in Ottawa, Ontario) called Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Elementary School. I always liked the name (because it’s such a complicated multi-syllabic mouthful) and now I know the story.

    It’s sort of funny to consider the different standards of proof that the Catholic Church will accept: it took them centuries of irrefutable data for them to accept Galileo, and they still won’t accept mainstream science on birth control, disease, homosexuality, and authoritarianism. On the other hand, when it comes to beatification, a couple of rumours is enough to establish that miracles have been performed. You can tell old Pope Benedict that he could save millions of lives with a simple pronouncement about birth control (and offer reams of data to back it up), but he will ignore you; tell him that a 24-year-old woman was cured of scars on her deathbed over 330 years ago, and he’ll rush to pronounce her a saint. Disturbing.

    • Emmet

      “the Catholic Church … still won’t accept mainstream science on birth control, disease, homosexuality, and authoritarianism.”

      What is “the science on authoritarianism” that the Church doesn’t accept? You’ve lost me. Is that a branch of science?

      As far as birth control goes, I think you’ll find that it’s not the science that the Church doesn’t accept but the ideology – that the two purposes of sex – “bonding and babies” – can be separated at will.

      “…when it comes to beatification, a couple of rumours is enough to establish that miracles have been performed.”

      Nope. Needs more than rumours – where do you get your information about the beatification process?
      I always find it interesting when atheists, who pride themselves on reason, rationality and not making claims without evidence, say things about the Catholic Church that have no basis in reason or right thinking but in hearsay, half-truths and scuttlebutt.

      “You can tell old Pope Benedict that he could save millions of lives with a simple pronouncement about birth control”

      How so? I’m assuming your scenario goes like this: Mr X and Ms Y are Catholic, and are a couple. They aren’t married to each other. They are having sex. Mr X has HIV, but won’t use a condom because “the pope says I can’t”. As a result, Ms Y is at risk of contracting HIV.

      BUT: the pope makes a simple pronouncement: “All you Catholics having sex outside of marriage who haven’t been using contraception because I said so: now you can! Now you’re safe!”

      That is, they don’t listen to the Church about chastity and fidelity but do about condom use… Eh?

      This is a common complaint from people agin the Church: “the Church is killing people in Africa because of its oppostion to contraception”. This, despite the fact that it’s a ludicrous argument – as outlined above – and that the Catholic population of Africa is about 15%.

      Any comment on all that, prtsimmons?

      • davidct


        ptrsimmons was was a bit careless with his arguments. I would like to answer one part of your response dealing with beatification. While his comment was glib he does have a point. Skeptics reject the action of the supernatural in this world because of a consistent lack of evidence. For there to be proof that any of these Miracles (supernatural events) actually occurred you would need to have extraordinary evidence. While the church may require more than rumor, they do consistently lower the bar for evidence until they get what they need. No one has ever been able to show that the supernatural is real.

  • davidct

    She died at age 24. Great job there god.

    This is the most blatant form of institutionalized superstition. To have this blessed by a man in fancy robes who was personally involved in the criminal cover-up of child abuse makes it all the more disgusting. Small wonder that so many middle class Catholics are voting with their feet.

  • Bruce Gorton

    The ironic thing is it was probably the church that killed her.

    Her health was never the best in life and as a result when she came into repeated contact with the diseases that the Europeans brought with them (On say, crackers) that was it for her.