Fr. Thanh’s Mailbox



November 28, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Our liturgical year has come to an end, and  we begin a new season of Advent —Year “C.”  Perhaps, as most of us may be aware,  the word “advent”  is derived from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming” or “arrival.”

In the ancient past,  at the end of the 4th century, pious Christians observed Advent not as a time of preparation for Christmas as we do nowadays, but rather as a time to prepare themselves for the manifestation of God of himself to the world in the person of Jesus Christ, known as Epiphany.  

In the 6th century,  Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) was the first church official to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ—not the coming of Christ-child—but the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world.  The meaning and familiar format of the season of Advent that we experience today was not observed and practiced until the Middle Ages.

During the season of Advent, the prophet Isaiah reminds us to wait and prepare ourselves for the coming of  Christ. This is a critical time simply because it is a time to wait!

  • Advent keeps us from rushing into Christmas without preparation of the heart and soul.
  • Advent allows us to savor the moments of mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

Watching in waiting  allows us to be more sensitive to the coming of the Lord—to slow down the Christmas rush—and to call us beyond the noisy commercialization and hurry that robs so many of us of the joy and peace we seek at Christmas.

Thus Advent is a season for great expectations. It is a special time for being spiritually alert.
If our heart is right  and our mind expectant, we will experience that the coming of Christ
is indeed “the reason for the season.”

Fr. Thanh


November 21, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

In reality, God has given us a variety of blessings and satisfied a lot of our desires and dreams. But why are we still suffering? It is simply because we have a tendency to use other people’s happiness to “punish” ourselves.

Why do I say “using other people’s happiness to ‘punish’ ourselves”?

Because when we see someone’s God-given blessings, we secretly compare theirs with ours and then feel bad because we don’t have what they have.

If we keep looking at other people’s things instead of cherishing what we have, we accidentally shut our doors and emotionally injure ourselves.

Here are three (3) bad habits that can destroy your happiness and joie de vivre:

          1. Habitually overestimating someone’s happiness
          2. Habitually exaggerating your suffering and misery
          3. Habitually comparing your disadvantages with someone’s advantages.

Is this true? Someone’s good luck is a good thing, but we use it as a means to “punish” ourselves. If we look at the happiness of others with unnecessary envy and jealousy, we are the ones who suffer.

God has given each one of us different blessings. 

Some people are successful in business, but they may not be physically healthy.
Others have physical beauty, but their marriage could be in shambles.
Still other people are extremely intelligent, but they often lose sleep at night.

Every one of us has our own kind of blessings—why not use our generous hearts to treat ourselves with kindness and self-satisfaction? In brief, if we cherish what we have instead of comparing them to other people’s blessings we will discover that our lives are truly rich and abundant.

We need to stop looking over each other’s fences. Indeed!

Fr. Thanh



November 7, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

In days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the tide before it could make it to port. The term for this situation in Latin was “ob portu,” that is, a ship standing over against port waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to the harbor. The English word “opportunity” is derived from this original meaning. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for that one moment, for they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.

You may remember one of the most famous passages of William Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Take advantage of your opportunities.
Every day is, in a real sense, a blank check. We can make of it what we will. Every day offers us the opportunity to be a friend to
someone who is lonely. Every day gives us the chance to take a stand for justice against social inequalities. Every day presents us
with the privilege of learning more about our faith and the world. Every day furnishes us with the possibility to bring light to those
who are sullen and downcast.

We tend to think of “opportunity” as something that lies in the distant future. We dream of all that we could do and be if only
given a chance. But opportunity knocks at our door every day that we live, with every breath that we draw.

“Make hay while the sun still shines.” (English proverb)

Fr. Thanh


October 31, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

I want to begin our weekly reflection with a story that I found in Anthony de Mello’s book, The Song of the Bird.

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with a large crop of dandelions. He tried every method he knew to get rid of them. Still, they plagued him.

Finally, he wrote the Department of Agriculture.  He enumerated all the things he had tried and closed his letter with a question: “What shall I do now?”

In due course, the reply came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”

In our lifetime, we have diligently worked to create a perfect lawn. We have tried to weed out our life’s sins, shortcomings, failings and things we judge unacceptable. And, throughout the years, what we have discovered is that our dandelions have a system of deep roots. They disappear for a while, but somehow, they come back. Rather than weeding them out, I suggest that we need to learn to love them.

Our dandelions may be anger, bitterness, loneliness, disappointment or frustration. Over the years, you may have experimented with a variety of weed killers such as denial, hard work, food, material goods, sex, alcohol or, in the words of a popular song,  “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

I remember a quotation by St. Augustine“O God, my heart is restless until it rests in you.” By dealing with your dandelions through prayer and by bringing them to God, you can learn to love them and see them as friends rather than enemies because only God within can give you the strength and wisdom to manage to live with them in peace and harmony.

