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First Nations man finds reconciliation in Sacred Heart

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Unusual icon shows that "...Christ exists for everyone."
By Agnieszka Krawczynski


Photo Caption: An icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was written for Romero Crow Chief, by Andre Prevost. Crow Chief is a member of the Siksika nation and has a special devotion to Jesus' Sacred Heart. (Photo Courtesy of andreprevost.com)

A unique icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is now hanging in the personal chapel of an Alberta First Nations man’s home.

In that piece of art, Jesus is shown wearing eagle feathers in his hair, a beaded necklace of his Sacred Heart around his neck, and a wool blanket over his shoulder. In the background are teepees and a sun dance lodge.

I’ve always believed in his heart and in the sacrifice he made in compassion and humility,” said Romero Crow Chief, a member of the Siksika nation.

“This icon, to me, is a form of reconciliation, showing that Christ is for everyone.”

Crow Chief attended a residential school from age 6 to 11. He said while he was lucky enough to go home every evening, his supervisors were abusive and his stay was traumatic.

But his troubling past didn’t cause him to abandon his First Nations spirituality or the Christian faith passed to him from his grandmother, an Anglican, and his mother, a Catholic convert.

“I’ve always believed that faith is a big part of our culture and that’s why we connected to the Church, because we believed in it, because we have that faith in the unseen.”

His personal devotion to the Sacred Heart is part of the reason he’s been able to find healing. Several years ago, Crow Chief met a counsellor to talk about going to residential school, being raised by his grandmother, and feeling abandoned by his parents.

The counsellor “would talk about how my heart was broken and mended back together,” he said. “It brought to mind Christ’s sacrifice for all of us and the symbol of his heart, the crown, and the fire of the Spirit. I could relate to those things. I connected to the healing, compassion, and humility of Jesus’ heart.”

Now, Crow Chief says, “I’ve moved on. That’s what quite a lot of people need to do. You can stay a victim, or you can move on and be resilient, and that’s what Christ did for me.”

Crow Chief feels a connection between Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the sun dance, a practice that was banned by the Canadian government until 1951. The sacred ritual involves men piercing the skin on their chests or backs and dancing as a sign of prayer and sacrifice for their communities.

He commissioned Vancouver Island iconographer Andre Prevost to portray Jesus’ Sacred Heart with a First Nations flavour.

“The icon includes the sun dance and death on the cross as two separate events,” Prevost wrote in statement.

“The icon positions the sun dance as parallel to Christ’s temptation in the desert, where he prepares for and begins his ministry (personal sacrifice for the community, the world), seeing its completion within his Pascal Sacrifice and Resurrection,” said Prevost, who has also written a First Nations icon of St. Paul.

“Christ has both the sun dance scarring and the Pascal sacrifice stigmata.”

The unique Sacred Heart icon rests in Crow Chief’s home, in a small chapel he uses for private prayer and meditation. It’s the newest addition to his collection of Sacred Heart statues and artwork.

He hopes to print a copy for his local church and several more to give away as cards to friends and family. “I want to show that Christ exists for everyone.”

akrawczynski@rcav.org

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 July 2017 10:55  

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