Log in
    

Vietnamese devotion to the Blessed Mother

The Vietnamese Catholic community in Vermont has a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.
 
“We were taught that when we have a hard time with something, you come to her,” explained Thao Vu, a native of Saigon who has lived in Vermont for 15 years. “She helps.”
 
Vu, now an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and religious education teacher at St. Mark Church in Burlington, said most Catholic churches in Vietnam have statues of Our Lady outside with a prayer garden: “Everybody is welcome to sit there and pray and be peaceful.”
 
About 150 members of the Vietnamese Catholic community gather monthly at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington for Mass celebrated by a Vietnamese priest from Canada who also hears confessions.
 
Vu, the mother of two daughters, said in Vietnamese culture mothers are highly respected. “She takes care of the whole family: Mom is the best!”
 
So it makes sense that Vietnamese Catholics revere the Blessed Mother. “The first prayer we have to learn is ‘Hail Mary,’” Vu said, adding that the rosary is a particularly important devotion as is praying the ‘Hail Mary’ for safe travels before taking a trip.
 
Thousands of Vietnamese Catholics from throughout the United States attend the annual Marian Days in Carthage, Mo., each August to celebrate faith and fellowship in honor of the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary and in memory of their homeland.
 
Vu has never attended the event that has taken place since 1978 on the campus of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, but she hopes to someday.
 
“If you want something, you ask your mother,” she said, explaining why she asks in prayer for Mary’s intercession. “In my heart my mother has a special place. In [Jesus’] heart He has a special place for His mother. He cannot say no to her, hopefully.”
 
Originally published in the Summer 2017 Vermont Catholic magazine.
 

Jesus, Mary and the rosary

There’s an old jewelry box at my house; it’s tucked away in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and it’s full of rosaries. Almost all of them have some sort of story attached to them, which is one of the reasons they are still with me – that and the fact that just about all of them have been blessed. They form a kind of spiritual anchor for me, and every once in a while I take them out and look at them, running my fingers over the different styles of beads and crucifixes, remembering who they came from or in what circumstances they came my way.
 
One of my earliest encounters with the rosary happened when I was four years old, and I’m sorry to say that it was less than devout. My mother, and many of the other women in the parish, belonged to the Legion of Mary; among other things, they used to do a “block rosary” once a week.  This meant that each member took a turn hosting the prayer at her house. I’m sure that coffee and dessert were also involved, but what sticks in my memory isn’t the food but rather that circle of women, all kneeling on someone’s living room rug, reciting the rosary together.
 
One of the weeks when the gathering was at our house, I was allowed to stay up way past my bedtime and pray with the ladies. This may have been a lapse of judgment on my mother’s part, because before the first decade was concluded, I decided it would be great fun to fall over sideways on the carpet. It was, in fact, so amusing that I did it a few more times before I finally stayed down for the count and fell sound asleep. Needless to say, I was tucked into bed long before the coffeecake was served.
 
Thankfully, as I grew older, my appreciation and respect for the rosary also grew.  When my CCD classmates and I made our First Communion, for instance, one of the gifts each of us received was a rosary, and one of the things that made it special was what it was made of. Rather than crystal or wood or something like that, these beads were white and glowed in the dark. That might not seem like a very big thing, except when you are seven and monsters have visited you in your dreams; then you could always find your rosary, glowing gently on the nightstand next to the bed. Many nights Mary lulled me back to peaceful sleep as I clutched the beads that protected me from things that went bump in the night.
 
I went through the rosary box recently, and it was like a visit with old friends. But mostly it was a reminder of how protected and loved I am. Life, on occasion, presents different “monsters” to me now, but praying the rosary reminds me that, no matter what happens, Jesus and Mary are never far away.
 
 Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 

Msgr. Lavalley's special devotion

A few days before Msgr. Richard G. Lavalley was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington in 1964, his spiritual director and confessor went to his seminary room and gave him a five-by-seven-inch picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He told the Rutland native he hoped on the day of his ordination he would consecrate his priesthood to Our Lady under this title.
 
He did.
 
And his devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help continues.
 
Now pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski, he begins each day standing in his room in front of an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help; he recites a special prayer, asking for her help to do his priestly work.
 
The icon depicts Jesus as a child, in the arms of his mother, with one small hand in her hand. Symbolically Msgr. Lavalley places his hand between theirs.
 
The Byzantine icon is believed to have its origin in the 13th-15th Century.
 
Above the mother and child are the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, hovering in the upper corners. They hold the instruments of the Passion: St. Michael holds the spear, the wine-soaked sponge and the crown of thorns. St. Gabriel holds the cross and the nails.
 
The Child Jesus is depicted as contemplating the vision of His future Passion: Frightened by the vision, he had run to his mother for consolation, not stopping to fasten his sandal. “She is His perpetual help,” Msgr. Lavalley said, explaining, “Whatever God has in store for us – sometimes laughter sometimes tears, sometimes Good Friday, sometimes Easter Sunday – it is God’s will. Our Lady stands with you.”
 
He continued, “If we give ourselves to Our Lady, she will be there” at all the events of life.
 
Msgr. Lavalley attended Christ the King School in Rutland where his first-grade teacher, the late Sister Bridget Moroney, a Sister of St. Joseph, had a profound influence on his life and became a lifelong friend. He sent her a dozen red roses each Christmas until she died to thank her for a wonderful first grade.
 
The Lavalley family moved to Burlington when he was beginning sixth grade, a decision that troubled him because he wanted to attend Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland for high school. Little did he know, that after his ordination he would spend 18 years at the school.
 
Instead of MSJ, he graduated from Cathedral High School in 1955 then attended seminary in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. He began his priestly ministry at St. Peter Church in Rutland and years later served as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield. A former vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington, he has served as a teacher at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, was a teacher and the principal at Mount St. Joseph Academy and was a chaplain at Norwich University in Northfield and chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy in Burlington.
 
Now 80 and the oldest pastor in the diocese, Msgr. Lavalley often preaches about Our Lady and relates his appreciation of the Annunciation. “She gives us the key to holiness. It’s one word: Yes,” he said. “Every time we say ‘yes’ to God, we are imitating Our Lady. Every time we say ‘yes’ to God, Jesus happens again in us.”
 
After the Annunciation, the angel left Mary, and “she let God be in charge; she had trust in Him,” he said.
 
People are called to be saints, he emphasized, and Our Lady can help by interceding through her prayer. “We do not worship her. We worship only God. We honor her; we honor the saints.”
 
As he looks to the future, Msgr. Lavalley keeps Our Lady close. “I don’t want to retire. I love what I do,” he said. “We desperately need priests…and that’s what I am, a priest.”
 
He loves being a priest because of the sacramental life of the Church and because of his community. “I love the people. I love this parish,” he said. “And for the most part, they love me. I know that, and I feel that.”
 
So, he said, “If Our Lady gives me some time, (I) will use it…for just being a parish priest.”
 
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal