Archbishop: We are beginning “a necessary process of inculturation” – BC Catholic


Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB delivered this homily at Holy Rosary Cathedral May 28 in honor of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. It has been slightly modified.

Dear Father Garry Laboucane, Father “Tap”, Deacons Rennie and Jamie, dear Elders and First Nations people of our Archdiocese:

A historic occasion

Welcome to all of you who have gathered here at the mother church of the Archdiocese, Holy Rosary Cathedral, to celebrate this special Mass, originally requested by Deacon Rennie, who serves at St. Paul’s Church in North Vancouver.

This historic idea was then enthusiastically supported by Deacon Jamie and the communities of Sts’ailes and Seabird Island. This is the first time here that we can incorporate indigenous languages, at least to some degree, into our celebration of the Eucharist. My deep thanks to all of you who have worked so hard to prepare for this celebration which I know has not been without its challenges.

This will certainly not be the last time we meet, as we are committed to ensuring the wider use of Indigenous languages ​​in the sacred liturgy. “Each people must integrate the revealed message into their own culture and express their saving truth in their own language. This implies a very demanding effort of “translation” because it requires the identification of the appropriate words to present again, without distortion, the riches of the revealed word.[1]

Besides the translation of current liturgical texts, there also remains the considerable task of implanting the liturgy in the various indigenous cultures, “welcoming from them expressions that are compatible with aspects of the true and authentic spirit of the liturgy. .. The adaptation must take into account the fact that in the Liturgy, and in particular that of the sacraments, there is a part which is immutable, because it is of divine institution, and of which the Church is the guardian. There are also parts open to change, which the Church has the power and sometimes also the duty to adapt”.[2]

“We can integrate into the liturgy many elements specific to the experience of indigenous peoples in their contact with nature and respect indigenous forms of expression in song, dance, rituals, gestures and symbols.[3] In doing so, we follow the desire of the Second Vatican Council to inculturate the liturgy among indigenous peoples.[4]

Liturgical diversity can be a source of enrichment for the Church, as we know from the many different rites that already exist, including here in the Archdiocese that of the Ukrainians, Chaldeans, Melkites, Syro-Malabars and Syro-Malankaras. No liturgical expression, however, can ever undermine the unity of the Church. This is why cultural adaptation in the liturgy requires careful discernment, as well as a serious formation in theology, history and culture.[5] It is never the product of one person or one committee and must always be in harmony with the whole Church, overseen by the Pope, if it is to be authentically Catholic.

Here, today, we are taking the first steps – as it should be. But they are important because they mark the beginning of a process which, God willing, will bear much fruit for all. The more the Catholic faith is inculturated – deeply rooted in people’s daily life and religious expression – the more fruitful evangelization will be. We are just beginning “a necessary process of inculturation that rejects none of the goodness that already exists in the indigenous peoples”. [Amazonian] cultures, but does it in the light of the Gospel.[6]

Excerpt from the Acts of the Apostles

In today’s first reading of the Acts of the Apostles, we continue to hear stories of the growth of Christian faith in the days after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples with wind and fire, urging them to open the doors of the Upper Room and “go forward” with the Good News that Jesus Christ had died and risen from the dead to give them new life and save them. The faith originated in the Middle East, but then went to Europe first through Greece and then to Rome. This afternoon’s account tells us of a certain Apollos, who was a Jew from Alexandria in North Africa, preaching at Ephesus in modern Turkey.

What this tells us is that Christianity was not to be confined to a small group of Palestinians in the first century who knew Jesus, but, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was to spread to the whole world, including here in modern times. BC day.

Church history shows that Christianity does not have a single cultural expression. It has never been and cannot be monocultural. It is unfortunately true that in some cases evangelism has been accompanied by an undue emphasis on the culture of the evangelizers, with which they were familiar. They did not realize that it is not essential to impose a specific cultural form, however useful it may be in other contexts. As Pope Francis wrote, “what is needed is a courageous openness to the newness of the Spirit, who is always able to create something new with the inexhaustible riches of Jesus Christ.”[7]

On the occasion of the anniversary of the canonization of Saint Kateri

Today’s Mass is offered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first indigenous saint of our lands, elevated to the altars in October 2012.

