Indigenous spirituality a fit in Catholic Mass

 — Sept. 2, 20222 sept. 2022

As Canadian parishes take up Pope Francis’ challenge to incorporate reconciliation into the life of the Church, particularly as we get closer to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, there are liturgical options available for Sunday morning Masses in all kinds of parishes.

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

A land acknowledgement delivered from the ambo before the procession and the beginning of Mass isn’t even an issue in terms of liturgical correctness, since it’s not part of the Mass itself. But neither should parishes fear incorporating elements of Indigenous spirituality into their liturgies, Schmidt said. When parishes sing Celtic-inspired music it’s not an issue, so why would Indigenous drumming be a problem?

“Do something of Indigenous spirituality,” Schmidt urges.

A smudging ceremony before the confiteor (“I confess to almighty God…”) is a good option, if it’s done right, said Deacon Harry Lafond, Indigenous education scholar at St. Thomas More College in the University of Saskatchewan.

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

When asked, Lafond urges parishes to get in touch with an Indigenous elder or knowledge-keeper and to take the time to explain to people the spiritual significance of the ceremony. If people understand what they’re doing there’s no worry about cultural appropriation, said Lafond.

“Generally, in my experience out here in Saskatchewan, smudging has been used in many different places, including conferences, where there’s a lot of non-Indigenous people present,” he said.

For a Mass celebrating the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola July 31 at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., Anishnabeg elder and Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie Daughter of Service Rosella Kinoshameg of the Wikwemikong First Nation placed the smudging ceremony in a context of prayer.

“I have a little prayer that you can say as you do the smudging,” she told the congregation before proceeding to build up the sage incense in her smudging bowl. “I say, ‘Creator God, I take this smoke and I wash my hands to do good work, today and always. Never hurt someone else with my hands.’ ”

The smudging prayer proceeds in a pattern that will seem familiar to anyone who has ever prayed the Breastplate of St. Patrick or other surrounding prayers.

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

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

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

Lafond particularly appreciated how the congregation at the Martyrs’ Shrine 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 that, and we should do things like that, let’s do them right,” Lafond said. “Let’s take the time.”

There’s no reason why parishes should resist a land acknowledgement presented before Mass begins, said Lafond.

“That’s become quite common practice in Canada in a short period of time,” he said.

Again, Lafond urges parishes to take the time to research their local history and engage with local Indigenous people. But he also thinks that in a Church context, Catholics should be able to find the spiritual truth that lies in a good land acknowledgement statement.

“What is this about?” he asked. “It’s about God who created this land for us to live on. OK, let’s capture that in a land acknowledgement at the beginning of our gathering together as the people of God.”

A good land acknowledgement should be shaped to capture a sense of occasion as well as the local history of Indigenous people without going on for too long.

“It’s ours to shape. We need to come to an agreement about what are the things we want to say about that land and about the people and about creation,” he said.

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

“Smudging is part of the pipe ceremony and it has become part of the eucharistic celebration,” Lafond said. “People come and celebrate that way. Sometimes there’s drumming, if there’s a drummer available, sometimes there’s organ music. It’s a mix.”

Posted: Sept. 2, 2022 • Permanent link:
Categories: Catholic RegisterIn this article: Indigenous spirituality, liturgy
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Catégorie : Catholic RegisterDans cet article : Indigenous spirituality, liturgy

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