Update: Western North Carolina Catholic outreach to Native Americans

Does anyone have a copy of the prayer to the four directions / winds / spirits  said for decades in the Cherokee Catholic church? As many of you know, I have a rather extensive background in interreligious dialogue and at textual analysis. I’d like to see what might be possible for solidarity / openness along the lines somewhat of Matteo Ricci, S.J.

Update: O.K. Well, lots of people are sending in lots of things in comments and emails, texts and links and whatnot, none of which was actually used in the Cherokee Catholic Church in WNC. These range from anything from witchcraft to Saint Francis’ Canticle of Brother Sun.


Filed under Interreligious dialogue

10 responses to “Update: Western North Carolina Catholic outreach to Native Americans

    • Father George David Byers

      @ Joe Everett – Apparently not, as it doesn’t seem to have started with any “Great Spirit” but went right to the directions… I don’t know. I guess I’m depending on someone with an actual copy from that particular church. The pastor doesn’t have it.

  1. Four Directions Prayer
    Creator, it is I. Thank you for today’s sunrise, for the breath and life within me, and for all of your creations. Creator, hear my prayer, and honor my prayer.

    As the day begins with the rising sun, I ask, Spirit keeper of the East, Brother Eagle, Be with me. Fly high as you carry my prayers to the Creator. May I have eyes as sharp as yours, so I am able to see truth and hope on the path I have chosen. Guide my step and give me courage to walk the circle of my life with honesty and dignity.

    Spirit keeper of the South, Wolf, Be with me. Help me to remember to love and feel compassion for all mankind. Help me to walk my path with joy and love for myself, for others, for the four legged, the winged ones, the plants and all creation upon Mother Earth. Show me it is right for me to make decisions with my heart, even if at times, my heart becomes hurt. Help me to grow and nurture my self worth in all ways.

    Spirit Keeper of the West, Brown Bear, Be with me. Bring healing to the people I love and to myself. Bring into balance the physical, mental and spiritual, so I am able to know my place on this earth, in life and in death. Heal my body, heal my mind and bring light, joy and awareness to my spirit.

    Spirit Keeper of the North, White Buffalo, Be with me. As each day passes, help me to surrender, with grace, the things of my youth. Help me to listen to the quiet, and find serenity and comfort in the silences as they become longer. Give me wisdom so I am able to make wise choices in all things which are put in front of me, And when time for my change of worlds has come, Let me go peacefully, without regrets, for the things I neglected to do as I walked along my path.

    Mother Earth, Thank you for your beauty, And for all you have given me. Remind me never to take from you more then I need, and remind me to always give back more than I take.

    • Father George David Byers

      @ habalady – I don’t think this is it either. There are plenty, I know. I don’t think there is any mention of the animals noted here. I’m looking for that church’s particular version as there was some controversy and I would like to see what can be done.

  2. This is another version: PRAYER – Blessing Way

    O Great One, I come before you in a humble manner,
    giving thanks for all living things in Creation.
    I offer the clarity of my mind, body, spirit and natural space in prayer to you, O Great One, for the spirit of all Creation.
    I offer thanks and what gifts I have to Four Sacred Directions and powers of the universe and I pray:

    To the spirit of fire in the East,
    To the spirit of Earth in the South,
    To the spirit of Water in the West,
    To the Spirit of Wind in the North.

    I pray and give thanks to you O Great One.
    I pray and give thanks to Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grandfather Sun,
    Grandmother Moon, and all of our relations in the Greater Circle of Life.
    I thank you for your power, energy, wisdom and sacred gifts, because without you and the guidance of all my relations, I would not be able to live, and love, and grow, and feel and learn.
    I ask that I be shown another way if I have ever harmed or hurt other living things.
    I pray, offering what gifts I have, that you may guide us, heal us, purify us, and protect us.
    I pray for all of our relations that we may exist together in harmony and balance.

    • Father George David Byers

      @ habalady – I don’t think it’s that one either. I read that out to the pastor over the phone and he didn’t recognize that as the version. Not easy. I think we need someone from that area who still has a copy and is willing to share.

  3. Padre

    Here in South Dakota I have encountered many versions of it, most of them of pagan origin. In days past they would be used at the beginning of some major liturgies at the Cathedral as a sort of “penitential rite,” but hasn’t happened in many years now. Partly because it’s not a penitential rite from the missal, but also because in the opinion of those in authority here, it is not a Christian prayer at all. I wish you luck in finding the version you are looking for, and I’m curious what your analysis will find. Personally, I’m very, very uncomfortable it. I think there is good reason that the Jesuits who came here to evangelize the Natives require them to reject the Native Religion before they became Christians.

  4. elizdelphi

    I do not know lots about this subject but have studied the life of Fr Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P. who as a young priest worked with Native Americans in northern Michigan and Wisconsin and seems to have directly associated the Great Spirit already believed in by the natives with the true God whom he preached. Of course, this is nothing to do with indulging belief in other spiritual entities the native religion made reference to, which we would be inclined to understand to be demons. My assumption was that Fr Byers wanted to make the prayer an appeal to angels in the four directions. Is that dangerous? Not necessarily, it could be good, but what do I know. What I really hate is when prayers of other religions are used by Christians and given a Christian meaning without changing the text of the prayers that mean something decidedly different to the other religion. This, to me, should not be done.

    • Father George David Byers

      @ elizdelphi – I don’t yet know what to make of anything as I haven’t seen the actually used text of that parish. I am reminded of the moderator of my thesis when I asked him to be the moderator. He asked if I was going to be reading this, that and the other thing into the text of Scripture, and I immediately responded that, instead, I don’t know what the result will be because what I want to do is an unapologetic intensely scientific analysis of the text. He went along with that. We’ll just have to see. That particular prayer might not exist any more. Just to say, if anyone is wondering. The new pastor is 1000% behind me trying to do something about this issue. Anyway, having said all that, the four creatures in Ezekiel used as images for the four Evangelists more recently comes to mind. But no creatures were used in that particular prayer of that particular church of that that particular parish. So, we wait for someone to come up with the actual prayer used there.

  5. These somewhat remind me of Saint Francis’s Canticle of the Sun

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