Mother Katrina and George Fox

The Saga of the Seventh Generation Trilogy, Book Three: All My Relations. by C. J. Hotchkiss

From Chapter Two: Hope

Nuns have a reputation for being either docile or stern, but are often not given enough credit for the resolve required to live a life dedicated to God.  Even on an uneventful day, Mother Katrina was a force to be reckoned with.   On this very eventful day, she unabashedly took charge of the situation.  She commanded that Jessie get out of bed, wash, and accompany her on walks around the grounds of the hospital, whether she felt like it or not.  She directed the nurses to attend to Jessie’s needs, but abandon their annoying attempts at insipid cheeriness.  She arranged a meeting of the three doctors who had been attending Jessie and required of them to locate a qualified doctor who could diagnose what she expected was Post Traumatic Stress.   Such a doctor must prescribe an effective plan of treatment.  When the girls and nuns back at the home inquired about Jessie’s progress, Mother Katrina replied that Jessie was in God’s gentle hands; attention to their own improvement would be a better use of their time.  

While the doctors quibbled about which of them was indeed the qualified doctor to whom the exacting nun was referring, Mother Katrina herself located a Navajo Medicine Man that native women she respected spoke of highly.  His name was George Fox.   He lived in a hogan, tending sheep, north east of Gallup.  Some of her Indian Catholic parishioners also attended peyote meetings run by this man.   They gave credit to both Jesus and George when their lives were blessed.  Mother Katrina, herself, believed that God spoke through many voices and appreciated all the help he could get.  There was something about the deep Indian beauty of Jessie that directed Mother Katrina to reach out to the girl’s own people.  She suspected that healing would come from there.

Mother Katrina located Willy Lessing, a Navajo parishioner who also fixed the nuns’ dilapidated truck.   She asked if he knew where she could find Mr. Fox.  “Well sure, Mother Katrina,” Willy replied, rolling out from underneath the Chevy Impala he was repairing.  “But it is pretty far out of town.   The road sometimes can be a little rough.”

“Then you will have to take me,” Mother Katrina determined.  “Now would be a good time.”

Willy had lost arguments about auto mechanics with Mother Katrina, something she knew nothing about and most people considered him an expert.   So he knew better than to argue about when he would drive her to see George Fox.  “Yes, Ma’m,” he replied. “Let me go wash up.”  He checked the gas and oil in the nuns’ old truck.   He figured it would probably get them there and back.  He helped Mother Katrina into the front seat and shrugged to his mechanic partner, as he watched them leave the station.

“Mr. Lessing,” Mother Katrina spoke.  “Just why do people think this Mr. George Fox is such a powerful Medicine Man?  Has he studied in school and passed some sort of test or accreditation?”

“Oh yes, Mother,” Willy said carefully.  “George has studied with his father and grandfather, even his great grandfather.  They were all great medicine men.   They taught him since he was a little boy.  He has danced at the Sundance since he was 14, praying for vision and worthiness.  Native Americans from the north, the plains, Oklahoma, and all over recognize his powers and ask for his help.”

“Well, I am sure that is very nice.”  Mother Katrina responded curtly.  “But what does he do?  Does he use medicine or pray or do a ceremony?  How does he heal people?”

“Oh yes, he does all of those things.”  Willy thought they were probably approaching the edge of what he could explain to this pragmatic nun.  “A Medicine Man works with the Creator to determine just the right herbs and treatment.  He consults with the Medicine Men who have trained him.   He goes into the desert or mountains to listen for the guidance and will of the Creator.  He asks the Creator to work through him.   The person who desires healing must pray and open himself to the Creator as well.  All his family and friends pray and open themselves up to healing too.  They often go into a sweat lodge, where the heat and the medicines and the water and the praying connect everyone with gratitude and healing.”  Willy glanced at Mother Katrina to see if she was still listening.  She was.  “It is like when the priest swings the incense and chants and prays in Latin.  Nobody understands the words, but they all sit together, surrounded by the smells and sounds and faith and God.”

“Yes.” Mother Katrina nodded thoughtfully.  “I suppose it is like that…  What makes him good at this?”

That was a good question.  “I think it is because George is good at watching and listening.  The Creator knows that George pays attention, so the Creator doesn’t have to explain everything too much.”  Willy had not really thought about it before, but, if he were the Creator, this is probably what he would think about George.  “George doesn’t get in the way.  He lets the Creator work through him, staying as small and humble as he can make himself.”

Let me be an instrument of thy peace…..  Mother Katrina thought of her vows and of the truly spiritual priests and nuns she had known in her 70 years.  She thought of her best days, when perhaps she had not gotten in God’s way.  “Can he heal injuries of the mind?” 

“Oh, I suspect most injuries are of the mind, whether they start there or not.  The mind is the most powerful medicine we got.”  Willy shared.  “At least, I think George would say that.”

