Benediction in a Tipi

Well, I have always admired St. Isaac Jogues for his courageous evangelization to the Native Americans. I can only image the fervor with which he celebrated Mass for the Iroquois in their little Indian tipis. It is sometimes easy to look at the lives of the saints and dream about being holy and bringing other people to Christ, but sometimes when the rubber hits the road the dream of sanctity remains simply a dream.

Perhaps it is presumptuous to say had a similar experience to the great St. Isaac recently, but I will anyway. I live in the modern world, with technology, electricity and well built houses. The work I do to evangelize does not generally entail sickness or working with unbaptized pagans, and it certainly has never meant having my fingers gnawed off. The people that I am called to evangelize come from an entirely different back ground and culture. But I share at least one thing in common with St. Isaac, I am called to bring Jesus to the concrete reality of people’s lives, be it a tipi or a well build home.

During our Jump Challenge camp, a couple of team leaders and I planned a Eucharistic procession for the 5th and 6th grade girls. It was all set up and ready to go, when a thunderstorm broke in the middle of the afternoon. I checked and to our luck there was a break in the storm at the exact time when we were scheduled to do the procession. Perfect!

So the procession began. We made it to the first altar outside when we all heard the first crack of thunder. I few girls nervously came to me to make sure that I knew a storm was brewing, but I was thoroughly convinced that the storm would hold off until we made it back to the chapel. So we continued down the hill to the next altar, which was in a place called Tipi Village because of the six or seven Indian tipis in the field. We were now a good seven minute walk to the chapel. At this altar one of the team leaders began leading a reflection for the girls. A few minutes into the reflection a slight drizzle of rain began, which quickly turned into a down pour. Not being so quick on my feet, I knelt there stunned that my plans had been foiled. Someone else was quick enough to find an umbrella and put it over the monstrance, and at the next crack of lightning call all the girls to take shelter. So all twenty girls, eight team leaders and four chaperones ran to one of the tipis followed by Fr. Timothy and Jesus in the monstrance. It immediately became the most intimate chapel I have ever been in.

The thunder continued to roll, and so did tears from the eyes of some scared ten-year-olds. But there we were, waiting for the camp moms to come and pick us up with the car to spare us a seven minute walk in the storm. We prayed a decade of the rosary, and as the rain beat harder and harder outside our tipi, we chanted louder and louder for Mary’s intercession. Then we all knelt down to receive a benediction. We were with Jesus in a tipi. It was not what we expected, but it was definitely one of the most memorable moments of the whole camp. The girls did not stop talking about how they had an awesome experience with Jesus in a tipi.

Maybe this is an experience that we have all had before. I don’t mean literally receiving benediction in a tipi, but I do mean it in an analogical way. We can find ourselves in an open field, things are going well in life, and we seem to be able to make it. Maybe we see a storm on the horizon, but don’t know how to deal with it. Then it finally breaks, and we are left in an open field during a thunderstorm and we wonder why God does not seem to give us much to work with. The last place we would imaging finding intimacy with him is in a tipi. Nevertheless, he comes to us, he gives us shelter in the storm and sends us his blessing. It is not in the way we expected, how we planned it, or even how we want it to be, but it becomes a memorable moment in our life. And in the end, who would not want to boast about receive benediction in a tipi?



About Nicolette Chmiel

Nicolette Chmiel is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi. She hails from Ohio, and currently is doing youth work in Cincinnati.
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