On Family

26 12 2008


I know I promised those who are still reading a present, but that fell through. Truth be told, I am beginning to have second thoughts about this whole blog thing, just because it feels like I am just spinning my wheels a lot of times. It’s like the various times of my life where I write poetry: a lot of times some of the poems I write are good, others not so good. I usually stop at the point where I feel that I am writing the same poem over and over and over again. Blogging is a little more forgiving since you can post what other people write and merely comment on it, or you can post videos, poems from others, etc. I am trying to write things for a wider audience other than this blog, though that requires more time and attention. If I ever do get a wider audience, chances are that this blog will still remain for all of my ideas that are too off-the-wall for anyone else to publish. A lot of what follows will be some of those ideas:

AG being out of town, I was free to go home to Hollister for Christmas. What I attended on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), somewhat half asleep, was the familial ceremony known as the “Ceremonia para acostar y arrullar al Niño Dios”, which is when the family gets together, sings songs, and puts the Divine Child in His crib. The most touching part is when, while some were chatting after the rosary, my grandmother began to sing a lullaby to the Infant Jesus while holding Him in her arms. Touching, but that’s just what Mexican grandmothers do. They also feed you. The reason I was half-asleep was because I had eaten myself into a tamale-induced food coma.

Just so you know, I went to the traditional Latin Mass in San Juan Bautista the next morning. Yes, I guess I am still at heart a traditionalist. What can I say: old habits die hard.

After visiting with my mother’s side of the family (more like a clan than a family), I spent some time with my father who lives across town. Yes, he and my mother are separated, and he lives a semi-hermetic life surviving off of his VA pension and the occasional free lance auto repair job. (He was practically born with a wrench in his hand). We spoke of many things, but I turned the conversation intentionally to his mother, my deceased grandmother. She has always played a larger-than-life role in my imagination. According to my father, the bond between us was very close, so close that it seems that she would openly admit that she preferred me to her other children and grandchildren. The fact that she surrounded herself with images of the Virgin Mary, and that she herself was named Maria, no doubt contributes to my own deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. Perhaps I am not a good Catholic, but no one can deny that I am a pious one. I think a lot of that comes from her, as well as my other set of grandparents, and of course, my mother.

Driving home, I remembered what one co-worker of mine named Ignacio once said when I told him that at that point in my life I wanted to be a monk: he said that religion was just bullshit and the only thing that matters is your family. That is a very Mexican senitment, but it is not necessarily a Christian sentiment for obvious reasons. But I cannot imagine a Christian message without my grandparents’ devotions, the posadas, the rosary, the Virgin of Gudalupe, Juan Soldado, etc. For me, it’s all like the Fifth Gospel or the Midrash on all the dogmas and definitions of the official Church. Without them, the religion is dead, lifeless, and makes no sense. That’s why, I suppose, I get impatient with the right-wing apologetics culture in this country, as well as the development of doctrine, and all of those other newfangled ways of seeing things. Granted, this is not a Catholic country, and unless you lived in certain parts of the Southwest, Louisiana, or certain ethnic ghettos, there was no public Catholic devotional life to speak of. But if our religion is profoundly historical; if, as Florovsky wrote, theology is really just history, what do we do with a faith that has no history, that we pretend to create out of thin air with apologetics tracts, or that we somehow try to justify its discontinuity with what came before it with the excuse of “historical development”? I can find no satisfactory answer to this question.

Being with my family as well, I began to realize my relative low tolerance for other people’s bullshit. (I seem to love my own, and can spew it to no end, though I am working on that fatal trait.) Not to brag or anything, but my dad was really just a street thug with a rather elaborate history with the law. My mother is still just an Americanized girl from the village. Both barely finished high school. My grandparents on both sides were country people who toiled in the fields their whole lives. So when people use pretentious language to weave pretty ideas the reality of which they know nothing about, or when people seem to decry the crisis of civilization, I cannot help but smirk at it all. My family had been living that crisis for millenia. We may not have been doing it well at times, but we kept on keeping on, and truth be told, we have never been better. I have this problem too at times, when I worry too much or go through bouts of self-pity, but the reason we are in such a rut at times is because we have such terrible amnesia that we do not realize that what we have been living through for most of our lives is not reality. The reality of things is much harsher, and much scarier.

