Kateri and Jake: American Indians are joined in sainthood cause
Jake Finkbonner knows what it’s like to have kids tease him because of the way he looks, but one of his heroes also grew up being teased.
The 12-year-old boy said Kateri Tekakwitha, who was to become an official saint Oct. 21, was “an inspiration because I remember reading that many of the children in her tribe teased her because of her faith, but she continued to praise God and she made her own rosary.”
“One of the things she always tried to do was spread her faith, even though her uncle and aunt didn’t really approve of it,” he said.
Kateri was raised by her Mohawk father’s family after her parents died in a smallpox epidemic; Kateri survived, but with a scarred face and damaged vision.
Jake and his parents — Donny and Elsa — his two little sisters, all four of his grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles traveled to Rome for Kateri’s canonization.
The scars left on Jake’s face are all that remain of the flesh-eating bacteria that nearly took his life almost seven years ago. The sudden disappearance of the necrotizing fasciitis was recognized by the Vatican as the miracle needed for the canonization of Kateri, who Jake proudly explains “will be the first Native American saint.”
Jake’s dad, Donny, is a member of the Lummi Nation. The family lives in Sandy Point, Wash., on the Lummi reservation.
Jake was teased a lot, especially when he was younger and was first recovering, but “now I don’t really have problems with that,” he said.
Jake said he wants to be a plastic surgeon when he grows up so he can help other children; while he believes Kateri interceded to save his life, he also says his doctors “had a big part in my recovery.”
Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, who has spent more than 50 years as Kateri’s postulator, promoting her canonization, said miracles are “the confirmation by God of a judgment made by human beings” that the potential saint really is in heaven.
Jake’s parents provided Father Molinari with Jake’s hospital records and photographs taken by his physicians documenting the boy’s condition. The material, including interviews of Jake’s doctors conducted by officials of the Archdiocese of Seattle, were turned over to the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
Father Molinari said, “It’s really moving to see the declarations of the doctors who gave an account of what they went through for three weeks — the child really went between life and death, life and death.”
The Jesuit said he also was touched by what the Finkbonners’ parish priest reported the parents saying: “Father, we’ve decided to respond like Abraham, and if God wants to take our son, we’ll say, ‘yes.’”
But the priest told the parents that they could ask God to return their son to them, and he suggested they pray to Blessed Kateri, who died in 1680.
“That was the beginning of a movement of prayer that was extremely strong and solid,” Father Molinari said, describing how the praying spread from the family, to Jake’s classmates, the parish and the Tekakwitha Conference, which serves indigenous communities in North America.
Jake attended his first Tekakwitha Conference in July. [More]