Lady of the Acadians

assumption

August 15th is the Feast Day of The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  It is a day which celebrates Mary being assumed body and soul into Heaven at the end of her life.

Based on very early church writings and on the writings of mystics, such as Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, it is believed that the apostles traveled to be with Mary at her deathbed; some of them even transported on white clouds from the towns they had been preaching.  St. Thomas was not present for Mary’s death.  Upon Thomas’ arrival, Mary’s tomb was reopened. It was found empty except for her grave cloths.  Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich describes Mary’s assumption in great detail.  She saw Mary’s soul lifted up to heaven in a bright light where it was met by her Son, Jesus.  Her soul then follows her Son back to her tomb where it is joined with her transfigured body.  She then ascends body and soul with her Son to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Catholics believe Mary’s assumption was a Divine Gift for her role as the Mother of God.  By her example of following God’s Will and living a life without sin, we are shown a promise of the gift that is waiting for all of us on that last day.

Our Lady of the Assumption holds a special place in my heart, since she is the patron saint of all Acadians.  August 15th is National Acadian Day and has been celebrated since 1881.  In Canada it is known as the Fete Nationale.  Businesses close on this day in parts of New Brunswick, Canada.

There was much debate in Canada over the date on which to have a National Day to recognize the Acadians.   Abbot Marcel-Francois Richard influenced the decision for August 15th with his eloquent speech: “…in fact it seems to me that a people who, for over a century of hardships and persecutions, was able to preserve its religion, language, customs, and autonomy, must have acquired enough importance to affirm its existence in a solemn way; and this could not be accomplished better than by being able to celebrate its own national holiday…It is important to stress that we are not descendants of Canada, but of France…We must choose a holiday that reminds us of our origin…Louis XIII vowed to give his empire to the Blessed Virgin and he wanted the Assumption to be the kingdom’s national holiday…he sent colonist to take over Acadia…it is true that the national devotion of the Acadians is their devotion to Mary.”  Thus, the convention chose August 15th, Feast of the Assumption, as the national holiday of the Acadians.  It was ratified by the Vatican on January 19, 1938 and Saint Pope John Paul the Great proclaimed Our Lady of the Assumption to be the patron saint of Acadians, where ever they may live.

An Acadian flag was established at the 2nd Acadian Convention in 1884 at Prince Edward Island.  It is a French Flag, tricolor – blue, white, and red. There is a gold star at the top left. The star represents the Virgin Mary, their patron saint.

A “Cajun” Acadian flag was designed at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1965 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana.  The tricolor flag has three symbols.  The first is a gold castle on the red, which represents the Spanish kingdom who allowed the Acadians to settle in the area.  The silver fleur-de-lis on the blue, represents the French heritage. The gold star on the white represents the Virgin Mary.  The flag became the official “Cajun” flag for the Acadiana area in 1974.

Cajun people’s love for Mary is very evident as you drive around Cajun Country.  Statues of our heavenly mother are proudly displayed in front of many homes, churches and public places.  She is the new Eve, the “woman clothed in the sun”, and the new Ark of the Covenant.  We love our patron saint!

Happy Feast Day Mother Mary!

C’est Bon!

Love,

Sherry

 

Grandmothers’ Gifts

mom

I was young when my mother’s mother passed away.  We called her Maw-Maw.  My only memories of her are of a very sick woman. My mother became her nurse in those days.   I do not remember any conversation I ever had with Maw-Maw.  My mother has told me that she enjoyed life. She loved dancing and visiting her friends.  It must have been very hard on her to have a disabling disease at the end of her life.

My father’s mother, we called Mom.  I was married with children when Mom passed away; but, I still never had a conversation with her.  Mom spoke only Cajun French and what little we said to each other was translated by my parents when we visited Mom and Pop every Sunday.  What I remember about Mom was her reverence to our Lord.  She was a very devout Catholic, always attending mass, saying her rosary and getting down on her knees at night to say her nightly prayers.  It made quite an impression on me as a young kid to see my two elderly and arthritis-riddled grandparents, who could hardly walk, on their knees beside their bed at night.

You might think I suffered in the grandmother-granddaughter relationship department.  You would be mistaken.  The Lord blessed me with two wonderful women in my life who were very much a “grandmother” to me.