Which brings me to my exhortation: of course, everyone is worried about the financial crisis and the world-wide recession. And I seem to have been worrying about the future of the Church, Western civilization, the modern soul, etc. But through it all my family has always been there. Especially in religious matters, and maybe this just works in my case, I can throw as many darts at modern Catholicism that I would like, but deep down inside, at the very roots of my being, I know that Jesus Christ, born of a Virgin, came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. And I know that the Roman Catholic Church is the only one He founded, and I do believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that outside of it there is no salvation.

Maybe that is just passed down from me from my family, and maybe that is not real faith. There are times that I think that I treat Jesus, the Virgin, and the saints as the ancient Romans must have treated their own hearth deities, and perhaps this is due to the anticlericalism that is inherent in the Latin male. It is also due to not wanting to get to close to it all, and anyone who knows my religious past would know why. Anyone who claims to have a perfect faith all the time is either a saint or a liar. Maybe the fact that I was born into a Catholic family with a strong Catholic culture is just cheating. But I thank God then for such a grace, such a shortcut to the truth. It is that security perhaps that allows for the eclecticism in what I write. From Rumi poems to Renaissance Neopaganism to syncretic Latin American cults, I know that I can always return to the Fount of Truth. After all of those wanderings, I can always come home. Thank God, the Most Holy Virgin, and my family for all of that.



7 responses

30 12 2008
Lee Hamilton

Glad to hear you intend to stick around the blogosphere. I’m still smarting from Jim Prester’s withdrawal (“Dappled Things”: http://donjim.blogspot.com/ )

I hear you on the ideology and rightist apologetics. It all starts to sound like a blaring echo-chamber after a while (I get it, I really do, but must I read the same recycled gay rant everywhere? Can we please talk about something else finally??). Although not all of it is brackish water (Young Fogey is even-handed and fair, and is tapping into the new effort to re-source conservativism from outside the echo-chamber based on lessons learned).

But the American Catholic blogosphere has strong overtones of “conversion sickness”, Bill Donahue-esque grievance peddling, and self-conscious faux-nostalgia for the Lost Catholicism (the first two feel foreign to me, although I sometimes indulge in the last one). So I’ve been seeking more variety by trying to discover if there actually is a French and Spanish Catholic blogosphere (I’d need to polish my German before testing if there’s a teutonic analogue too). It’s important to have balance. But in spite of all the blogs out there, it seems to be slim pickings once you start to narrow it down.

29 12 2008

Hi! 🙂 Here are two sites I think You’re gonna enjoy:



28 12 2008
Arturo Vasquez

Rest assured that I do not think that this blog is going away. Maybe switching gears a little. I just don’t want to end up beating a dead horse. Maybe I will just post less often. I don’t know. In any event, expect regular posting again in the New Year.

28 12 2008
Matt H.

“Why is it that my favorite blogs are the ones that go away?”

For the same reason that *Calvin & Hobbes* ended after 10 years, while *Family Circus* is pushing 50: the most insightful writers are often the ones who know when to quit.

27 12 2008

“second thoughts about blogging” Why is it that my favorite blogs are the ones that go away?

27 12 2008

Yo quiero mi regalo.

you did promise

26 12 2008

I was scanning the TV on Christmas Day when I noticed that Good Morning America or a similar show (we have that here too) had a segment on trying to make the best out of what was practically a ‘non-Christmas’ because of the worldwide economic woes and whatnot. Suffice to say I found it very puzzling, since presents or not, Christmas is Christmas is Christmas. It really did seem antithetical to the popular American notion of the Holiday as being ‘all about family and loved ones’. While Noche Buena was admittedly a little less grand this year compared to last year, and most of the presents I got were quite, um, uninspired (I got a box of granola bars!) there was the still the unmistakable feeling that it was Christmas. Maybe it’s the air, or the smiles, or the laughter and songs. I didn’t notice a lot of them this year but they were definitely there, like family.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, AV 🙂

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