Rapid City, S.D., Oct 31, 2017 / 17:57 pm
Lakota medicine man turned Catholic catechist Nicholas Black Elk has begun the path to potential canonization with a Mass in South Dakota opening his cause for sainthood.
“From a very young age, there was an openness to the Spirit of God in his life,” Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, S.D. said at an Oct. 21 Mass. “God used a personal invitation from a Jesuit priest to lead this child of God, Black Elk, down a new path to becoming this great disciple in the Catholic faith for the Lakota people.”
The Mass, which opened Black Elk's cause for canonization, was celebrated at Holy Rosary Church near Pine Ridge, S.D. Family members of Black Elk were in attendance.
“For 50 years, Black Elk lived this mission in leading others to Christ,” said the bishop, crediting his love for God and Sacred Scripture for motivating him to become a catechist. In that role, he brought hundreds of people to the Catholic faith.
The bishop cited Black Elk's own words from his missionary letter: “I spoke mainly on Jesus – when he was on earth, the teachings and his sufferings. I myself, do a lot of these things. I suffer, and I try to teach my people the things that I wanted them to learn.”
If Black Elk is canonized, he will be the first official saint from the Diocese of Rapid City, according to his biography on the diocese website.
He was born sometime between 1858 and 1866. Like many of his ancestors, he served as a medicine man, which combined the roles of medical doctor, spiritual adviser and counselor.
Despite the promises of the Great Sioux Treaty of 1868, gold-seeking settlers and prospectors began moving into Dakota Territory in 1874. This led to the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. Black Elk was at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.