The Feast Day of St. Enmegahbowh
Today’s saint is Enmegahbowh, the first Native American to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. He lived for almost 100 years, through most of the 19th Century, dying in 1902. He was a priest among his people, the Ojibwe, in northern Minnesota.
There is a story about how, when he was in his late 40s or early 50s and newly in charge of a mission , he was taken prisoner by a hostile force of Ojibwe bent on massacre. He escaped and traveled thirty miles by night to warn the intended victims, the white occupants of Fort Ripley. Because of his warning much bloodshed on both sides was averted.
I imagine a dark journey by a man alone, the fear of being followed and recaptured, tortured and killed. How does he find his way through the trackless forest, avoiding dangerous predators, swamps and precipices? I imagine him guided by God, who is as steady a beacon as the moon in the sky.
Is this a true interpretation of what happened? Who knows. Enmegahbowh is no longer alive to tell us. Perhaps the people with whom he lived and worked, his own people, could tell us more.
But regardless of its accuracy this seed of a story can inspire us. We each have our own dark journeys, our dangerous missions. We can each step into the role of following the beacon of God through the hazards of the night in our own particular way. Every one of us has the people they are called upon to dissuade or to protect, and all of us can be heralds for peace.
Humans are built to be lovers and followers of story. How we tell our tales guides our lives. We know this is true for children; it is equally true for adults. Our narratives – personal, cultural, spiritual – enlighten and inspire us. Stories that take us beyond the limits of greed, self-interest, judgment and the seeking of power help us to live into the reality of our true selves, that place in which we rest in God.
So, where do our stories fall short? Where are they too narrow or exclusive? And, on the other hand, what are our stories of unity, compassion and love that express the best of who we are? Where do they come from, within and without? How do we tell those tales?
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.