Your lawn, of course, was ruined.  But how attractive your garden has become!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh


October 24, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

When I was still a seminarian at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, I loved to watch a weekly program on TV called “Father Dowling Mysteries.” It was a make-believe series about a nun and a priest who ran around catching criminals while they left the parish administration to his nervous and clumsy assistant priest.

When an episode ran more than one hour, the phrase “TO BE CONTINUED. . .” appeared on the TV screen at the end of the first part. I want to borrow this phrase to talk about an important aspect of the Mass that we celebrate every Sunday.

One Sunday morning, a Faith Formation catechist asked her students, “Which part of the Mass is the most important part?”

 After a short pause, one of her students answered, “The Dismissal Rite is the most important part of the Mass.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the teacher with surprise while other students were giggling.

The student replied with a tone of seriousness, “The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the words of God and with the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth to bear witness to the Lord and to bring the kingdom of God into existence.”

The student continued, “The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite when the priest says, ‘The Mass is ended. Let us go in peace.’ In a sense, it begins with it. We must go forth and proclaim to all the people that JESUS is risen. We must proclaim that JESUS lives on in and through our lives.”

The student was absolutely correct!

Every week, we attend Mass in order to get energy, strength, and courage to go out to witness God’s love and announce his Good News to the world. And, at the end of the week, we get tired and even exhausted, so we go back to the church to get renewed and rejuvenated and recharged for the mission.

In a very true sense, the Dismissal Rite is the most important part of the Mass.

Fr. Thanh


October 17, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

We are living in a time of uncertainty. The Coronavirus pandemic, the unrest in the world, the earthquake in Haiti, the hurricane in eastern United States, and numerous things elsewhere overseas will get worse before they get better.

Living in such times, we soon realize we are not in control of the physical world. The challenge we face is to have faith in God and not lose hope for the future. If God worked wonders in the past, he can repeat them now and in the future. We cannot afford to believe God lives only in the past and not in the future. In a time of crisis, when we enter a dark valley of our lives, faith is imperative! 

We are familiar with Jesus’ words to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.” (John 14: 1).

In a way, he says the same you and me today. You and I will never lose our faith because it is part of our make-up. If we do not put faith in God, we will likely put our faith elsewhere. Each of us has enough of this raw material in life. We need to put it into practice. Faith means taking chances, and where there is risk, there could always be failure.

Some things in life we can only learn by trying them out ourselves.
—You cannot learn how to be courageous by reading adventure stories.
—You cannot learn how to be loving by reading romantic poetry.
It is better to fail in an attempt at courage than to succeed in the act of timidity.
So, we need to live in the confidence of life rather than the certainty of death.

Christian discipleship is a way of living, and living is an adventure of faith. No one knows how it will turn out until they try. Jesus asks you and me to take a similar chance on him. He invites us into a relationship. The only ones who will ever know for sure are those who try it.

Faith means taking chances.

Fr. Thanh


October 10, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

A few weeks ago, on my way back from Lower Cape Fear Hospice Center, I stopped by to visit an elderly parishioner. She is in her late 70s, and her mother died ten years ago at the age of 96. She repeated to me the last words her mother had spoken to her:  “Don’t give up!”

A casual conversation with her has inspired me to come up with this reflection. I find myself remembering an old adage that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

In our skeptical society, I am aware that this kind of talk seems to be foolish. But before we trash it out, we may be wise to take a closer look. It could be that it has something relevant to say about our lives.

If you study the biography of any successful man or woman, including great saints of the Catholic Church such as Sts. Peter and Paul, you may be surprised to learn that, in the midst of their successes, there is a large dose of failures as well. They are successful simply because they refuse to quit! Failure is fatal only for the person who gives up and throws in the towel.

What you and I need to learn is that success is not a plateau. It’s a process. It is really not so much an arrival as it is a striving after.

I have become convinced that people who succeed in any area of life have this one thing in common—when they fall down, they get back up. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

The next time you take your grandson to baseball practice or your daughter to a
soccer game, remember the slogan in sports personalities’ locker room:
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

May God give us the wisdom and courage to put this insightful thought into practice in our lives.

Fr. Thanh


October 3, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Many of us are not patient by nature. We want what we want as soon as possible. That is why we have instant oatmeal, instant coffee and one-hour photo processing.

It is not easy for us to wait for anything. Do you find yourself becoming impatient in traffic? The light turns GREEN, but the car in front of you slowly moves. By the time you reach the intersection, the light is RED again. That means you have to wait another minute or so. It makes you angry enough to chew your nails.

We are not patient people, are we?

Robert Bruce was a famous Scotch general. In the early 14th century, he tried to drive the English out of Scotland. But he was not successful because the English were too strong. Finally, Bruce ran away and hid in a cave. One day he lay in his cave, thinking of the sad state of Scotland. A spider began to make a web above his head. Simply to pass the time, Bruce broke the web. Immediately the spider began to make a new one. Then 6 times Bruce broke the web, and 6 times the spider immediately made a new one.  

Bruce was surprised at this. He told himself that he would break the web a 7th time. If the spider made a new one, it would be a good lesson for him, because, like the spider, he had been defeated 6 times.

