Unconventional Cajun Traiteurs and Catholic Healing Prayers in the Bayou

Cajun traiteurs, or traditional Cajun healers, who use Catholic healing prayers, have long been an essential part of Louisiana’s cultural heritage. These healers use a combination of natural remedies, touch and prayer to help people heal from physical and spiritual ailments. One of the unique aspects of Cajun traiteurs is their close association with the Catholic Church, which has played an important role in shaping their practices.

In particular, Catholic healing prayers are often used alongside other methods to help patients find relief. In this article, we will explore the fascinating intersection of Cajun traiteurs and Catholic healing prayers with Becca Begnaud. The traiteur explains how these two traditions work together to support the health and well-being of the community.

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“I’m not about the status quo,” says Becca Begnaud waving her knife at me. I’m sitting at the Cajun’s kitchen table in Scott, Louisiana. She stands on the linoleum kitchen floor where her mother stood a generation ago, back in the 50s, talking to the neighbors that dropped in for a cup of coffee or a bite of neighborhood news.

Becca grew up in the heart of Cajun country inside this one-story Acadian bungalow next door to the Catholic school and across from the church. “We had a lot of people passing through this kitchen,” she says.

I just met Becca and can already tell she is definitely not about the status quo. For one, she’s invited me, a Cajun outsider, into her home for coffee and breakfast.

The coffee brews in a Moka pot—an Italian coffee maker—and she’s just sliced pastries from the Lafayette Farmers Market to serve on what might be her mother’s blue and white porcelain plate.

Hence the knife. Becca punctuates her sentences with her hands, and if there’s a knife in one of them, well, then so be it.

In the Traiteur's Kitchen

In the traiteur's kitchen | Photo by Jesse Guidry, Lafayette Travel

Another tipoff that the woman shaking her thick gray-streaked hair to emphasize a point is not about the status quo is that she identifies as a Christian spiritual healer. That is in an era when most Americans view spirituality and religion through the rear-view window. During the post-modern religious period, Becca embraces the spiritual part of the world—and herself.

Although the room is cold—it’s February on the Saturday before Mari Gras—Becca’s warm countenance fills the room. The Louisiana home has no central heat, and a small gas stove in the central hallway attempts to take the bite out of the damp chill.

“Here in southern Louisiana, our weather is bipolar,” I’d been told the previous evening by the cheery tattooed millennial who checked me into my Lafayette hotel room. “We’re either hot or cold. Not much in between,” she smiled warmly while handing me the room keycard.

Traiteur, the Name Given to Catholic Healers in France

woman in white hair wears jacket and hoodie at the kitchen table of traiteur Becca Begnaud who sits at the corner of the table talking about Catholic healing prayers
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey interviews Cajun traiteur Becca Begnaud | Photo by Jesse Guidry, Lafayette Travel

Something in Becca bubbles out of her sunny inner being to connect with me. “Do you take cream or sugar?” she asks when a rich coffee aroma fills the kitchen, indicating the coffee is done brewing.

“If you have it, I’ll take both,” I say, reaching for my pen and notebook. I’m here to interview the traiteur, the name given to Catholic healers in France. When colonists from southwest France settled in the New France colony of Acadia in the 17th and 18th centuries, traiteurs were in the ranks.

And decades later, when the British expelled the Acadiens from what is now eastern Canada, traiteurs continued their healing practices in southern Louisiana. Linguistically, the word Acadien became Cajun, but the people fiercely held onto their French language, feisty music and allegiance to their agrarian culture.

Becca rummages through a mélange of baskets filled with greeting cards, a tackle box, a recipe book and a silver bell on her kitchen table to find a ceramic creamer shaped like a cow. She laughs as she dusts and fills the small white cow with cream as if remembering something funny.

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older woman with gray streaked thick hair golds white cream pitcher in the shape of a cow towards camera, kitchen shelves and door behind her
Ceramic creamer holds memories for Becca Begnaud, Cajun prayer healer

“My young granddaughter told me, “That cow looks like it’s throwing up’,” she says, demonstrating the effect by pouring the cream into the porcelain coffee mug I’m holding. And yes, it does.

“Hold that up. I want to take a picture of you with the creamer,” I say. I love kitchenware that brings back memories, and I don’t want to forget this extraordinary experience of sharing life with a woman outside my own culture.

