Celebrating Holy Native Men and Women
Two Masses were held in Rapid City, on August 14, to celebrate native holy men and women. The celebrations were held close to the death anniversary of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, August 19,1950. Black Elk’s cause for canonization was opened by the Diocese of Rapid City in 2017.
The morning Mass was held at St. Isaac Jogues Church with Bishop Peter Muhich presiding. The second Mass was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help with Fr. Brian Christensen presiding.
In the first Sunday reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, the people did not want to hear his words and they threw Jeremiah in a cistern. Bishop Muhich explained the painfulness of sin and hearing the truth. “We have to deal with the truth, or reality, with love. We are at a period in our shared history where we are learning to deal with the truth — the native peoples in our area were displaced and their culture was taken from them.
“I can’t help thinking about the Holy Father’s trip last month to Canada. I’d like to make some of the words he spoke, my own this morning. The Holy Father said, ‘I am deeply sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed indigenous peoples. It is painful to think of how the language and cultures of native peoples were aborted.’”
Bishop Muhich continued, “You know that took place here too. It is a complex history. We are learning now how to come to terms with that, or at least we are beginning to do so. I would implore you to continue to pray to Nicholas Black Elk to help us with that.”
“I think these three things: first of all, expect discomfort at times when you hear the truth, don’t dismiss that discomfort, pay attention to it. We are all sinners working on our salvation, we are not done turning away from our sins. That discomfort tells us something important, we should all pay attention to it. Second, take to heart the advice from the passage from Hebrews, our second reading this morning, and ‘rid ourselves of every burden and sin’ to the extent that you possibly can, so that is not weighing you down and distorting how we see things. Third, we should all ask the Holy Spirit to help us to grow in holiness, to prompt us in our daily lives, so that we can make this journey.”
At the cathedral’s 5:30 p.m. Mass, Father Christensen also reminded parishioners of the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. He said, “’Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses … persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.’ We look to the saints to see how to follow Jesus — St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Juan Diego and Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk. The saints have given us an example in every walk and way of life. The saints inspire us. The saints intercede for us.”
Following both Mass celebrations, traditional meals were served to all who wanted to share in the Lakota culture.