Bruce broke the web, and again the spider made a new one. From this fact, Bruce became encouraged. He got together an army, and this time he was successful and drove the English out of Scotland. 

Perseverance is a quality of life that is now in short supply. In her persistence, the Canaanite woman in the Gospel of Matthew (15: 22-28) got what she wanted. Finally, Jesus healed her daughter tormented by a demon. She can serve as a model of perseverance for us in our daily journey of faith.

”Good things come to those who wait.”

Fr. Thanh


September 26, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

I am a priest and not an economist, but I can borrow a well-known expression called “the bottom line” from the business world to talk about in the spiritual domain. In the business world, “the bottom line” is an item of ultimate importance because it has to do with profit and loss. What it means is this: You add up all the income and subtract from that all the expenses and the balance is the bottom line. If it is positive, you have made a profit. If it is negative, you have lost money.

It is all right to make money. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Make all the money that you can honestly, and use it as wisely as you can. But when you get to the bottom line of life, be sure that your spiritual values are there. In other words, it makes no difference how much money you have made if you have sold your soul. The bottom line is negative. Love and kindness, truth and integrity, courage and honor are worth more than all the money in the world.

In the business world, there are some transactions where we can show a little profit and a minor loss, and still come out ahead. Such is not the case in the realm of spiritual values. If a person loses his integrity, compassion, and the capacity to love and forgive, no amount of profit can offset that kind of loss.

There are many ordinary men and women who are trading the eternal for the temporal, the soul for the world. It is a dreadful consideration, but it happens all the time—people trade their spiritual values for material gains.

Do not make a bad bargain; do not sell yourself for the world.

Keep your bottom line of life positive!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh


September 19, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday is Catechetical Sunday, a special day in which we pray for our catechists to commission them with the teaching and formation of our children’s faith and spiritual life. By virtue of baptism, we are reminded parents, not catechists, are the first teachers of their children in the way of faith. We cannot forget this parental responsibility.

I am deeply thankful to our catechists and their assistants for their acceptance and willingness to teach our faith to our young people in the parish.

Teaching is a noble job because it creates those who create.

An old man with insight once said, ”One of the most satisfying things in life is to see someone walk on his own after you show him the way.”  

In other words, our catechists can never tell where their influence upon their students stops.

All of us are endowed with different gifts which, though not equal, are equally important. God gives this diversity of gifts to us so that we may serve the church through them.

  • Are Religious Education teachers more gifted than many of us in the community?
  • How about lectors, ushers, altar servers, and others: Are they better than the rest of us?
  • Maybe and maybe not, but they said, ”YES” to the service of God and others.

God does not need our ability. He needs our availability.

When we are available to God, he will transform us into a valuable instrument for his cause. No matter how gifted we may be,  God cannot use our talents if we are not available. What do you do with your gifts? Are you available?

Each of us has some unique talent that could lighten the load and brighten the life of others.
  • We may have the talent to teach children. Use that to tell children about God.
  • We may have a gift to visit the sick. Use that to bring light into the lives of the home-bound, nursing home elderly, or hospital patients.

Use those gifts for God and others! 

God bless,
Fr. Thanh


September 12, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This week, I am making a digression from our regular Christian thought by looking at an insightful Buddhist story about looking for Buddha since there is a meeting of minds between Buddha and Christ, the two greatest teachers in the world.

After listening to the Buddhist enlightenment, a young man decided to look for the founder of Buddhism. He crossed many river and traversed many dangerous forests without meeting the Buddha he had heard about so often.

At the bottom of a hill, the man met an old hermit and asked him,

“Do you know where I can find Buddha?”

“Buddha is everywhere,” said the old holy man. “Haven’t you seen him on your journey?”

 “I met many laypeople, but not Buddha himself,” answered the young man. 

“The Buddha you see in paintings or read in the Buddhist scriptures died centuries ago. His physical body has been disseminated everywhere. Do you still want to see him?”

 “Under any condition, shape, or form, I wish to see him at least once.” 

“Then return home,” said the old holy man. ”On your way back, if you meet someone wearing the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on the right foot, that person is a Buddha transformed.” 

The young man hurried home. On his way back, he did not meet anyone as described by the old holy man.

Late at night and tired from the journey and hungry, he knocked on the door. His elderly mother grabbed her cane, lighted a lamp, and opened the door. In a hurry, she put on the worn-out right shoe on her left foot and the left shoe on her right foot.

At times, in our journey of faith, we have tried to look for God in various distant places, but God is often in our midst, much nearer than we thought.

Fr. Thanh


September 5, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Life can be seen as a network of human relationships. It is impossible to go through life without hurting someone or being hurt by someone.

When that happens, we are confronted with two (2) options:

1. Either holding a grudge and the things that go along with it,
2. or letting it go and moving on with our lives.

One day, Jesus and his disciples decided to move from Galilee to Jerusalem. The shortest way was to pass through a Samaritan village where Jews were not welcome. When the town refused them passage, the disciples of Jesus became very angry. They asked permission to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people. Instead, they got a reprimand from Jesus and the suggestion that they set out for another town that would not object to their passing through.