Cajuns Turn to Traiteurs and Catholic Healing Prayers

woman in purple top sits on wooden kitchen chair smiling at something off camera, she holds her cellphone in her hands
Becca Begnaud talks about being a traiteur

As we settle into our coffee and sweet bread, Becca begins to tell me her story. “I am this culture,” she says of her Cajun roots. “I grew up in this house. I bought it from my siblings [after their mother passed.] This house was like Grand Central Station. English and French were spoken here, and we went from one to the other. I was privy to a lot because of the house’s geographical location.

“We were agriculturally based, but we weren’t stupid,” she shares. “My folks danced to the Big Bands. My aunt loved the song In the Mood,” says Becca. Outsiders’ misconceptions could be that Cajuns only dance the two-step or jig to accordion music.

“The doctor and his family lived on the other side of the church. The only thing between us and them was God—quite literally, the church was between us. Doc was full of shit, but it was the only doctor we had.”

It wasn’t talked about, but it wasn’t a secret

In small towns in Cajun country like Scott, with inadequate conventional healthcare, farmers and townsfolk alike would often turn to traiteurs for assistance and Catholic healing prayers. “It wasn’t talked about, but it wasn’t a secret,” explains Becca, who, as a small girl, was treated for sunstroke by her grandfather.

At the time, she knew nothing about the healing power of traiteurs. “All I knew was my mother said, ‘Pape is going to come treat you.’ So, it wasn’t my belief system that healed the sunstroke,” she says, emphasizing that traiteurs are not faith healers. The sick person does not need faith to be healed. Instead, the treatment comes from God through prayer, she says.

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Finding Scripture Healing Prayers

Of the 35 miracles of Jesus described in the Bible, not even one-third mention faith. Rather than healing determined by the sick person’s or healer’s faith, the scriptures more often demonstrate Jesus’s authority over disease. Scripture healing prayers are found throughout the Bible. When Jesus speaks healing words and touches the sick, he makes things happen. Likewise, traiteurs lay hands and speak prayers over the infirm.

“There are different prayers for specific ailments: sunstroke, warts, sprained ankles, headaches and such,” Becca recounts. “Different people [traiteurs] had different prayers.” So, there was not one person the community could turn to for healing and Catholic healing prayers, but many.

Traiteurs Passed Prayers From Generation to Generation

The Cajun-Creole population of Crowley enjoying a Cajun Music Concert in 1938 | Photo by Russell Lee via Wikipedia

Traiteurs passed their specific prayers from generation to generation. For example, it was believed that a male traiteur should pass his prayer to a younger female in his family, while a female traiteur—sometimes called a traiteuse—passed her prayers to a male descendant.

The traditional prayers said in French might be prayed along with Catholic healing prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary or admonitions to saints like St. Michael, the Archangel.

“My grandfather treated on the farm because he was a farmer. But most people would treat in their kitchens,” Becca reports. “French was the language spoken, but the culture was African American, Native American and European American.”

Traiteurs healed any color and any gender

Traiteurs healed any color, and any gender, says Becca. “We weren’t color blind, but we served each other. …Color wasn’t an issue in healing.”

The traiteurs do not charge fees, but those treated return the favor or give a gift, like a barter system.

Another tradition is that the patient never thanks the traiteur. Not because they aren’t thankful, but because it isn’t the traiteur who does the healing, but it is God.

“The treater asks, but it’s God who answers,” Becca details.

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Traiteurs Use the Healing Power of Laying of Hands and Catholic Healing Prayers

man dresses in 1800s period clothing and straw hat stands next to wooden boats
Historic reenactor Jay Steiner at Vermilionville in Lafayette, LA talks about triteurs | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

It would be a day later at Vermilionville–a local historic folklife village—that historic reenactor Jay Steiner would share with me, “A traiteur is a treater of people that is distinct to the Catholic religion. They utilize the healing power of prayer and the laying on of hands.

“Lafayette is 60% Catholic, one of the highest percentages in the country,” said the graduate of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. “The Catholic culture here reminds me of that in Latin America. It’s a unique form of Catholicism.”

I highly recommend that you visit Vermillionville when visiting Louisiana. You will get such a great overview of Cajun history as well as the stories of Native people, the French, Spanish, Haitians and others that have called this region home. Book now, because you’ll forget later. Right?

In the Hospital, Nursing Nun Recommends Traiteur Treatment

close up of patient's hand who is laying in a hospital bed- the hand is bandages and has an IV taped to it
Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

In the past, prayers were passed to one of the opposite genders, but in today’s religious culture, not many are open to belief in spiritual healing. In fact, even Becca was unenthusiastic 35 years ago when a nun at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center suggested she contact a traiteur after surgeons treated her for breast cancer.

