Sr. Kateri Mitchell embraces Jake Finkbonner during Mass for the 73rd annual Tekakwitha Conference at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y., July 21. CNS photo/Glenn Davenport

Boy’s recovery a Kateri miracle

By  Eric W. Mauser, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 20, 2012

When then five-year-old Jake Finkbonner showed up to play his last basketball game of the season in Ferndale, Wash., he had no idea it would change his life and lead to events that would culminate in the canonization of a saint. 

Last Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree acknowledg­ing a miracle attributed to the intervention of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in the recovery of Jake from the rare and potentially fatal disease, necrotizing fascilitis. 

At that fateful game in 2006, he cut his lip after falling on the base of the portable basketball hoop. On the surface was the bacteria necrotizing fasciitis. The fast-moving bacteria attacks and destroys the flesh. The disease has a high fatality rate. The bacteria infected Jake’s facial tissue, and the infection quickly spread. 

“By the next day, I was fighting for my life,” Jake writes on his web site. 

“He was injured on a Saturday and by Monday he was being airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Seattle,” said Elsa Finkbonner, Jake’s mother. 

On the Tuesday, doctors informed Elsa and her husband, Donny, that their son’s situation was critical. Jake remained critical for the next two weeks, during which his family was told several times to prepare for his death. 

Given the ominous news, the Finkbonner’s called their pastor, Fr. Tim Sauer, to administer last rights to their son. Sauer, who was also pastor of a predominantly First Nations Catholic parish, was familiar with Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and strongly urged the Finkbonners to seek her interces­sion to save their son. 

“I did exactly as I was told and I prayed for her intercession endlessly,” said Finkbonner. 

During that period, Jake later told his parents, he had an out-of-body experience where he met Jesus with his recently deceased godfather. Although Jake wanted to stay in that experience, he said Jesus told him that he needed to return to his parents and younger sisters. 

After two weeks of surgical interventions, Jake’s great-aunt brought a visitor to pray at his bedside. 

“The friend introduced herself as Sr. Kateri. I recall looking at her with a stunned look,” said Fink­bonner. “I got chills … We had been praying for weeks for Blessed Kateri to intercede and spare Jake’s life, and here was this woman and she had the exact same name.” 

Sr. Kateri had brought a relic of Blessed Kateri with her to pray for Jake, which she carries with her whenever she goes to pray with someone. 

“I prayed with him and his family, and we placed the relic on his bed,” Sr. Kateri said. 

Unaware to Sr. Kateri, it was after her visit that the major turning point in Jake’s recovery occurred, said Finkbonner. 

“It was later that I heard that the doctors themselves said that this definitely is beyond any medical intervention,” Sr. Kateri recalled. 

Jake beat the odds and recovered, and with the approval of then-Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle, the case of Blessed Kateri’s intercession was investigated as the possible one remaining miracle needed for her canonization. 

The Finkbonners were elated upon receiving the news of the Pope signing the decree for can­onization — and of their son’s part in it. 

“It’s so overwhelmingly exciting, and just an honour­able process to be a part of,” said Finkbonner.“There’s no doubt in mine and Donny’s mind that Jake’s survival is in fact a miracle.” 

Jake and his family will be in Rome to witness the Oct. 21 can­onization of the woman who inter­ceded on their behalf. 

(Catholic Times Montreal, with files from Catholic News Service)

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