The first of these wonderful women was a neighbor.  Mrs. Anita Larson, “Larson”, was a lonely widow whose only child and grandchild lived across the country.  My sisters and I latched onto Larson and we just adored her.  She called us her adopted grandchildren.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are sitting on Larson’s porch, in one of her big white wooden rockers, listening to her stories.  She was always full of compliments for us; the best shot of self-esteem a kid could have!  It was a true grandmother-granddaughter relationship. I never felt judged or unwanted.  I felt unconditional love.  Before Larson passed away, I was able to sit and visit on her porch with my own children.  She treated them the same; they too adored her.

The other grandmother in my life was my husband’s grandmother, Mama-Nu.  Words cannot describe the beauty of this woman!  I first met Mama Nu when my husband and I were engaged to be married.  She hugged me tight and said, “If my grandson loves you, then I love you – you are now my granddaughter!”  What a gift!  True to her word, Mama Nu always treated me as her granddaughter.  She had a twinkle in her eye and joy in her heart.  Everyone loved her and wanted to be around her.  What a special person.  It is 15 years today that she passed away, and she is sorely missed by all of her children and grandchildren.  It is impossible to think of her and not smile at some funny saying or antic she had come up with!

One day years ago, Mom was visiting us and she was able to walk next door with us and sit on Larson’s porch.  She and Larson spoke in French together.  Later on, Larson told me that my grandmother said her only regret in life was that she never learned English and could not speak to her grandchildren.

I consider myself very lucky in the grandmother department.  I know that I will see them all again one day.  When that day comes, I will get to know Maw-Maw and ask her to show me some of her dance moves.  I will thank her for the gift of my mother, who she raised to be the most excellent nurse, mother, and grandmother.

I will sit on Larson’s porch in heaven and finally have a conversation with Mom that we both understand.  I will thank her for the gift of her reverent and devoted acts; which spoke more loudly than any words could have.

And finally, I will greet my adopted grandmothers, Larson and Mama Nu and thank them for making me their granddaughter!  Their love and kindness is what guides me today in my role as a grandmother.

God Bless Grandmothers!

C’est Bon

Love,

Sherry

Father knows best

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones.  My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next year!  I never knew the pains of divorce.  I never even thought about it until I married my husband, who came from a divorced home.

As children, we take parents for granted.  They are just always there.  They feed us, clothe us, comfort us… A person never fully realizes the amount of self-sacrifice a parent goes through for their children until that person has a child of his or her own.

My father began practicing self-sacrifice as a child.  He was the youngest in a large family.  His parents were sharecroppers in the deep South. It was a hard life that was made even more difficult by the fact that my grandparents spoke only Cajun French.  When my Dad was in the eighth grade, his father suffered from a disabling stroke.  Because he was the only child left at home, my Dad quit school and went to work to support his parents who had aged prematurely due to their poverty and labor.

By eighteen, my Dad had bought his first house.  At twenty-five, he married my mom.  Together they raised four daughters and started a plumbing business.  My grandparents lived nearby and were always watched over by their youngest child.

Life was pretty routine.  Dad worked Monday through Friday.  Mom gave up a nursing career to stay at home and raise the children.  She cooked and cleaned during the work week.  Saturdays, Dad was fixing things, working in a garden; still not relaxing.  Sundays were different.  We all went to 10:00 am mass.  After mass, we visited Mom and Pop.  After the visit, Dad took us out for lunch.  When we returned home, Dad relaxed.  He took the seventh day off.

My Dad was the man of the house.  He expected his girls to be respectful of all adults and he made the final decisions of the household.  Of course his decisions were based upon my mother’s influence.  He was the disciplinarian.  We knew our place.  Our parents were the parents; we were the children.  If we were spanked or punished, it was with love and out of love for us.  In those days you just did not question your father!

I know my parents had times when they must have struggled.   I am sure my parents’ marriage had good moments and some not so good moments.  But they kept us oblivious to any stresses or concerns.  When times were really tough, we girls were unaware of any problems.  We were allowed to be children; care-free, filled with wonder and  faith. What a gift.