“When Sister Hilda Mallett came to my hospital bed and said, ‘I think you should look into healing work,’ I thought, ‘You are out of your mind!

“But then I started to remember, my grandpa was a traiteur. I didn’t think of him as a healer. But he treated headaches and sunstrokes—I guess I could do that.

“So, I learned about it because I had cancer and didn’t want to die,” reveals the traiteur. “I did it because I could. I wasn’t trying to become a healer.”

Sister Hilda also suggested that Becca learn about reiki. And over the course of years, Becca trained as a Reiki Master, earned a BA in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to learn more about healing work and ministered to patients at the local cancer center.

Treatment Over Phone With Catholic Healing Prayers

Yard with live oak, wooden loveseat swing hanging from a branch, pot of green ferns, white statue of Mary hanging on the tree inside a wooden creche is a peaceful place for Catholic healing prayers - the doors of the CAtholic school are within three feet of the fence
Prayer garden in the front yard of Becca’s Cajun home

Once our kitchen conversation is over, Becca shows me around her home. In the short hallway between bedrooms, the wall heater continues to nip away at the cold. When we stop to warm our backsides, I have time to review the small religious figurines on the shelf on the opposite wall.

A ceramic Virgin cradles the Christ child; St. Ann, the mother of Mary, leads her grandson, Jesus, by the hand; and a Hindu goddess poses in a powerful stance. Becca checks her phone for texts that have come in during our chat.

‘I’m going to do a treatment now’

“I’m going to do a treatment now,” Becca announces, looking up from a text message from a woman requesting healing. She puts her phone on speaker and dials the number.

The phone is answered not by a voice but by a series of rattling coughs. “Friend, I’m going to pray for you now,” says Becca. She begins by praying under her breath in French, “We are connected. We are related.”

Catholic Healing Prayers

Next, she invokes St. Michael and his angels and Mary, the Mother of God and her angels. “She’s known as the Queen of Angels,” Becca tells me later. Then, following the petition, she calls on “all the saints” to help the spluttering woman on the speakerphone.

She concludes her unidentifiable French prayers with the Our Father and Hail Mary recognizable in French. Then she offers medicinal advice about gargling with warm water mixed with soda and honey. It seems the coughing has subsided.

Upon finishing the prayers, Becca runs her right hand over her left arm in a flowing motion. “I do that to release anything I might have picked up,” Becca explains, repeating the gesture with her left hand over her right lower arm and hand.

Later, when I related my experience witnessing the treatment, a friend asked, “Did the woman get cured? Did her coughing stop?” I could only describe what Becca told me earlier, “What happens is between you and God—it’s not my business.”

Conclusion: Unconventional Cajun Traiteurs and Catholic Healing Prayers

woman is purple top and scarf with Mardi Gras colors, purple, green and black, stands in office with Jerusalem cross over a wooden beam that looks like a beam from the cross
Becca Begnaud in her office in Scott, LA | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

“You can’t argue with what works,” says the traiteur, shaking her dark, streaky mane at me.

“Since 1989, I’ve been dealing with major illnesses and haven’t died yet. Pretty good, right?

Parting words from the Cajun Traiteur

“I’m not an authority; I just do this,” says the Cajun traiteur. “We all have healership—some to different degrees.”

“Wherever you’re from, there are healers,” says Becca. “Look for the healers in your own culture.”

Learn more about Becca’s healing work at A Healing Arts Collective.

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5 Examples of Catholic Healing Prayers

rose window of red and blue glass on the Wisc Way pilgrimage depicting women saints
One of the rose windows at St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, in Whitelaw, WI on the Wisc Way

1. Powerful Catholic Healing Prayers Attributed to St. Padre Pio

Heavenly Father, I thank you for loving me. Thank you for sending your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the world to save and set me free. I trust in your power and grace that sustain and restore me.

Loving Father, touch me now with your healing hands, for I believe that your will is for me to be well in mind, body, soul and spirit. Cover me with the most precious blood of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.

Cast anything that should not be in me. Root out any unhealthy and abnormal cells. Open any blocked arteries or veins and rebuild and replenish any damaged areas. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection by the power of Jesus’ precious blood.

Let the fire of your healing love pass through my entire body to heal and make new any diseased areas so that my body will function the way you created it to function. Touch my mind and emotion, even the deepest recesses of my heart.

