Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cultural Heaven

So, for those of you who don't know this about me, I have a good bit of clergy in my family. Three of my great aunts were nuns (Sister John Berchmans, Sister Teresita and Sister Veronica), one of my great-great uncles was a Monsignor, and one was a Brother. Yep. Five out of the seventeen kids that made up my great-grandmother's family! That's a lot of vocations for one group!
One of the things that initially drew me back to my faith was my culture. My family is Cajun, and one of the definitions (at least originally) of "a Cajun" was that one had to be Catholic. Heck, that's part of the reason they were expelled from their homeland of Acadia in the first place. I figured, if people in my not-to-distant family were willing to die for their faith, who was I to think I was too good for it?
One of Uncle Jules' projects
In the Cajun culture, Catholicism is everywhere: from the trinity that we put into our food to the traditional Mardi Gras. Even those Friday fish fries or crawfish boils are a telltale sign of a deep-seeded faith that has slowly just become part of who we are, even if it's not always part of what we do. We even have our own Marian patroness: Stella Maris. My  great-great uncle Jules Daigle (the monsignor) made it part of his mission as a Parish Priest in Welsh, Louisiana to preserve the Cajun culture and language. He was very involved with the youth, and I am sure part of what he tried to teach them was to be proud of who they were: Cajun Catholics. Lately I have felt very close to my Uncle Jules and close to his mission. I have been praying to him to help me discern if I have a vocation in trying to preserve the culture as well. (And before any of you freak out about praying "to" my Uncle, let me remind you that we don't pray "to" people in heaven as if they can answer our prayers. We pray to them to pray for us, just like you would ask someone still on Earth, but the deceased have the added benefit of being a lot closer to God than any of us.)
July 28 commemorates Le Grand Derangement (The Great Upheaval) in Canada, and I am thinking about my Uncle and my culture a lot these days. This was the time when the English (and American colonists) went into Acadia (now Nova Scotia) and expelled the Acadians-- sending them across the country, ripping families apart. Catholicism means "universal" and I think about those Acadians, some alone, in their new "homes" going into a Church and finding something familiar and comforting. I see anti-Catholicism everywhere, in benign places that people who aren't Catholic may never even see. I think about my little culture, so misunderstood in the greater American culture today, and the outposts of who we are. I think of the new Evangelical and non-denominational Christianity, widespread across the Bible Belt, seeping into the Cajun Prairie and claiming people as the English once did, using the same vicious rhetoric against us, our culture (French) and our traditional religion. I can't help but draw parallels in the way Hispanic culture is looked at today and see a common denomination in incense, the Virgin Mary, a tendency to insulate against outside influences. I can't help but equate so much of my culture with Catholicism.
I can't speak Cajun. I can speak Provincial French (badly), and I can say a few words here and there. I grew up in Colorado, not Church Point, so I was removed from it. A displaced Cajun displaced further. It is no wonder then, that all I can preserve, in a way, of my tradition is my religion, my faith.This story isn't singular, it is echoed in the lives and words of emigrants from all over the world: Polish, Irish, Vietnamese. Spanning over hundreds of years that is what we, the Cajuns, had, and hopefully what we will always have. I know Uncle Jules is praying for that, as well.