I can thank my earthly father for my relationship with my heavenly Father.  My Dad taught me to honor my Father and follow His guidelines and His good book.  I know that He created me.  He actually formed my soul and He has a plan for just me.  I know that all I have to do is surrender myself to His will.  There will be suffering and bad times in my life.  I have faith that these times only draw me closer to my Father, who only sends what I need out of love.  Loving my Dad made loving my heavenly Father so easy!

There are many children who are not as lucky.  For many different reasons, they are growing up with little time spent with their earthly father, or have no father at all.  These kids long for that father figure in their lives.  It is so important they find that connection with God the Father.  They need to understand His love and mercy for them.

1 John 3:10 “This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” 

People very often take their heavenly Father for granted.  Worship can become routine.  We go church, say our prayers, call upon the Lord when we are in need.  Take a moment to really ponder the greatness of our God.  If one really understands all the wonderful things the heavenly Father does for each of us, then worship becomes true worship.  We can be care-free children, full of faith and awe.  We can face each day and each struggle with confidence and strength, because we know that our FATHER KNOWS BEST!

C’est Bon

Love,

Sherry

The sound of Cajun

English: Cajun and Zydeco singer and songwrite...

English: Cajun and Zydeco singer and songwriter Zachary Richard in Paris, France with his group : “Le Bayou des mystères”. Français : L’auteur-compositeur-chanteur et accordéoniste Zachary Richard à Paris (ORTF, salle 104) en 1976. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in Cajun country.  The sounds of my youth were very different from the sounds heard by others my age living in a different part of the United States.  Cajuns are descendants of the exiled Acadians from Canada.  Because they were exiled and living in a foreign land with a foreign language, the Acadians formed a tight knit family community.  For many decades, they held onto their French language and much of their culture.

I heard Cajun French being spoken quite regularly while growing up.  My father’s parents spoke Cajun French and very little English.  We visited them every Sunday and my parents sat down with them for about an hour speaking a language that I was never taught.  My father as a child began school knowing only Cajun French.  He was admonished for speaking this language.  He was taught that the proper language was English.  Cajun French was looked upon as the language of the illiterate.  My mother’s parents also spoke Cajun French, but also spoke English.  She grew up knowing both languages;  but like my dad, she also grew up realizing the stigma over the use of Cajun French.

The generation of my parents did not teach their children Cajun French.  It was a language that I was very familiar with; but could not translate.  It was often spoken by the grown-ups when they did not want the children to understand the conversation.  It seemed to me like a secret code for adults.  I knew that an adult would speak to me in English; but get a few of them around speaking to each other – and the conversation would go from English to Cajun French and back and forth!

The music I heard as a child was mostly a mix of Country music and Cajun music.  Cajun music began with ballads of the French speaking Acadians in the 18th century in south Louisiana.  Sounds of the accordion, fiddle, and strong Cajun- accent singing was the norm when Daddy turned on his radio.  At the time I thought everyone heard this music. I did not appreciate the cultural differences of this unique genre of music.

It is only now that I can appreciate the depths of the culture that I grew up in but not really apart of.  Of course I picked up on some French words and terms.  There are some Cajun classics that I love, such as Louisiana Aces, “The Back Door”.  But now many of the sounds of my youth are gone.

My grandparents have long ago passed away.  My Dad said the other day that he has not spoken French in such a long time, that he has forgotten many of the words.  Cajun French is just not heard in normal every day life anymore.  The music has changed and grown.  The pioneers of this new Cajun music were Beausoleil and Zachary Richard.  Contemporary Cajun music is played by Wayne Toups and others.  But there is hope…

I recently discovered a Cajun group – L’Angelus.  This group is comprised of one Louisiana family, the Rees family.   The four oldest children are expert musicians and are producing music that pays homage to the Cajun fiddle tunes, the swamp-pop, as well as some New Orleans R&B.  I recommend their CD, CA C’EST BON.  Everything I’ve heard from this family, I really like.  They have such a great vocal harmony.

So, I am currently learning to speak Cajun French.  I am researching these wonderful Cajun ancestors.  I want to be able to teach my grandchildren about the culture of a people who in the face of the worst adversity, held onto their faith, their family, and their traditions.  I need to pass on the sounds of my youth…..the sound of Cajun!

C’est Bon

Love,

Sherry