In this off-hand moment, we see that Jesus has no place for vengeance. He saw vengeance as a waste of time and energy.

First of all, vengeance stands in the way of reconciliation with an enemy. Jesus sought to bring anger and conflict between people to an end. But vengeance perpetuates hatred and violence rather than resolving it.

Second, if you cannot be reconciled to an enemy, then do not waste time and energy fretting about the situation.

Nothing is to be gained by trying to get even with persons who have hurt and snubbed you. Smoldering resentment will do far more harm to you than it does to the people you dislike. You are far better off letting go of the hurt and moving on with your life with a new start.

Either way, the person who seeks revenge comes out as the loser.
Do you feel hurt by the words or deeds of a friend or relative?
Make your best effort to set things right. If that fails, let the person go and let the hurt go.

Do not let the attitude or actions of another poison your life.

Fr. Thanh


August 29, 2021
My dear young friends,

Your summer months are over and, last week, you went back to school amid mixed emotion and anxiety. After months of separation, you were glad to see your favorite teachers, classmates, and old friends. But you were also anxious due to an unfamiliar environment when you moved on to the next academic level.

To be a good student is always a challenge because you have to work hard, make sacrifices, and discipline yourself to do things you may not like.

I know this because I was there before you. But I encourage you to work hard and progress as you go forward. The future of the nation and the Church depends upon you and your present achievements.

I have this little story for you:

Three horsemen traveled in a dense forest when they came to a dry
with only gravel. From the sky, a voice said to them:

“Get off your horses and fill your pockets with as much gravel as you like.
You will be happy, but you will also be sad.”

Puzzled by the heavenly voice, they got off their horses and filled their pockets with gravel.
The first horseman filled all his pockets with gravel. The second filled only one pocket,
and the third picked up only a few pieces of gravel. Then they continued on their journey.  

At night, they slept under an oak tree. The next morning, the gravel they collected the day
before turned into diamonds. They were happy, but they were also sad for not collecting more.

Those pieces of gravel are your subjects at school or homework to be done.

They may not look attractive to you right now, but they will be valuable to you in the future. I am convinced you do not want to be the third horseman and be sorry you did not collect more gravel.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh


August 22, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Although Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born about 500 years before Christ,
Buddhism is not widely practiced in the United States and Europe.

But Buddhist teachings have a way of putting life in perspective. In some instances, the
teachings of Buddha and the preaching of Christ are said to be identical.

In a sense, there is “a meeting of minds” between Buddha and Jesus.

In the New Testament, Jesus deals with two kinds of sins:

* The sins of the flesh
* And the sins of the spirit.

Contrary to the teachings of the Pharisees and the scribes of his time, Jesus believed that the sins of the spirit are much more difficult to deal with than the sins of the flesh. Buddha seems to be in agreement with Jesus on this issue.

                                             To illustrate my point, here is an example: 

Two Buddhist monks, on their way to the temple, found an exceedingly beautiful woman at the riverbank.
Like them, she wanted to cross the river, but the water level was too high. So, one of the monks lifted
her on his back and carried her across.

The fellow monk was thoroughly scandalized. For two full hours, he berated him on his negligence in keeping the
Holy Rule: Had he forgotten that he was a monk? How dare he touch a woman—and, more—actually carry her across
the river. And, what would people say? Had he not brought their holy religion into disrepute? And so on and so forth.

The offending monk patiently listened to the never-ending sermon. Finally, he broke in with, “Brother, I dropped
the woman at the river bank two hours ago. Are you still carrying her?”

My friends, this simple story cleverly points out that there are two (2) kinds of sins: the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit. In the court of law, only the offending monk is prosecuted, but, remember, God has a different method of accounting!!

Fr. Thanh


August 15, 2021
Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

As we all know, forgiving one another is one of the most difficult things to do in life. It is not that all unforgiving people are mean-spirited or self-centered. Forgiveness comes hard to the most generous and considerate people. Forgiveness is even difficult between friends and family members. You would think that forgiveness between inmates is usually more difficult than forgiveness between casual acquaintances.

Why is forgiveness so hard to give, even to people we love?

  • Forgiveness is difficult because it costs us something.
  • Forgiving another person costs us self-pity and self-protection.
  • As long as we refuse to forgive another who has wronged us, we can luxuriate in those feelings of superiority and resentment that go with self-pity.
  • As long as we withhold forgiveness from another who has hurt us, we can insulate ourselves
    against being hurt again.

Understanding why we have a difficult time forgiving helps us appreciate God’s forgiveness more. We speak of God’s forgiveness as if it comes easy to him, but forgiveness proves no less costly to God than it does to us.

