Maybe. The Vatican is investigating a case in Washington state that could be tied to the Blessed Native American — a New Yorker, in fact, whose image is depicted in the reredos behind the altar in my parish.
To look at him today, nobody would guess Jake Finkbonner nearly died.
“He was as sick as any case ever seen,” says Dr. Craig Rubens.
In the last minute of the last game of his 2006 season, Jake cut his lip.
“I fell down and hit my lip on the base of the basketball hoop,” he says.
A flesh-eating bacteria raced through his lip and devoured his face. Now 11 years old, Jake recalls the day he died.
“I went and saw God up in heaven, and it was so beautiful I asked if I could stay. And he refused to let me stay – said my family needed me here on earth,” Jake remembers.
His mother, Elsa Finkbonner, says, “That was his day in heaven, our day in hell.”Surgeons couldn’t stay ahead of the fast-spreading infection.
“It got to the point where we called in a priest to give his last rites,” says Jake’s mother.
Father Tim Sauer urged the Finkbonner family to pray for the intercession of Blessed Kateri, a Native American who converted to Catholicism. Smallpox scarred her face, and legend claims the scars disappeared when she died.
Kateri is now in the early stages of sainthood.
The day a friend named Kateri visited the Finkbonners, they gave them a relic of the blessed Kateri that the family placed on their son’s hospital bed. It’s the same day Jake’s school prayed for him, and it’s the same day his disease stopped.
“If it’s a coincidence – wow,” says Jake’s mother.