Mingled minorities

  • July 3, 2007
When I was three years old, I was unable to organize my thoughts and speak either French or English. My dad spoke to my brother and me only in French. My mom spoke to us in English.
My brother was a natural at learning languages, but I wasn’t. This caused a lot of frustration when I wanted something and my parents didn’t understand me. They sent me to French school when I was four and I’ve been studying in French ever since.

I went to a French public arts high school. I was accepted into the theatre program when I entered Grade 9. My teacher would call me an anglophone because of my accent. She lived in Hull, Que., across the river from Ottawa, and didn’t seem to understand my situation as an Ontarian francophone student. The majority of the students in my class spoke to both of their parents in French, but my mother tongue was English. All of my extracurricular activities were in English and I spoke to my brother and sister in English.

Because speaking French is a requirement for many jobs in Ottawa, it’s important for us to speak fluent French. I decided to continue my university studies in French to broaden my career opportunities. However, my print journalism professor thought poorly of my writing because he noticed my English accent when I spoke. He’s not from Ontario either.

Somehow, my friend from high school and I didn’t do as well as the students from Quebec. French students are a minority at my school. The University of Ottawa is a bilingual institution and yet anglophones are constantly complaining about how service is offered in French first, then in English. The university has to protect the 30 per cent of its students studying in French.

French-speaking people in Ottawa are a minority within a minority (French-Canadians). Practising Catholics are also a minority within a minority (practising Christians).

The government has changed laws to allow same-sex marriage. Who will protect our rights as Catholics in an increasingly atheistic country? Many of us feel pressured by the world to do certain things such as controlling our own lives, obtaining jobs that will pay us well, living in a big house and owning at least two cars. Material possessions will stay on this planet when we die. Why invest so much time and energy into things that will break and pass away?

Recently I was speaking with a friend on MSN about Catholicism and he told me why he didn’t agree with me on Catholic teachings on drunkenness, pre-marital sex and the role of women in the church. Most of his arguments were based on his interpretation of Catholicism.

How many fights have been fought because of miscommunication and a lack of understanding? Just as I felt frustrated at three years old because my parents didn’t understand me, many Catholics feel hurt and rejected when those who don’t understand them misrepresent them. The Bible really isn’t that hard to understand, but because Jesus’ ways are not our ways and we sometimes struggle with His message, we try to “soften” it.

If we want non-Catholics to understand why we do what we do, like go to Confession, take Communion, dip our fingers in holy water and pray the rosary among other things, we must explain ourselves and not be ashamed of our faith.

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