He too must lay aside his anger over our sinning when he forgives us.
He too must open himself again to the pain of our refusal of his love.
Indeed, the cost of forgiveness is infinitely greater for God than it is for us.
How undeserved is our refusal of his love.
How painful is his grief over our wickedness.
Yet he forgives us again and again.

The next time you fail and fall, be awed by the wonder of God’s forgiveness. He does not persist in anger, but delights rather in clemency and will again have compassion on you.

Fr. Thanh

August 8, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Needless to say, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a dent in Mass attendance in the United States and throughout the world. This is understandable because of the fear of the virus and the overexposure from the media on the matter of sickness and death.

In addition to the pandemic, more people are spending Sundays on family activities, sporting events, travel, and work. This decline in church attendance does not indicate a decline of interest in religion. In fact, many people are deeply committed to their religious faith. They simply see no need for the church and sacraments.

Many take pride in the fact that their spiritual life is a deeply personal matter rather than an institutional thing. They believe God can be known and worshipped without the benefit of clergy or sacraments or a faith community.

A pastor in a small parish heard that one of his parishioners was announcing he would no longer attend Sunday Mass.  

His rebellious parishioner was asserting the familiar argument that he could communicate just as easily with God out in the fields with the natural setting as in his place of worship.

One winter evening, the pastor called on this reluctant member of his flock for a friendly visit. The two men sat before the fireplace making small talk but studiously avoiding the issue of church attendance.

 After some time, the pastor took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth.  

The two men watched as the coal ceased burning and turned an ashen gray while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The pastor remained silent.

“Father, I will go back to Mass next Sunday,” said the parishioner. 

The church is no cloak for a godless life, but it surely is a buttress for a godly life,
protecting us from self-centeredness and self-deception.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

August 1, 2021
                                                                                    THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Contrary to popular belief, you and I can control—at least in part—our destinies because God gave us freedom of choice through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Yes, we can choose to become who we are and what kind of life we would like to live.

I want to illustrate my point with this little story:

Several years ago, a woman went to her family doctor with a long list of complaints about her health. The doctor carefully examined her, but he could not find anything wrong with her. He suspected it was her negative outlook on life—her bitterness and resentment—that was the key to her feeling the way she did.

The wise physician took the woman into a back room in his office where he kept some of his medicine. He showed her a shelf filled with empty bottles.

He said to her, “See these bottles? Notice that they are all empty. Now, I can take one of these bottles and fill it with poison—enough poison to kill a human being. Or I can fill it with medicine to bring down a fever, a migraine headache, or fight bacteria in one part of the body.

The important thing is that I make the choice.  I can fill it with whatever I choose.”

The doctor looked her in the eye and said, “Each day we live is like one of these empty bottles. We can choose to fill it with love and life-affirming thoughts and positive attitudes, or we can fill it with destructive, poisonous thoughts. The choice is yours.”

My friends, what will you choose?

 Of course, I am not asking you to answer that question for me;
and there is no need to answer it for God because he already knows.
But you really should answer it honestly for yourself.

Have a pleasant day and see you here next weekend.

Fr. Thanh

July 25, 2021
                                                                  THE VALUE OF TRAVELING LIGHT

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

A few years ago, an American tourist went to Kenya, a country in East Africa, for a visit. When he arrived at its capital of Nairobi, he heard about a saintly hermit who lived in a remote area several miles away from the city. Since the holy man was well known for his keen insights, the American tourist decided to pay him a visit.

When he entered the saintly hermit’s hut, the American tourist asked with surprise:

“Sir, where is your furniture”?
“Where is yours?” the hermit answered with a question.
“I am only a tourist.”
“So am I.”

When Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God, he also instructed them to travel light so that they could cover as much ground and reach as many people as possible. They were to carry nothing for the journey, trusting in the hospitality and generosity of the people they met.

There is value in traveling light in life.

Not that we should imitate the disciples and live off the efforts and resources of others. But there is something to be said for a kind of frugality that requires less rather than more of the things of this world as we grow older.

That kind of simple living does more than free up money. It also frees up time and energy.

Think of how much time, energy, and money we spend in maintaining the pile of things we accumulate over a lifetime of marriage–houses, cars, furniture, pets, etc.  The list is endless!

There is a critical point when these things which are intended to serve us become our masters. We end up taking care of them rather than them making life easier for us. Traveling light can put us back in control of our possessions instead of being controlled by them.

Fr. Thanh

July 18, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Living in a vast universe with more than six-billion people on our planet, at times, we might be fully aware of our finite existence, especially when we encounter stumbling blocks on our journey to rise above our “comfort zone” and reach our highest potential.

Obviously, our parish is not very large, but do not be blinded by our circumstance or be trapped into thinking things are beneath our capacities. Few things are more decisive in your life and mine than self-image.

One day, a man found an eagle egg, and to protect it from damage, he put it in the nest of a backyard hen. The eagle was hatched along with a brood of chickens. He grew up with the chickens. In fact, the eagle thought he was a chicken. He learned to scratch the earth for worms and insects, clucked and cackled, and occasionally would spread his wings and fly a few feet off the ground. Years passed, and the eagle grew old. One day, he saw a magnificent bird far above in the clear-blue sky gliding in graceful majesty. The eagle looked up in awe and asked:

     “Who is that?  What is that?”

One of the chickens answered, “That’s a golden eagle, king of the birds. He belongs to the sky. We are just chickens. We belong to the earth.”

The eagle lived and died as a chicken because that’s all he thought he ever was.

We need to continue our traditions and build our community upon love, mutual respect and sensitivity to others.

We should not rely so much on our own strength, wisdom, and resources but on
a solid foundation of God’s sanctifying grace and love. With that confidence,
we can surely soar like an eagle in the sky of possibilities and opportunities.

Fr. Thanh

July 11, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Who wants to be a loser?  

Of course, no one!  But being a good loser can be a strategic part of being a big winner!

At first glance, it sounds like a contradictory statement, but it is a reality that happens every day in society and particularly in each loving home.

“Always win” is the American mentality. If you have doubts, just ask any football coach or any Wall Street stockbroker, and you will be surprised to learn how quickly they adopt that statement.

“Winning is the name of the game” that permeates every fabric of our being. But when we take that thought closer to home, the picture changes somewhat. Being a good loser is not always bad, especially in your family home. In fact, it is a necessity in marriages and in every loving home.

For example: You and your husband get into a heated argument.  
You know for sure that your spouse is wrong, and you are right as
right can be!  If both of you want to “win,” the household will break
out in an open war. A wise wife may want to become a good loser,
although she may be right. Only a strong person with a big heart can
do that, but by doing so, she can win the heart of her husband and
restore peace to the family.  

In the early ’70s, Erich Segal published a romantic novel entitled Love Story. I believe it was made into a film with Ali McGraw as the principal actress. In this book, there is a line that I like: “Part of being a big winner is the ability to become a good loser.”   

 Put it this into practice and watch how happier your family will become!

Do you have the strength and courage to become a good loser?

God bless,
Fr. Thanh 

July 4, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Since the beginning of Christianity, Jesus has wanted to alert his followers that the hill is steep in places that they will be asked to climb in their Christian discipleship. If someone starts the journey of faith under an illusion of ease, that person is headed for certain disappointment. Disillusion is always the child of illusion.

Several years ago, there was an animated movie entitled, An American Tale.

A family of mice is headed to America aboard a ship.
They have been told that there are no hardships in the new land.
All the way over the sea, they sing:  
     “There are no cats in America, 
     and the streets are made of cheese.
     There are no cats in America,
     So, we’ll just do as we please.”

You can imagine their disillusion when the family of mice arrived in America to find it populated with hungry cats!

So, do not wonder if your Christian journey will have tragic and painful moments. Know that it will. The road of faith has potholes, detours, and sharp turns, too. Christian people are not only Christian. They are also people. Church leaders and parishioners are creatures with egos, shortcomings, and sins.

But it is still Christ’s Church, nonetheless.

Learn to accept the weaknesses and failures of the Church, and you will once again be overcome with the joy of finding God uniquely present in the world through the Church.

For all her faults, mistakes, and failures, the Church continues to advance the kingdom of God, care for the hurting, and bring you a way to stay in touch with God.

If you are stuck in a time of despair because you have faced the failures of the Church or your own failures, don’t give up.

Ask God to give you the grace to find a mature faith that can live with suffering and imperfection and doubts, but also trust God in the midst of those dark days.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

June 27, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Some things need to be said, not because they are new, but because they are true. If they do not come as a revelation, then they can serve as a reminder.

In the New Testament, the Diaconal Ministry emerges as a direct result of pastoral and corporal necessity. As we know, after Pentecost, Christianity began to spread beyond Jerusalem and its surrounding areas and eventually throughout the Roman Empire. The disciples of Jesus could no longer handle the workload of preaching and teaching and, at the same time, providing corporal needs to the poor, especially to widows and orphans who were considered the most destitute people of the society at that time.

Therefore, the disciples chose some good men in the community to assist them in their ministries to take care of the physical needs of the poor.

Some early deacons, however, had proven to have oratory skills such as Saint Stephen, the pro-martyr of the Church. Subsequently, the disciples put him in a preaching position.

The Diaconal Ministry was born in this historical context and continued to exist ever since.

This Sunday, June 27, 2021, marks the 1st anniversary of the ordination of Deacon Rick Autry. We would like to extend heartfelt congratulations to Deacon Rick and his wife, Debi. Let us pray for him on this special occasion as he continues to serve God and his people of this parish community and beyond.

Deacon Rick and his wife, Debi, and their family moved to Oak Island from Saint Patrick Parish, in Fayetteville and joined our parish about 11 years ago.

As a parish community, we give thanks to God and rejoice with Deacon Rick, Debi and their family as he has said ”Yes” to God’s call to a life of service.

