Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fr. De Smet and the Flatheads

The aged wrinkled chiefs [of the Flathead Nation], patriarchs, wanted to be children to him – and he [Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet, S.J.] was only thirty-six. Every word of his they remembered. Words were still a treasure to them, a wisdom. It was dangerous to speak lightly. They forced him to preach to them four times a day. The day after he arrived he translated for them into their tongue with the aid of an interpreter the prayers that it was best for them to know. Two weeks later he held up a medal of Our Lady, and promised it to the first who could recite "the Pater, the Ave, the Credo, the ten commandments and the four acts" of faith, contrition, hope, and love. An aged chief stood up. "Give it to me." He knew the prayers and acts word for word, and, wearing Our Lady's medal, was appointed the catechist of the tribe. — Daniel Sargent, Our Land and Our Lady, NY, 1940, pp. 194–195.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Adieu, Black Robe

Adieu, Black Robe, may the Great Spirit accompany you. Evening and morning we shall offer our supplications for you, that you may arrive safe and sound among your brothers at Saint Louis. We shall continue to make our prayers for you until you return to us, your children of the Mountains. When, after the winter, the snow shall disappear from the valleys, and the greenness of things shall have rebirth, our hearts at this time so sad will recommence to rejoice. And as higher and higher grows the grass, so greater and greater will grow our joy. And when the buds shall once again break into flower, we shall go forth again once more to our meeting with you. Black Robe, adieu.
— quoted in Daniel Sargent, Our Land and Our Lady, NY, 1940. p. 196.

Monday, November 24, 2014


It was something to make us children. We began by being the shepherds who were the first to visit the new-born Christ, even before the wise men. We were not Catholics for any reason merely civic: we were Catholics in order to be able to have the privilege to say the rosary, and to kneel before the statue of Our Lady, and to kiss with our lips, which any immigrant amongst us had, the straw of the crib on Christmas day. We had a Church not founded on, not even buttressed by, any pride in our own talents.
— Daniel Sargent, Our Land and Our Lady, NY 1940, pp. 186–187.

Sailing to America

On the General Wayne in 1805:
The hunger was so great on board that all the bones about the ship were hunted up by them and pounded with a hammer and eaten: and what is even more lamentable, some of the deceased persons, not many hours before their death, crawled on their hands and feet to the captain and begged him, for God's sake, to give them a mouthful of bread or a drop of water to keep them from perishing, but their supplications were in vain; he most obstinately refused, and thus did they perish. The cry of the children for bread was … so great that it would be impossible for man to describe it, nor can the passengers believe that any other person excepting Captain Conklin would be found whose heart would not have melted with compassion to hear those little inoffensive ones cry for bread.
Report of Andreas Geyer, Jr. to the German Society of Philadelphia, quoted in Daniel Sargeant, Our Land and Our Lady, NY, 1940, pp. 173–174.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Separation of Church and State

At first those who looked at Maryland and looked at themselves decided that the matter [of religious differences among the inhabitants of the new nation] must not be made a national matter at all. Every State except Pennsylvania had its established Church. Let each State continue to have the established church it wanted. As the Federal constitution was first adopted it did not mention religion at all. But there was always a possibility that in some future time the National Government might become affiliated with some one of the sects. Some such sect might become the Federal Church. Although each sect would have been satisfied with such a solution provided that it was the sect that was so honored, mutual jealousy led them to prevent forever any such victory for any one of them. So the Maryland solution of the problem—Lord Baltimore’s solution—was incorporated verbally into the constitution. It was not the Catholics who insisted on this. Of what importance were they alone? It was the Protestants. Yet it is significant that Maryland citizens were especially called upon to phrase Maryland's custom into our first amendment. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, now a Senator, was chairman of the committee appointed to draught the amendment. His cousin Daniel Carroll made in his favor the most important speech in the House of Representatives. The amendment was phrased: Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof. It was passed. It entered our Constitution on the same wind that brought over the Ark and the Dove.
— Daniel Sargent, Our Land and Our Lady, NY, 1940, pp. 138–139.

