BALTIMORE (CNS) — The U.S. bishops voted Nov. 14 to move forward the sainthood cause of Nicholas W. Black Elk, a 19th-century Lakota catechist who is said to have introduced hundreds of Lakota people to the Catholic faith.
At the annual fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, the bishops “approved by voice vote the canonical consultation,” or support for the cause. The episcopal consultation process is “a step in the Catholic Church’s process toward declaring a person a saint.”
Bishop Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota, spoke to the bishops about Black Elk, born into the Oglala Lakota Tribe in 1863 in Wyoming.
“He was widely known among his people as a holy man and mystic,” Bishop Gruss said. “He was given a vision at a very early age.”
The message of that vision was that “we should all live as one.”
“This vision influenced his life over the rest of the years, especially as a catechist, in many ways forming his identity over the rest of his life,” Bishop Gruss said.
He took the name Nicholas, after St. Nicholas, the bishop said, and was baptized on his feast day.
“He became a noted catechist and missionary, working closely with the Jesuits on a number of Indian reservations,” Bishop Gruss said. “He continued celebrating Lakota rituals (and also) fully embracing Catholic life, grounded in the sacramental life of the church.”
He was a witness to Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 in Montana Territory and the great massacre of his people at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, the bishop said.
“With little formal schooling, he learned to read and write and the sacred Scriptures became his friend,” Bishop Gruss said. He said to have educated more than 400 of his people about the Catholic faith, and many were baptized during his 40 years of his life as a catechist.
“As we know, catechists were the lifeblood of the early faith communities of the Lakota people, leading others to conversion,” Bishop Gruss said.
“Black Elk, Catholic, husband, father and elder, he was an ardent catechist and an internationally admired mystic,” he said, and the missionary disciple that Pope Francis calls others to be.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103