Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mary Among the Hmong

I wanted to share some excerpts from interviews I did for my BA. These "excerpts" are pretty long, but they're interesting, and they give you some idea of how Hmong Catholics think about and approach Mary.

Part 1: "Like when I was talking about like rites and rituals, I mean, like in/like we're saying, like I was saying, I think no one questions communion [mmhmm], you know, we, we understand that. But I think some of the other things that the Hmong haven’t practiced - that I, I’ve noticed big in other ethnic groups - is like, for example, the veneration of Mary [mmhmm]. um, like I know like in the Spanish-speaking community, that, that's really important to them: Mary is a really, uh, a, a real central figure to them, and I don't know if it's be/the reason why it's not with the Hmong is because she has not revealed herself to us - not that I know of, - and maybe that she doesn't resonate with us, so I think some people do - like, I'll admit that she still hasn't resonated with me [mmhmm], and I don't know if it's maybe, because I wasn't/I'm not a cradle Catholic. I under/like, I can look at her from a like an academic view and say, “Okay, I know Mary is. I know why the Catholics find her important.” But, how, you know, or certain saint. I know why this Saint is important, but why doesn't, like, why doesn't this Saint resonate with me? Why don't I feel that same passion? [mmhmm] because may, maybe I haven't come across a situation where I can relate, and I think that's how I learned from [friend], ‘cause I told her, I said, “well, do you think, that's the thing: sometimes, when people are talking about Mary … I mean, like, I'm a mom, but somehow it doesn't/what is/I under, I can understand it from an academic point of view, but why doesn't it resonate for us?” So, she was like, “well, I think it's just like, she can be a figure for like when you are going through hard times. Then you have to think, well, think about Mary, who had to witness her son's death -what she would’ve/what was she feeling? how did she survive that? and look to her to find that strength.” That's how now, that's how Mary started resonating with me, so that, when things do happen in my life, I'll say, well, well, how/I mean, look at Mary, you know, she, um, she had to sit there and witness her son being crucified [mmhmm], you know, and even like everything that's been going on, I'm always thinking - especially with the culture thing, you know, how, how can we the faith through our culture, - the think I always feel, what would Jesus do? (haha) . . . You know, so I, I/I always think like that. I think like/or like Paul [the Apostle], for him, he resonates with me a lot (ahaha). You know, I wouldn't, you know … I would be like, you know, what would Paul have said, or what would he have done, and I/I do once I come across, um, situations or just things/instances, I do question that. I turned to them - those figures."

It's interesting how Jesus and Paul resonate more with the speaker than does Mary, and that, moreover, the speaker even goes so far as to say that Mary does not (has not yet) resonate(d) with the Hmong.

Part 2: "well, I could tell you, um, lot’ta people say that, because we’re Catholic and we believe, we worship Mary, be - uh, eh, eh … and I always tell them, no, we don't worship Mary. Mary is a significant figure of Jesus, and it is Jesus mom, and we recognize her as a mother of Jesus, and we pray, we ask for him, ask her to help us and guide us [mmhmm], but there is no shape or form that we worship her [mmhmm]. Okay? They talk about, uh, uh, you know, they say that the religion that we, that I was in is not as pure as other religion. I say, there is no religion out there that is pure [mmhmm]. Okay?"

" … one lady approached me with and say your religion is not pure, because you don't believe in God. You don't believe in Jesus. You worship Mary, so, therefore, your faith is not as good as ours, because we believe, uh, there’s God, and there's Jesus, and I told this lady, “you are wrong … I told her right away, up front, “you know, I pray to Mary. I asked Mary to help me. I do all the things that I request from God or Jesus, but on Sunday, when I go into church, mm, Mary have never come to a, a, a conversation or from the clergy or the priests say, we worship you Mary. [mmhmm.] (hehe) We pray for you, we, you know, request prayer from you [mmhmm] to, you know, help us, support us, because you are the mother of, because you know, um, you are the mother of Jesus, so we look upon you for this, that, the service and support that you are - you know, a mother to the greatest creator of us . . . If you tell, if you say to me that I worship Mary, and I think you're wrong, because you don't know the full extent of Mary figure to us, and you just hear people say, “oh, you are Catholic (sle), so you talk a lot about Mary, you must worship Mary.” No! You know, I have a good three hour conversation with her, this lady, she keep bringing up again and again and I, I, you know, you talk to the person who have education about religion [mmhmm], and, uh, you know, you asked me the wrong question. You attack me the wrong way [mmhmm], and you ask me, you know, be honest with you, there is nobody out there worship Mary [mmhmm]. We asked Mary, because Mary is Jesus mother, and is the person that God give a gift to her, so we need to appreciate who she is, and ask for assistance from her [mmhmm]. Now, I praying, and asking Mary doesn't mean that I worship her [mmhmm]. Okay? . . . we only ask Mary for support [mmhmm]. Okay? We, um, understand that Mary is a important figure to Jesus and to God, because they'll give, uh, from him, so, uh, if you talk about going Sunday and talk about it, we don't, we don't go and, and, and, you know, always talk about Mary and Jesus, and we won't talk about God and every figure. We even talk about Moses. We talk about John. We talk about all those … saints - all those people. But are we worship all of them? No. We only worship God. We only talk when we go Sunday's, you know when we go talk about God, we, you know . . . We all follow one rule: you know, Jesus and God. Every other figure are, you're asking for support and for help. Yes, there are, there might be somebody think Mary is very important [heh], and, you know, constant do it [mmhmm], but … how do I know? You know, they might just be asking Mary for support [mmhmm], but I can go and say, “you know what, hey you, every day you eat and drink and you talk about Mary, you must worship Mary.” That's not true. That's not true . . . . I have education about it. I read about it. I had people told me about it, and even my priest, my, um, my, uh, sisters, my parish member, everybody tell me that we not worship her. We, she is a important figure for Catholic (sle) - for faith. Because, we gotta understand that Mary is the mother of Jesus, and we had the children, she should be a mother to us."

These passages highlight, among other things, how people outside the Catholic Church sometimes think about the ways in which Catholics treat and interact with Mary.


1 comment:

  1. This is a great insight into the role that Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, plays in the Hmong community. I'm from Fresno, California which I believe has the largest or second largest Hmong community in the U.S. I remember several Hmong schoolmates being Catholic but never got to have a conversation on faith.

    I wonder what the gender of the first interviewee is...? Perhaps it influences the way Mary is revered and perceived? The Hmong family culture is very patriarchal so it would make sense that a male resonates more with Jesus and Paul than Mary. It may be baffling in ways, especially for Asian cultures, for a woman figure to be esteemed so highly, even in the spiritual realm.

    Thanks for sharing!!