Last year I submitted an article on Vietnamese Marianism to a journal based in Asia, and the submission received split decisions from the anonymous reviewers. The comments, especially from the reviewer who found it problematic, were quite good. I am not an intellectual sadist or a glutton for punishment. But I’ll admit to feeling certain gladness when receiving a more critical or negative feedback from anonymous reviewers, including this one.

Why? Because I believe the exchange of scholarship should be rigorous. The proliferation of academic journals in the humanities is a good thing in some respects. But it might have also diluted the rigor of criticism. True, I was pretty happy when my submission to a different journal received the verdict “publish right away”: that is, without the need for revision. But it was rare, and it should be rare. The majority of submissions are (a) rejected, (b) requested for revise-and-resubmit, or (c) accepted with revision. In the past two years, I experienced all three decisions in addition to the “publish right away” category. (It’s funny–or weird–that I submitted four different articles to four different journals and they received four different decisions.) Rigours comments and fair-minded recommendations from anonymous reviewers are therefore crucial for editors to reach one of these decisions.

Having talked to some academic friends about anonymous reviews, I know that not all critical feedback is helpful. Some comments that they received from reviewers who recommended rejection were wrong-headed. Fortunately for me thus far, the feedback to my submissions has been mostly helpful. I’d guess that it was the combination of (a) journal editors with sharp eyes who ask the right kind of reviewers on a particular topic; and (b) conscientious and fair-minded work among the reviewers themselves.

In my own service as peer reviewer, I have marked “not ready for publication” nearly as often as I have recommended “publish with some revision.” I too seek to be conscientious when reading a manuscript, to be fair to the argument and evidence, to exercise my critical acumen in pointing out problems and shortcomings, and, ultimately, to be helpful to the journal editors and authors. My feedback is therefore on the longish; and indeed the only regret that I have had about my peer-review service thus far is that I wasn’t critical enough and didn’t type more comments on a manuscript that was eventually published. 

Back to the manuscript on Vietnamese Marianism, I actually didn’t begin revising it until late August or early September. The most substantial change is probably the enlargement of the scope from South Vietnam during 1954-1975 to include also Marianism in all of Vietnam during 1940-1954, the period of decolonization that saw  a series of dramatic and violent events. 

This change comes partially because of the secondary sources that I read on and off during the summer,  before I began to rewrite the article. Those sources are about countries other than Vietnam, and they indicate that there was a lot more going on about Marianism during the 1940s and the 1950s.  There were implications about Marianism in Vietnam. In addition, I found a few new primary sources from the 1940s. (A big thanks to Melissa Pichette and Interlibrary Loan at Pepperdine!) It also helped that the word count was allowed to grow another 4000 words from the initial draft.

Still, the section on South Vietnam is a good deal longer than the section on the period of decolonization due to primary sources. Which brings me to the subject of this post: a single page from a Marian devotional magazine. This issue was published in 1962, and this page comes from the news section. It gives a nice example of the intersectionality between global and local Marianism. 

SVN Marianism 1962

There are five items on this page. First is the news that a number of university students in Huế organized a pilgrimage to La Vang that saw the participation of nearly 200 students from Saigon.

The next item, the shortest, reads: Thanks to the generosity of the [Catholic] faithful in the Netherlands, a new church has been constructed to honor Our Lady in Oslo, the capital of Norway. We should note that the population of Norway is mostly Protestant.  

The third item is about the Vietnamese hierarchy, which was conceiving and planning to found a new religious order of Vietnamese missionaries. The order would be named after Our Lady of La Vang, and the Archbishop of Huế, Ngô Đình Thục, was apparently very involved because he had already set out some land by the La Vang Church (which was raised to a minor basilica a few months earlier) for the use of this order.

The fourth and fifth items take readers to North America. First was the participation of “thousands of the faithful” at a Marian congress in San Diego. Held at the ballroom of the University of San Diego, the event held prayer and hymn-singing for the reparation of the Immaculate Heart, which was a popular devotion at the time.

The last item is about the tour of the Pilgrim Virgin, a touring statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was entrusted to the care of the U.S.-based international organization The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. It traveled to Alberta, Canada on the occasion of a centennial celebration and stayed there for five months. This news item notes that the statue had been blessed by Pope John XXIII during the international tour of 1958-1960. (Pius XII also blessed it during the early 1950s.)

Without access to Catholic periodicals during the colonial era, I suspect but cannot say for certain that there was a mix of global and local news regarding Marianism before 1940. But it was common during 1954-1975, an outcome of the intersections of global and domestic developments during decolonization. My article discusses some of it. I had a great time revising it, thanks partially to the challenge of the split decisions a year ago.

ThanhTam-LuocSu-1-3 OLPH
Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the early church of Thánh Tâm [Sacred Heart] in Hố Nai, Biên Hòa. Standing are founding Redemptorist pastor and a parishioner.  The parish was later administered by Dominicans. ~ pc giaoxugiaohoivietnam.com