Mother Katrina was silent the rest of the trip, her frail little body bouncing thoughtfully in the old truck.  The truck creaked and groaned its way on circuitous remnants of roads, until they arrived at a small hogan, the only evidence of human existence that could be seen in four directions.  Will helped Mother Katrina out of the truck, both of which miraculously still seemed intact.  The hogan and the rough desert did not suggest anything especially sacred – except, perhaps, the 360 degree vista of pure, unraveled beauty.  Mother Katrina never got used to the stark, naked splendor of the rounded boulders of the desert, the scruffs of tumbleweed, or the undiluted light that x-rayed everything, revealing its true raw nature.  Looking closer, Mother Katrina spotted two small shapes, sitting in the middle of a collection of sheep.  She hiked up her habit and headed out to them. “You stay here with the truck,” she ordered Willy.

Mother Katrina was physically tougher than she looked, but it still took her a good ten minutes to reach her destination.  The sheep continued their search for green scraps and the two shapes didn’t move.  The shapes were a sleeping border collie and an old man whittling a small piece of wood.  Apparently, man, dog, and sheep had worked out an arrangement that required the least amount of effort of each of them.  The man looked up at the nun.   He nodded at her.  Why don’t Indians ever smile, she thought.  She heard them laughing all the time, but at her, they only looked and either nodded or ignored her altogether.  “Mr. Fox?”  Mother Katrina spoke.  “I am Mother Katrina, a sister of The Holy Reckoning of Mercy Order, between Gallup and Albuquerque.”

George, a weathered man in his sixties, nodded again.  “I guessed something like that by your regalia,” he replied, almost smiling.  “How are you ladies doing out there?  You got yourself a handful of puckish young girls, am I right?”

Mother Katrina was only somewhat surprised that he knew of her, pleasantly distracted by his near smile.  “We are doing fine, thank you, sir.  We do have a handful of young ladies, but it is one in particular that I have come to see you about.”

“Miss Jessie Hope Begay?”  George replied, this time looking straight at the nun.

“Why, yes,” Mother Katrina replied.  “How did you know that?”

George did smile at her this time.  “Oh, a number of your parishioners are worried about her too.  They bring her up for prayers in our sweats and meetings.  She tried to end her life, am I right?”

“Yes.   Only by the grace of the dear Lord Jesus, is she still with us.”  Mother Katrina answered, crossing herself and giving thanks.  

“I hear that she is not thinking that still being with us is such a blessing.” George said, returning his gaze to the whistle he was carving.  It was not wood at all, but looked like a small, hollow bone.

“No indeed, she does not.” Mother Katrina agreed.  “She doesn’t eat, she won’t speak, and stares out the window, like she sees life as the bars of a prison cell.”  The pain of watching the untouchable anguish of this child had become overwhelming to the nun.  “She has been defiled by a drunken brute of a man, who has used and threatened her.  He is in prison for this.  That will only be a hint of what the good Lord has in store for him, I hope.  I am a dedicated sister in the order of the Holy Reckoning of Mercy, but when I look into that child’s vacant eyes, I cannot forgive him.  I simply cannot forgive him.”

George nodded and continued to whittle  “You don’t have to forgive him,” George said finally.  “Sometimes the poison seeps so deeply in a person that the soul leaves and the body rots.  Then, he is up to the Creator.  The child may need you to denounce this demon, so that she can forgive herself.”

Mother Katrina felt a wave of both relief and guilt.  She considered freeing herself of forgiveness, brandishing an unrepentant sword of revenge for this broken child.  Her age and training, of course, would not let her off so easily.  George’s last words had caught her attention.  “Forgive herself?  Why would this abused child possibly need to forgive herself?”

George sighed deeply and shrugged.  “For being alive.  For being raped.  For not staying locked in the car and waiting for her parents.  For not keeping her brother and sister from harm.  The price of surviving can be very high.”

Tired of standing, the nun awkwardly sat down on the ground, a perspiring black and white puddle, next to the sheep herding medicine man.  She had never heard it in these words, but she had witnessed the guilt of survival, even in the most dire of circumstances.  Survivors of tornados, fires, accidents, or holocausts.  Fathers of sons killed in wars, mothers of dead children, children of sad or damaged parents.  Any victim who felt guilty for surviving when others didn’t.  “How can we help?  Has her soul left her body as well?”

“Maybe,” George said slowly.  “But probably not.  She is young.  They say she is part Lakota and the Sioux are fighters.  Bring her out to me.   I will hear her story.  Will you pray for her with me?”  

“In my own way,” Mother Katrina said.

“Ah, that will be good.” George said, smiling broadly at her now.  “We will double team her.  The Creator is bound to give us a break.”

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