Looking to make some changes in your life? Then consider the Cataldo Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage, although done as a group, is very much an individual journey. Its design is to help the pilgrim search out a more spiritual or moral significance. To strip off that old man and make reparation for all the sins that he has committed in the past or his journey could be for someone else, someone who is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, a troubled pregnancy, job loss, or even for a struggling family.
A pilgrim may even be struggling with his or her family. Lately, we have been bombarded about family in the news. We must be reminded and remember what God’s laws are, that marriage and family go hand in hand. God created Adam and Eve, male and female. He took a piece of rib from Adams side to create Eve. They were united as one under God and God joined them together to create a family. The only way you create a family is through a man and a woman. There is no other way. This is the beauty of God and it is right and just in His eyes.
An interesting fact about the Cataldo Pilgrimage is that it is surrounded by very historic events. It starts in 1762, when the Coeur d’ Alene tribal Chief Circling Raven had a vision of a man wearing black robes and carrying crossed sticks bringing them a new spiritual power.
More than 80 years later, a young priest wearing a black robe and strange hat enters the scene. His name was Pierre-Jean DeSmet. Fr. DeSmet was born in the town of Dendermonde, Belgium, in 1801. He was 20 when he arrived in America with 11 other novitiates to study for the priesthood. His first contact with Native Americans was with the Potowatomi in Iowa at St. Joseph’s Mission in today’s Council Bluffs. He was greatly dismayed to see conscienceless traders dealing alcohol tot he Indians, bringing conflict between the tribes, causing violence and death. Trading whisky, at this time, was illegal and the U.S. Army tried its best to maintain order, but alcohol continued to be sold to the Indians. One report said, “These poor souls were cheated in every way possible and they retaliated in drunken rage by bloody frenzies of revenge. Inevitably the horrible condition led to a state of war.”
Three times, the Flathead Indians in the Idaho-Montana area sent expeditions 3,000 miles away to St. Louis to request that a Black Robe be sent to them to provide spiritual comfort to the sick and dying, and to the children. They all failed due to disease and massacre while passing through the hostile Sioux territory. The last one, in 1839, included some Iroquois who dwelt among the Flathead and Nez Perce Indians, was successful. Fr. DeSmet once wrote, “With tears in their eyes, they begged me to return with them. I would willingly give my life to help these Indians.” Fr. DeSmet received permission from his superiors and headed for the wilderness. His mission in the Northwest would last 40 years.
Many times the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Army called upon Fr. DeSmet to negotiate peace with the Indians. He was often referred as, “The white man whose tongue does not lie”. Fr. DeSmet built missions all over the Northwest and was called The Apostle of the Rockies. One of his missions he established was a mission in Idaho called the Mission of the Sacred Heart, or Cataldo Mission, after a Sicilian priest who spent most of his life there. It used to sit along the St. Joe River near St. Maries but in 1846 was moved to the Silver Valley due to flooding.
The Cataldo Mission is the oldest standing building in Idaho and was designed by Fr. Ravalli who received his ideas from his birthplace. His plans were complex yet used simple tools and untrained labor. The only tools Fr. Ravalli had were board axe, auger, ropes and pulleys, a pen knife and an improvised whip saw.
Massive hewed beams are mortised and tenoned and all structural members are secured by wooden pegs. Holes were drilled in upright timbers and rafters, horizontal dowels were inserted between the uprights. The laborers used a process called wattle and daub to the large logs that were cut at the site. They would lattice the logs with saplings that were woven with grass and caked with mud. The ornateness of the building with its tapestries, chandeliers, and wooden altars painted and treated to replicate marble is simply breath taking. As for the outside of the Cataldo Mission, it resonates grandeur and elegance with the dome being the distinctive piece.
What rich history you can expect from a simple pilgrimage and its right here in the United States. As you daily walk, offering up your sacrifices and penances, think back on Fr. DeSmet and the sacrifices he made to convert and save not only the Coeur d’ Alene tribe but many other northwestern tribal Indians.
With this year’s Cataldo pilgrimage dedicated to the family, let us approach it with the desire to truly stripping off the old man and renewing ourselves to really try to sin no more. As Chief Big Face (baptismal name: Paul) once said, “Sins? He replied in astonishment. How could I commit sins when it is my duty to teach others to live well?” This was his reply after receiving his first Holy Communion at the age of ninety. May we also have a fervent spirit, love, and recognition for truth as our predecessors did when once again Chief Big Face said, “This day the Great Spirit has accomplished our wishes and our hearts are swelled with joy. Our desire to be instructed was so great that three times we had deputed our people to the great Black Robe in St. Louis to obtain priests. Now, Father, speak and we will comply with all that you tell us. Show us the way we have to go to the home of the Great Spirit.”
If you would like more information about costs and scheduling you can visit their website at www.cataldopilgrimage.org and listen here on Magnificat Radio at www.magnificatmedia.com, Friday, July 10th, 2015 for a more in depth interview.