Sunday, February 26, 2012


My usual Sunday ritual after all the early morning shenanigans, is to drop Misa and John-Pio off at Holy Redeemer for their weekly catechism class, and then I head to Espresso Royale or Fair Trade Coffeehouse for some private time. Today, I was actually thinking we would skip catechism in favor of Sunday morning cartoons and maybe I'd get a chance to read my climbing magazines cover-to-cover. But when the kids enthusiastically asked when we're leaving for Sunday school, it's sort of hard to opt out.

So they're there, and I'm here.

I've been thinking about religion, politics, and faith lately since it's Lent and we've always honored the season. In the spirit of Lent, we each announced the thing we'd sacrifice for 40 days - something of an annual ritual for us. Brad gave up beer, Misa decided to write two letters a week to someone she was thinking about, John-Pio gave up asking for toys (which is honorable because his birthday is next week), Emma usually participates but has dispensation since the Conserve School is enlightening in its own right, and me? I gave up bread and pasta. This year, the kids are more aware of the meaning behind Lent, which reminds me that I was that way too, growing up in a household that honored traditional Catholic practices.

These days, it's damn hard for me to be Catholic. Racial justice, gay rights, hate-crime penalties, sex education in schools, abortion, universal health care, voting rights, land protection - all controversial issues that I have strong beliefs in. I formed my most critical values as a cradle Catholic under the guidance and facilitation of my parents, so I feel a strong sense of deference and respect to them and to my culture. Quite frankly though, the church and I haven't seen eye-to-eye since I was a teenager, so I've always towed the line calling myself a Catholic. Yet, I am raising my children to practice its faith because the traditions and rituals of the religion are so deeply a part of my identity, and so integral to my culture and being Chamorro.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

To be a Catholic by culture and tradition is just a bit more tasteful to me than it is to label myself even a Catholic liberal. Although, Catholic liberals are a tough breed, who deserve great respect, especially when their religions leaders betray their best traditions and confirm their detractors' worst insults. As a young adult, I probably considered myself a Catholic liberal, but got to a point when I really didn't know what that meant, so I dropped it altogether. A Chamorro Catholic or a Cultural Catholic might not mean anything to anyone else, either. Yet, I'm sure there are hundreds who consider themselves a Catholic by culture, in an effort to preserve their identity and - in my case - stay connected to my Chamorro tradition out of deference and utmost respect to my parents and beautiful culture.

Someday, I am pretty confident that Misa and John-Pio will find their personal paths as a Catholic - whether it be a Catholic by culture, or a liberal, or they might surprise me and identify themselves as a Catholic in the deepest religious way. Or perhaps they will fit into one of the contemporary boxes of one recovering, pretending, part-timing it, dropping out. Whatever. Who can know that, today? Right now, I see them formulating their paths in much the same way as my parents helped me form mine: with thoughtfulness, acceptance and tolerance, and a spiritual eye towards meaningful practices and rituals that shaped my sense of belonging in our family and Chamorro culture.

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