Cultural Inheritance: A Blessing and a Curse

As a second generation Canadian I want to give my children something I never really had: a Canadian identity and a properly integrated ethnic heritage.

Growing up in the center of multicultural southern Ontario, I have been blessed to interact with a variety of people from different backgrounds. However, I never learned to appreciate Canadian culture. Now as I mother of 1, I wish to immerse my son in Canadian lore, and history (French, Anglo and Native American) as well as explore the diversity of our great country’s landforms, flora and fauna.

In addition to this, I am very committed to cultivating a rich Mexican heritage for my son. I never want him to forget the Italian and Cuban roots that he has on my side of the family but there are a lot of specifically Mexican traditions that I want to incorporate into our liturgical life. Dia de los Muertos, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas..all this is a blessed cultural and religious inheritance. Of course we will be passing on our language, traditional foods, dances, music and folklore but all of this is secondary to the greatest inheritance: the Catholic faith.

However, although culture can be a great instrument to carry along the faith, it can also prove to be a stumbling block. Many people are “Catholic” because they are Italian, Mexican, Polish, Irish etc. rather than for the sake of Christ Himself. Cultural Catholicism is not a new phenomenon and it is the root of a lot of poorly catechized, nominal Catholics.

Not only that, but cultures tend to carry their own “cultural sins” or practices which have woven their way into the culture so that they become pretexts for evil. What do I mean by this?

Many of us who were raised in Hispanic households know the music our mothers would play while cleaning the home. They sound wholesome enough, usually romantic ballads or something one can dance to . But at a young age, many of us are also exposed to (and thus desensitized to) music videos with extremely sensual movements and immodest women. Whether we are watching Sabado Gigante with our abuelos or mom put on the latest telenovela, we are constantly being bombarded with scantily clad women and hypersexualization. This is not only harmful to the self image of our daughters but it is poison for the minds of our sons.

As I was reflecting on this I realized just how challenging it will be for me to protect my son’s innocence. Even if I manage to find him wholesome companions, limit his internet consumption, and shield him from the mainstream, in many of our cultures women shaking their behinds and men taking on a perverted facade of masculinity is the norm.

I am not against dancing nor do I think women should wear burqas but I think it is worth identifying the immodest and sinful things that have been conflated with our culture. Certain movements and clothing are better suited for the bedroom than the dance floor and this contributes very clearly to the rampant promiscuity we see.

Not only can clothing and movements be immodest but also one’s speech. Our Lord Jesus told us that we will need to give an account for every careless word and jokes are not exempt from this warning. I have found that a lot of the jokes in our culture usually centers around sex and sexual organs with no reservation of who is present, even children and elders. I do not think this is proper but it seems like something that is almost impossible to shelter my son from.

So what can I do?

The first thing I need to do is to be praying for my children continually. I must catechize my son, raise him to love Our Lord, to read the scriptures and to truly believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is the most important thing. I must have faith that the Lord will touch his heart and use me to inform his conscience. I will protect my son as much as possible but it is only the Holy Spirit that can help my son make the right choices.

The second thing I need to do is to learn to be more assertive with the family members my child will interact with. I know I will be called a prude and will likely have my past sins shoved in my face but I need to be firm about what is acceptable- it is my son’s soul that is at stake.

Finally, I wish to immerse my son in the beauty of our culture, in the wholesome traditions and in a loving community that shares our values. In the church where my husband and I got married there was a wonderful Latin American community. They would sometimes have events in the church basement where they would share traditional food or have members dress up and dance. Everything was wholesome and fun. It was the perfect example of taking the beauty of different cultures and intentionally using it to build up the community. But most importantly it is an example of how all things, even culture, must bend the knee to Christ and be used as a means to glorify God.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ora por nosotros

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

2 thoughts on “Cultural Inheritance: A Blessing and a Curse

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  1. Fellow southern Ontarian here – seems like your experience growing up was a lot different than mine. I grew up with Asian parents and immediately from the get-go when we arrived in Canada we pretty much mostly westernized ourselves – and it shows because I don’t even know how to speak my parents’ mother tongue save for a few basic phrases 😋

    When you brought up the social conditions outside the home, that part hit home with me, as I was reminded of my time at a supposedly Catholic high school that didn’t differ much from the public schools outside of externals: where religion was sanitized and most students listened to rap music and played some pretty questionable video games 24/7. I thank God I had a mother who limited the presence of such games at home and a father who instilled a love for classical music that still continues in me to this day – and helped shape partly who I am.

    No doubt it’s gonna be tough to raise children in this environment and ever more important to be firm anytime something objectionable comes y’all’s way. And lastly; ask Our Lady of Fatima that you can help your son develop a healthy, Catholic connection to your cultural roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh for sure! Catholic Public education is pretty liberal and almost meaningless. It’s a challenging time rn with COVID and everything but I really pray that God would give us the means to homeschool in the future. Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis!

      Liked by 1 person

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