These are all important and sometimes tragic events that have taken place over the past 10 years and which have marked, probably irrevocably, relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Above all, the meeting here in Vancouver of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013 and the subsequent publication of its conclusions, its calls to action, in 2015.

More recently, there has been a growing awareness among non-Indigenous Canadians of the pain caused by the residential school system, highlighted by news from Kamloops last May, which sparked a harsh and lasting reminder of the continuing legacy of suffering caused by Canada’s residential school system. It made us reflect on the determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to cut their roots, and to consider all the personal and social effects that this continues to bring, especially the trauma unresolved that have become intergenerational trauma.[8]

We have read about the meetings in Rome of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples with Pope Francis and his historic apologies, which bear repeating in this cathedral, as they encapsulate the precise feelings of the faithful of the Archdiocese from Vancouver:

I feel shame – pain and shame – for the role that many Catholics, especially those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that have hurt you, in the abuse that you have suffered and in the lack of respect for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. All of these things are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask God’s forgiveness and I want to tell you with all my heart: I am truly sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your forgiveness.[9]

The next major public step in the ongoing process of healing and reconciliation will be the Pope’s long-awaited penitential pilgrimage of apology and healing to Canada. At the end of July, Pope Francis will have the opportunity to visit the indigenous peoples here in their homeland, as he promised when he met them recently in Rome.

As you can see, so much has happened – most painful and some controversial – since the canonization of Saint Kateri.

At 20, she was baptized on Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, after her baptism, harassment, ridicule and threats from her family followed because she embraced the Catholic faith. When her family urged her to marry, “she replied very serenely and calmly that she had Jesus as her only husband”.[10] Because of her new faith and her determination not to marry, she was advised to leave her village and take refuge in a Jesuit mission, St. Francis Xavier, a Mohawk Christian village in Kahnawake near present-day Montreal.

At the Mission, her life was quite ordinary. She worked, faithful to the traditions of her people, but at the same time she grew in holiness. Just before her 24th birthday, she died of tuberculosis on April 17, 1680. Her last words on earth, no doubt soon repeated when she met her Lord in paradise, were “Jesos Konoronkwa», « Jesus, I love you.

As Saint John Paul II said in his address to the indigenous peoples of North America shortly after his beatification: “Now is the time to pause and give thanks to God for the unique culture and rich tradition humanity that you inherited, and for the greatest gift one can receive, the gift of faith. Indeed, Blessed Kateri stands before us as a symbol of the best of your heritage.[11] And she stands above us in heaven as a bridge of healing and reconciliation in our broken world, and as a true symbol of the enduring and unbreakable bonds between the Church and the Indigenous peoples of our land.


As we now continue to celebrate this Eucharist, let us ask the good Lord, as Jesus promised in today’s Gospel (cf. Jn 16:23), to kindle in all our hearts a greater desire than ever to be healers and reconcilers and to celebrate the beautiful richness and diversity that shines in the Body of Christ, wounded but sustained by the word of Jesus that he is with us until the end of time (Mt 20 , 20). In his name, the holy name of Jesus, let us ask the Father to show us the truth, heal our wounds and grant sincere reconciliation between all the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of our land.

[1] Benedict XVI, General Audience (June 17, 2009).

[2] Saint John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus (1988), 16.

[3] francis, Querida Amazonia (2020), 82.

[4] Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium37-40, 65, 77, 81.

[5] Cf. Saint John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus (1988), 16.

[6] francis, Querida Amazonia (2020), 66.

[7] francis, Querida Amazonia (2020), 69.

[8] See Francis, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (April 1, 2022).

[9] Francis, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (April 1, 2022).

[10] Blessed John Paul II, Homily, Beatification Mass (June 22, 1980)

[11] Saint John Paul II, Address to the First Nations Peoples of North America (June 24, 1980).

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