Fr. Thanh

June 20, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Historically, Father’s Day was established thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd

of Spokane, Washington. Sonora’s father, William Smart was a Civil War veteran. After the death of his wife, William Smart worked hard at his farm and successfully raised his six children to adulthood.

Sonora was deeply touched and greatly appreciative of her father’s devotion to the family. One Sunday in 1909, Sonora and her family went to the church on Mother’s Day, and she was impressed by preacher’s sermon on parents’ merits. She thought about her father’s merits and decided to establish Father’s Day.

Since her father’s birthday was in June, she organized the first Father’s Day in Spokane on June 19, 1910. Thanks to the extra efforts of Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, Father’s Day has been celebrated throughout the United States.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge declared that Father’s Day would be observed on the 3rd Sunday in June every  year in the United States.

What is a father?

A father is a man who is committed to children. To care about someone is nothing
but an emotion until and unless it  becomes a commitment to that someone.

A family had a very special guest coming for dinner, and the 6-year-old son had been briefed to be on his best behavior. As everyone sat down at the table, the boy reached for a roll and accidentally knocked over his glass, spilling water all over the table. He froze in terror—he knew he was going to be scolded. The boy looked over at his father. His father looked at him, smiled and knocked over his own water glass. Then, together they got towels and wiped up the mess.

That is the kind of man we are honoring here today.

Happy Father’s Day!

Fr. Thanh

June 13, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

A dog is a lovable pet. Simply because he is a grateful animal.

The gratitude of dogs is different from that of human beings, but it surely is as beautiful. Just give him a bone and watch his expression of gratitude: He looks at you tenderly, wags his tail and runs around you. The more he is given the more he shows his gratitude.

Living with a sense of gratitude is an important part of Christian living. When we live long enough with good things, we tend to lose sight of those privileges and forget them as gifts from God. Once in a while, go to a poor part of your town and then count your blessings.

Some time ago, I came across this poem I found in a local newspaper:

Today I stood at my window and cursed the pouring rain,
Today a desperate farmer prayed for his fields of grain.
My weekend plans are ruined, it almost makes me cry
While the farmer lifts his arms and blesses the clouded sky.
The alarm went off on Monday and I cursed my work routine,
Next door a laid off mechanic feels the empty pockets of his jeans.
I can’t wait for my vacation, some time to take for me,
He doesn’t know tonight how he’ll feed his family.
I cursed my leaky roof and the grass I need to mow,
A homeless man downtown checks for change in the telephone.
I need a new car, mine is getting really old,
He huddles in a doorway, seeking shelter from the cold.
With blessings I’m surrounded, the rain, a job, a home,
Though my eyes are often blinded by the things I think I own.  
(Author Unknown)

Gratitude is important because it enriches our lives. None of us is truly blessed without it.

Fr. Thanh

June 6, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

During the past few weeks, you probably attended high school or college graduation ceremonies and heard many graduation speeches, either from high school valedictorians or invited college speakers.

Some time ago, an engineer named Le Duy Loan was invited to give a Commencement speech to a group of 500 graduates and their 4,000 relatives and friends at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, Texas.

At the end of her speech, she quoted Winston Churchill as saying:
You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”

Regarding this, if we have a hard time learning the lessons of life, we can take comfort from the disciples of Jesus. They spent three years with the greatest teacher who ever lived and still did not get what he was talking about.

They did not understand that it is what you give to life that matters rather than what you get out of life.

Jesus reiterated his life’s teaching:
“Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest.”

How deeply we have buried these words of Jesus. To hear most Christians talk, faith is a recipe for worldly success. Faith can help you lose weight, make money, enjoy popularity, be happy.

Celebrity Christians and common folks point to what they have as a measure of their faithfulness to God.
“I wouldn’t have all these things and honors if I hadn’t given myself to Christ!” they boast.

These testimonies to the benefits of faithful living stand in direct contradiction to the way Jesus measured the signs of faithfulness. He had no quarrel with those wanting to make spiritual advances in the Kingdom. He welcomed those followers wanting to stand with him in his Kingdom. But he made clear what requirements are for those honors:

“Whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all.”

Fr. Thanh

May 30, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

One of our ultimate goals in life is to live a rich and meaningful life. I have no doubt that this sense of purpose is a crucial ingredient and key to a happy life.

As a community of faith, we recognize the presence and contributions of all different ministries to the life of our parish. They bring an awareness of many opportunities for spiritual growth and communal service here at Sacred Heart Parish. 

The personal support of every member of the parish is essential if we want to accomplish the mission entrusted to us by God to bring the Good News of salvation to others in the world in general and in our own living environments in particular.

All of us are endowed with different kinds of gifts, though not equal in size, are equally important. God gives this diversity of gifts to us in order that we may serve the Church through them. Everything we have, especially time, talents, and treasure, is given to us by God. From a Christian point of view, we are God’s stewards or managers of God’s affairs on earth.

We are challenged by God to be good stewards and being a good steward means being generous with our time, talents, and treasure. Alternatively, to put it in another way, Stewardship means returning the first portion (first fruits—not the leftovers) of all God has given us.

