Mahjong in the Puritan State

Mahjong in the Puritan State August 23, 2015

Our Mother of Sheshan - by Peter Potrowi (Shanghai_-_Basilique_de_She_Shan_-_12) [CC-BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Our Mother of Sheshan – by Peter Potrowi (Shanghai_-_Basilique_de_She_Shan_-_12) [CC-BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I was at a wedding yesterday at St Francis Xavier Parish in Vancouver, BC – which is one of the two Chinese Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese (that is, it’s Latin Rite for Chinese parishioners). The old retired priest, a guy with the illustrious name of Fr Aloysius Lou, gave the homily.

He was hilarious.

I won’t repeat the homily in full – this is, after all, a secular blog – but he did mention that prior to coming to Vancouver, he had worked in Hawai’i – or, what he called a ‘Puritan state.’ It turns out that, at least when he was working there, Hawai’i had a thing for outlawing vices, especially gambling. To his surprise, he found Chinese migrants in Hawai’i playing mahjong in, of all places, this Puritan state.

Not one to be caught dead simply capitulating to the Puritan state, Lou asked the mahjong players (as he recounted) whether they’d be shut down for breaking the law. They told him that they had actually won their right to play mahjong in court. They had hired a lawyer who argued that mahjong was not gambling because it required skill, not just luck.

This was a wedding. The point of Lou’s homily was that marriage, like mahjong, takes skill, not luck. The groom, of course, was, among many other things, a mahjong whiz kid.

I tell this story, of course, because it seems to put a new spin onto the discourse on Chinese Catholics on the ambivalent relationship between Asian America and the Puritan state. More later, but that homily made me think. After all, it’s always funny when Catholics call out the Puritan state.

POSTSCRIPT: Apparently, they have a shrine to Our Lady of Sheshan at the parish, so as Game of Thrones‘s Jon Arryn might have said, ‘The seed is strong!’


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