The World of Grandpa Don

A matter of Ancestral Traditions

In March of 2008 I received the following email:

Dear Grandpa Don

 I have read of your experiences and the journey you traveled to reclaim your lost biological ancestral identity. Your story is quite fascinating and is in fact not very different from mine. Your experience, may be, will make it possible for you to give me a piece of advice. I am an African male born and bred in South Africa 43 years ago. My father is still alive though very sick. When he was young he was made to adopt the surname and clan name of his older half brother. His brother and him do not share the same father. He never saw his half brotherís father as he separated with their mother ten years before he (my father) was born. His mother however made him adopt his older half brotherís clan name and surname though she never hid the fact that they had different fathers.

 As we grew up we would ask our father about his paternal lineage and he would lie to us and refer us to his elder half brother for answer and he in turn would tell us that they shared both parents. We have just discovered that they had two different fathers and my father does not deny this. However, he (my father) does not want to change and reclaim his lost ancestral identity claim to fear the wrath of his current adopted ancestors in spite of advices he is given of the African traditional rituals he should perform if he wants a smooth crossing over to his real ancestral lineage. I and my sisters on the other hand want to change everything and reclaim our biological paternal lineage for our own sake and for the sake of our children.

 I hope and pray that you read this letter and advise us accordingly

 Kindest regards

(Name withheld for confeduality)

My first reaction was one of awe and humility that this man would hold me in such high esteem that he would ask my advice in a matter that is so important to him. After giving some thought to the matter this was my reply:

Dear ------------,
Yes, our stories have a common thread and at the same time, as all our lives, have many differences. It is my belief that we should celebrate the differences and learn from them rather than reject them.
I can only tell you about my approach to discovering my ancestral traditions and they of course have been based in Christian beliefs, but at the same time very different branches of Christianity, Some of my biological ancestors were Lutheran, some were based in the Congregational and Anglican  branches of Christianity, all Protestant groups. As it happened, I was adopted by a Catholic couple and in times past there was great animosity between Catholics and Protestants.
It never occurred to me that I should change, reject my Catholic beliefs and faith to appease my ancestors or for any other reason. It is not that I dishonor them or reject them for their religious traditions for I do not. It is my belief that we owe allegiance to the same God, the one who created all of us. How we practice this allegiance varies with our traditions and in these days especially, with individual beliefs.
My biological (half) brother was raised in a mixture of Catholic and Protestant traditions ... Our mother was Lutheran while his father was Catholic and his present wife is Catholic. My other (half) brother and (half) sisters were likewise raised in a changed situation in that our father was Protestant and their mother was Catholic and they follow the Catholic faith at this time.
You obviously live in a tradition where your ancestors are held in very high regard (as they should). It would seem to me that their Ancestral identity can not be lost or found ... they are what they are, It is only our knowledge of them that can be lost. I have found that traditions evolve and change, albeit slowly and sometimes painfully.  I would hope that we can either keep the traditions with which we are familiar or change them without dishonoring ancestors from either line.
I often pray for my ancestors, both those of the parents who gave me life and the parents who nurtured that life, for without any of them my life would not be the same. I pray that they and I will be united in paradise where we will find our different beliefs and traditions to be simply the manifestations of man's ignorance of God's truth and intent. We will all be in harmony in that place.
This harmony (in my belief) will include you, my distant brother, and all your ancestors as well. All our differences will have melted away for we will be with the God who created all of us. He created us and we created the differences. It is God, I believe, who will prevail.
I hope that all of this, written from the standpoint of my beliefs and traditions, make some sense to you. I am guided and influenced by traditions which are very different than yours. If you consider this as advice be aware that it is free advice and probably worth all that you paid for it.
Thank you for visiting The World of Grandpa Don and for your kind words. You are welcome to visit often and to tell your friends about it. I am honored that you would ask my opinion about such a personal subject.

To this I would only add that I hope the esteemed gentleman understands my intent. His people may practice a form of ancestor worship. After all, they have survived this life and now, having risen to a higher plain of existence, now guide the lives of their descendants still living.   Our  beliefs ore somewhat different. We (as Catholics, at least) believe that they have also departed to a higher plain but being imperfect at death remain for a time in a state of being we call Purgatory to be purged of what imperfection remains so they may be admitted to the perfection of Heaven. We pray that the duration of this purging can be influenced, shortened,  by our prayers for them.

At the same time we have no way of knowing their status with God. So, we also hope that if they are indeed with God in Heaven and no longer have need of our pleas on their behalf, they will say to God, "see how they still love us, ... help them in their needs." And so we do hope for their intervention with God on our behalf and our beliefs have a parallel with those of my friend in Africa. 

All this makes sense to me. I do not understand it all myself but it is my faith and faith is believing what is not understood. I will however understand it all when I reach heaven, or ... it may be that I won't need to understand because everything is so perfect.

My Beliefs

These are presented in no particular order but are listed as they come to mind. They are mine and I do not intend to impose them on anyone else. If you come to accept them, I am happy to share them. These beliefs have been accumulated during my entire life but mostly during the most recent years. They come out of personal experience, and the teaching of others. 

A matter of Ancestral Traditions 

The World of Grandpa Don 

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