Indigenous spirituality has its place in the Catholic Mass

As Canadian parishes take up Pope Francis’ challenge to integrate reconciliation into the life of the Church, especially in the run-up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, there are liturgical options available for Sunday morning masses in all kinds of parishes.

“Sept. 30, we could certainly justify land recognition as a bare minimum,” St. Joseph’s College liturgy professor Fr. Warren Schmidt said. The Catholic Register.

An earthly acknowledgment issued from the ambo before the procession and the start of the Mass is not even a problem in terms of liturgical correctness, since it is not part of the Mass itself. But parishes also shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate elements of Indigenous spirituality into their liturgies, Schmidt said. When parishes sing Celtic-inspired music, that’s not a problem, so why would native drumming be a problem?

“Do something about Native spirituality,” urges Schmidt.

A smudging ceremony in front of the confiteor (“I confess to Almighty God…”) is a good option, if done right, said Deacon Harry Lafond, an Indigenous education researcher at St. Thomas More College in Illinois. ‘University of Saskatchewan.

“The worst thing you can do is treat it like window dressing. ‘We’ve got sage, we’ve got a game, you go’ – I think that would be the worst,” Lafond said.

When asked, Lafond urges parishes to connect with an Elder or Indigenous Knowledge Keeper and take the time to explain to people the spiritual significance of the ceremony. If people understand what they’re doing, there’s no concern for cultural appropriation, Lafond said.

“Generally, from my experience here in Saskatchewan, smudging has been used in many different places, including conferences, where many non-Aboriginal people attend,” he said.

For a mass celebrating the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola on July 31 at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, Anishnabeg Elder and the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie Daughter of Service Rosella Kinoshameg of Wikwemikong First Nation placed the smudging ceremony in a prayerful context.

“I have a little prayer you can say while you’re doing the smudging,” she told the congregation before starting to accumulate sage incense in her smudging bowl. “I say, ‘Creator God, I take this smoke and wash my hands to do a good job, today and always. Never hurt anyone else with my hands. ”

The Purification Prayer proceeds in a pattern that will sound familiar to anyone who has ever prayed Saint Patrick’s Breastplate or other surrounding prayers.

“Creator God, I take this smoke and wash my eyes to see clearly what there is to see, so I can be of service to someone in need. Creator God, I take this smoke and wash my ear, because we are here today to hear the Word of God and what message there is for us in it.

As a Cree from northern Saskatchewan, Lafond found Kinoshameg’s explanation of smudging and his prayer entirely consistent with his own practice, reinforcing the universality of the ceremony.

“It reflects what we’re taught here about smudging and the purpose of smudging and its place in ceremonies,” Lafond said.

Lafond particularly appreciated how the Martyrs’ Shrine congregation was helped to understand and participate in what Kinoshameg was doing, rather than being left as spectators.

“If we’re going to do things like this, and we should do things like this, let’s do them right,” Lafond said. “Let’s take the time.”

There is no reason for parishes to resist a land acknowledgment presented before Mass begins, Lafond said.

“It’s become pretty common practice in Canada in a short time,” he said.

Again, Lafond urges parishes to take the time to research their local history and engage with local Indigenous peoples. But he also thinks that in an ecclesial context, Catholics should be able to find the spiritual truth that is found in a good land acknowledgment statement.

“What does it talk about?” He asked. “It is about God who created this earth for us to live on. OK, let’s capture this in a recognition of the earth at the beginning of our gathering as God’s people. »

Good land recognition should be shaped to capture a sense of occasion as well as the local history of Indigenous peoples without being too long.

“It is up to us to shape. We have to agree on what we want to say about this earth, about people and about creation,” he said.

For Kinoshameg, who serves with Canadian bishops on Guadalupe Circle, and for Lafond, who served at Mass with Pope Francis at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, there is no boundary between Indigenous spirituality and the Catholic identity.

“Purification is part of the pipe ceremony and it is now part of the Eucharistic celebration,” Lafond said. “People come to celebrate that way. Sometimes there’s drums, if there’s a drummer available, sometimes there’s organ music. It’s a mix.”

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