Saturate my entire being with your presence, love, joy and peace and draw me closer to you every moment of my life. And Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to do your works so that my life will bring glory and honor to your holy name. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

2. Prayer to the Archangels For Healing and Protection

Heavenly King, You have given us archangels to assist us during our pilgrimage on earth.

Saint Michael is our protector; I ask him to come to my aid, fight for all my loved ones and protect us from danger.

Saint Gabriel is a messenger of the Good News; I ask him to help me clearly hear Your voice and to teach me the truth.

Saint Raphael is the healing angel; I ask him to take my need for healing and that of everyone I know, lift it up to Your throne of grace and deliver the gift of recovery back to us.

Help us, O Lord, to realize more fully the reality of the archangels and their desire to serve us.

Holy angels, pray for us. Amen.

3. Catholic Healing Prayer for Strength and Grace

Lord Jesus, who cured the sick and laid a healing hand upon the lame, the blind, and the disabled, look with compassion upon me in my suffering.

If it is not your will to cure me, then give me the strength to bear my burden and offer it up to You.

You suffered so much for me. Give me the grace to offer my sufferings in union with Your own and in reparation for my sins and those of others.

Mary, compassionate Mother, pray for your weary child.

The health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, pray for me. Amen.

4. Prayer for a Creative Miracle

God of all creation, you who spoke a simple command and brought forth light from the darkness, I call upon you now to send forth your miracle-working power into every aspect of my being. In the same way that you spoke unto the dust of the ground when you created humankind in your own image, I ask you to send forth your healing power into my body. Send forth your word and command every cell, electrical and chemical impulse, tissue, joint, ligament, organ, gland, muscle, bone and every molecule in my body to come under complete and perfect health, strength, alignment, balance and harmony.

It is through you that I live and move and have my being. With every breath I take, I live under your life-giving grace. So I ask you to touch me now with the same miracle-working power you used when you fashioned me inside my mother’s womb. As surely as you have created me in your image and likeness, you can recreate me now and restore my health.

Please fill me with your healing power. Cast out all that should not be inside of me. I ask you to

  • mend all that is broken,
  • root out every sickness and disease,
  • open all blocked arteries and veins,
  • restore my internal organs,
  • rebuild my damaged tissues,
  • remove all inflammation and
  • cleanse me of all infections, viruses and destructive forms of bacteria.

Let the warmth of your healing love flood my entire being so that my body will function as it was created to be, whole and complete, renewed in your perfect health. I ask this through my Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

5. Catholic Healing Prayer to the Divine Physician

Dear Lord Jesus, you went about healing all those who were sick and tormented by unclean spirits. You cleansed the lepers, opened the eyes of the blind and empowered the crippled to rise up and walk by speaking a simple command. You sent forth your life-giving power to all those in need, including those you raised from the dead.

O Divine Physician, I come to you now in great need of your intervention. I surrender my life and health into your loving hands. I ask you to send forth your healing power into my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. Remove from me every lie of the enemy. Destroy all the word curses that have been spoken against my health.

If I have accepted medical beliefs I should not have, I ask for your forgiveness and denounce those beliefs right now. I break every agreement that I have made with my sickness and disease. I denounce every symptom of my illness and ask to be set free by the power of your truth.

Please send forth your Holy Spirit to renew my mind and cleanse my thoughts. I refuse to bow down and serve the symptoms of my illness any longer. Please draw my attention away from myself, and help me focus on your enduring love.

O Divine Physician, you are the source and strength of my recovery. Show me how to proceed with your plan for my restoration. I surrender my healthcare into your loving hands. Please help me discern all aspects of my treatment, medications and recovery process so that my thoughts and actions conform to your good and perfect will for my life. Amen.

For more Catholic healing prayers, visit Aleteia

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Hi, I’m Stacey

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…

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8 thoughts on “Unconventional Cajun Traiteurs and Catholic Healing Prayers in the Bayou”

  1. Wonderfully written article, and I learned so much! Sure wish they could also cure the ills of the world, but I suppose that would be asking to much!

    Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words, Dorine! I learned so much writing the article! It was great to have an expert source: Becca Begnaud, the CAjun traiteur. It was fun to share my research with you on the train to Lafayette!

      Reply
  2. I enjoyed reading your interesting article very much. I had never heard of a Traitur before but believe that God does work miracles.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comments, Janis! I’d never heard of traiteurs before either! It was fascinating for me to learn more. I, too, believe that God works miracles as I have been a recipient of supernatural healing.

      Reply

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