Hispanas/Latinas tend to be very strong women: “Mujeres Fuertes.” I have quite a few of these “alpha females” in my family. They run the show and are not to be crossed! Historically, there was always at least the abuela who would pray for and admonish her progeny, especially in matters of faith.
But for me personally, and as is the case in a growing number of Hispanic/Latino households, that no longer is the norm or majority. Sadly, over the years, more and more members of my family — both women and men — have strayed away from being practicing Catholics. And while I myself can be a strong personality, I’ve never been a match for the alpha women in my family … until, perhaps, now.
As part of a generational shift, myself and many other young Latinas have been put in an interesting position where we’ve become the new spiritual matriarchs of our families. Maybe this is your story, too. In my family, whenever there is a question about faith and morals, who does the familia ask? Me. It’s a weighty responsibility that takes careful navigation to answer their questions with honesty and by presenting a solid knowledge of the Faith. On top of that, because Hispanics/Latinos are very strict about honoring our elders, the way I say and present things has to be done with great tact and care. For example, how do I tell my tío, respectfully, “You’re wrong/that is wrong to do”?
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There is also a huge spiritual weight that comes with being a spiritual matriarch, especially with 26 younger cousins that are always looking to me as a role model. Since few others in my family attend Mass or receive the sacraments frequently, in a way, their only contact with grace and the sacraments comes via their interactions with me. True, God works outside of time and circumstances, but in a very real way grace, prayers and good works rest quite heavily upon my shoulders. I’m the anchor, the last lifeline left to pull a very large family of generally good people back into the safe harbor of the Faith. I have a responsibility — and not one that I would necessarily have freely chosen — to pray for them and offer up what I do for their conversion.
It is a lonely road, but seeing other Hispanas/Latinas who are going to Mass on their own as well and trying to positively influence their families is both a comfort and an inspiration to keep going forward: Siempre adelante! And not only do I have my fellow “new matriarchs” in the Faith, but I have the Communion of Saints, Our Lady and so many other faithful Catholics to help me carry this burden. I especially like to look to St. Monica as an example of someone who kept praying and offering sacrifices for her wayward loved ones. She reminds me that no prayer or sacrifice is in vain, and even though we may not see all the fruits of our labors here in this life, we will surely see them in the next.