The French Bubble

The ten Jesuit missions of New York State do not need to plead that they amounted to something. They have only to point to Catherine. What have all our sky-scraping busy cities ever produced like to her? … The mission of the Immaculate Conception at Kaskaskia lasted for ninety years, ten times longer than the Jesuit missions among the Iroquois, yet where was a Catherine Tekakwitha?
— Daniel Sargent, Our Land and Our Lady, NY, 1940, pp. 107, 112–113.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Departing from the Rubrics

The prayers of the Algonkins are not mere formulae to be recited only by the lips.  The seriousness, the deep meditation, and inner concentration of mind with which they are performed are attested by all writers.  The strong inner commotion of the soul might, even with the bravest warriors, go so far as to break out into weeping and sighing, as is illustrated for example, by the West Cree.  Even in solemn public ceremonies, in which every motion of hand and foot is strictly regulated by an ancient ritual, men, compelled by the strength of their individual impulse, may transgress these regulations.

In the great creation ceremony of the Arapaho it has occurred that the principal officiant, representing the first ancestor of humanity, overcome by internal commotion and fervour, left the place rigidly assigned to him by the ancient ritual, approached the central post of the sacred house, which represents the Great Spirit, entwined his arms around it and called loudly and affectionately, praying to the Father above and to the Old Men of the the four cardinal points to help him and his fellow dancers in their efforts to purify themselves.

Not only the public or common, but also the individual prayer, for which they retire to solitude, is practised freely by many Algonkin tribes, for instance the Ottawa, the Cheyenne, and others, and it is was employed for all possible individual needs.

— H. Schmidt, The High Gods in North America, Oxford, 1933, p. 81, quoted in Daniel Sargent, Catherine Tekakwitha,, NY, 1936. p. 15–16.

The "High God"of the Algonquians

The definition of such a god was not found in any credo of theirs. Had a tourist gone among them in the old days and asked them the distinct question, Have you a High God? the answer would probably have been No. The High God of the Algonquians can be found in their ceremonies and customs that presuppose him, and in the metaphors of their prayers and songs. From the study of such emerges a god, called by the anthropologists a High God. He is one whose picture cannot be drawn. He needs nothing, can do all, knows all. He cannot be bargained with as a spirit or power—in the Algonquians tongues a manitu—can be bargained with.
— Daniel Sargeant, Catherine Tekakwitha, NY, 1936, p. 11.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On a Crucifix


Here at last



On a Crucifix by Dunstan Thompson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fr. William Peers Smith, Speaking of the Devil

Philip Trower:

Shortly after my reception I went for a walk by myself in St James’s or Green Park near Buckingham Palace. I forget now which. Here I sat down on a bench and almost immediately my head was filled with a torrent of thoughts and ideas contradicting the faith I had just committed myself to. You don’t really believe it all. You’ve been deceiving yourself. You know it. It can’t possibly all be true and so on. I had never before experienced anything like it. It was as though another person was speaking inside my head, as was indeed the case.

Scared and appalled, I rushed back to Farm Street and asked to see Fr. William. I was shown into a waiting room where after a few minutes he joined me.

Gently but firmly he explained about temptations against faith and the way to deal with them. In so far as possible ignore them. They come from the Devil. Above all don’t argue with them. If you do you will only lose the argument. The devil is much cleverer than you are.

This went on for several months. It was worst when I tried to think about Our Lady or looked at pictures or statues of her. My mind would be besieged with filthy thoughts. The whole experience was appalling while it lasted, but in the end it worked to my advantage. It made the existence of the devil and the powers of evil real to me in a way nothing else could have. In that way he can be said to have overplayed his hand.

Another piece of advice I remember Fr. William giving was about how to tell the difference between the action of the devil on the soul and the action of the Holy Spirit. The action or suggestions of the devil is like water dripping on a stone. An aggravating drip, drip, drip, drip. The action of the Holy Spirit is like water gently falling on a sponge.

— Philip Trower, Why I Became a Catholic