In love for others and love of life, ‘God is Cajun’
Growing up in Cajun Country, I have always taken my south Louisianan heritage for granted, never realizing how unique and distinguished it is from even our north Louisiana brothers and sisters. Doesn’t everyone have a maw-maw and paw-paw and eat boiled crawfish and gumbo for dinner?
About two years ago I was blessed to be in grad school with a deeply spiritual and insightful Ugandan priest-to-be named Father Simon Peter of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
As I sat with him one day picking his brain, it came upon me to ask him the question that had been burning in my mind and heart for a while: “So, Deacon SP (Simon Peter), how and why did you end up halfway across the world in south Louisiana of all places?”
His answer, after a long and drawn out pause, was “Well, because God is Cajun.”
Before I could ask him the anticipated follow-up question of “Huh?” he promptly excused himself and walked away, leaving me mulling over his deeply touching response.
However, the more I have pondered this insight – “Because God is Cajun” – I have come to realize many ways in which the fullness of Cajun culture actually reveals the divine attributes of the incarnate God-of-Love who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Here are three attributes that I find most enlightening and would like to share with you:
➤ Love of Life. Have you ever met a Cajun who doesn’t love the many joys of life? From food and spirits to music and dancing, we south Louisianans are renowned throughout the country for our uniquely Cajun French – bursting with flavor and zest – cuisine and celebrations. Similar to Christ’s “good wine,” with which he delighted the palates of the wedding guests at Cana (John 2:10), south Louisianans take great pride in spoiling their families and friends with their own “good wine.” Cajuns take very seriously God’s pronouncement of his creation as good and very good (Gen 1).
➤ Love of Others. It would be deceptive to imply that somehow a Cajun can celebrate life without the presence of others. The divine attribute and command to love others is abundantly tangible and present in the warmth of a South Louisianan home – or tailgate.
In a world that is becoming more and more estranged with electronic communication and anonymity, Cajun culture may be one of the last safe havens of truly authentic community in our country.
Whether it is a complete stranger being invited to share in an LSU tailgate or Mardi Gras party, the fullness of Cajun culture is open and welcoming of both strangers and friends as God commanded the Israelites (Lev 19:34) and his disciples with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37).
Just as Christ and the Father are one, his prayer incarnates in south Louisiana through our inherent openness to one another and inviting way of life.
➤ Love of God. Lastly, the best of Cajun culture is an openness to God in situations, both good and bad. south Louisiana’s roots are profoundly Catholic, as is evidenced with such parish names as Assumption, Ascension, St. Bernard and St. James, and the plethora of saintly street names on every corner.
But what signifies south Louisiana’s Catholic identity is not its parish and street names but the faith of its people. Our grace-laden Cajun culture is filled with people who have suffered both the worst and best of life – the crucifixion of Katrina and the resurrection of rebirth and renewal – and have never failed to turn toward God in either scenario.
The robust faith of our people is truly a blessing from on high that must continue to nurture and feed, most especially with the prayer and frequent participation in the sacraments.
We know from Scripture that we do not choose God first but that he first chooses us (Jn 15:16). Let us as a culturally faithful people continue to turn toward our God from whom all blessings flow. May we allow the continual renewal of our Cajun culture to begin with us so that the joy of the kingdom of God may continue to be present among us – “Because God is Cajun.”
Jordan Haddad is a theology teacher at Mount Carmel Academy.