If we make Stewardship a way of life, it will become a way to thank God for the gifts we receive. It is based on our need to give something back to God. It indicates our lifetime commitment to follow Christ. Our commitment to God cannot be expressed in any single action.

It is also very rewarding because our personal relationship with Jesus
is deepened and enriched every day.

And, by doing this, we can be an extension of God’s peace in the world.


Fr. Thanh

May 23, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

We often encounter in the newspaper or in the evening news, an act of heroism. And that is a beautiful thing! What a person does amid a crisis is one test of character, but what a person does in the commonplace routine of living is a more accurate measurement.

It is one thing to be a hero when the house is on fire, and we do not disparage that. But it is another thing to care about people who live in that house when nothing unusual is happening. They need food, medical care, and counsel, and help with homework. It is not the kind of thing that wins medals or grabs newspaper headlines; it is plain old grubby work. That is the real measure of a person’s character.

The real measure of character can also be seen in little things. Here is a man who is big in the world of finances. His business has gone well, and he has more money than anyone could ever need. So he decides to do something useful with his money. He endows a college or contributes to the support of a hospital. These are good and commendable things. We need more people who are willing to invest their money this way, but do they really tell us about the basic character of the man?

As a true measurement of the man, I would be more interested in knowing how he treats his wife when no one is around. I would like to know something about his relationship with his children. I would like to know how he talks, or even if he talks, to the lowest employee in his company.

These are the real tests of character.

You don’t get tax write-offs for being nice to your wife. You don’t get your picture in the morning newspaper for playing with your children or treating your janitor with respect.

The only reason for doing these kinds of things is a genuine concern for people, and that is what counts with God. The true measure of character is not the critical, but the casual moments, not the big, but the little things.

Fr. Thanh

May 16, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday is World Communications Day—a special day when we need to pray for more laborers in God’s vineyard and revisit our attention on the effort by announcing the Good News to the world. By virtue of baptism, you and I share the same vocation–a call to live a holy life, to emulate the life of Christ in thoughts and actions.

The only difference in your vocation and mine is in the way we exercise it. You live this call in a married life, and I exercise this call in the priesthood.

In the past, when a vocation was discussed, people had a tendency to think only of a priestly vocation, but this misconception has been corrected. Nowadays, every time we pray for vocations, we pray for the increase of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life and lay ministry.

However, we live in a modern world with new technology and noisy environments. At times, we may wonder how God’s voice can compete with all other worldly voices from iPad, iPhone, Twitter, Facebook, etc . . . . that vie for attention.

The Church continues to look for new methods to bring the Good News to a world that gets tired of old methods and grows deaf to God’s words due to familiarity or overexposure to the words of God.

Every day, God still calls us to be his Good News runners and, in order to hear and answer his call, we need to slow down, pause for the journey and master the art of constant awareness.  

We may not think too often about it, but the concept of constant awareness is very much a major part in the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

Rise up! Challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone!
Stop committing yourself to mediocre living and become more ardent in your faith life.
Only then can we become a good doer and an effective hearer of God’s call in a busy world.

Rise up! Challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone!
Stop committing yourself to mediocre living and become more ardent in your faith life.
Only then can we become a good doer and an effective hearer of God’s call in a busy world.

Fr. Thanh

May 9, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

“Mother” is one of the most beautiful words in any language of the world. It creates in our hearts and minds a sea of love and tenderness of character. It is indeed an act of wisdom to set aside a special day, Mother’s Day, to say ”Thank You” and to express our gratitude and appreciation to these special people.

The celebration of Mother’s Day has a long and interesting history originating with the custom of mother worship in ancient Greece, and in Asia Minor when the Ides of March was designated as a day of honor to Rhea, “the mother of the gods.” Early Christianity shifted this honor to the “Mother Church.”

In 1904 in the United States, the Fraternal Order of Eagles launched a campaign for a national Mother’s Day, and Congress passed resolutions in 1914 declaring a national observance of the day. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May to be acknowledged as Mother’s Day which has been ongoing for more than 100 years.

Why should we set aside a special day to honor our mothers?
Because mothers are special people who, most of the time, are taken for granted.

As I thought of this joyous occasion, I was faced with another question.

What can be said about mothers that has not been said a thousand times or more?
Probably nothing! But some things need to be said, if only as reminders.

The first is so obvious it is overlooked,
we know this intellectually but emotionally we tend to forget it…

Mothers are people—not angels, not saints, but people like you and me.

Another thing that needs to be said that is equally true . . .
Mothers are special people—and the world’s most unselfish people.

“Happy Mother’s Day” to all the mothers in the parish!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

May 2, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday, our 10 Second Grade students will be receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time. This first taste of holiness is an important step for them to fully participate in the Sunday liturgy, or Mass.

We rejoice with them and their families as they make their First Communion. We are so happy for them in a special way today.

They can tell their parents and siblings: Now we can all go to Communion together.” In addition, they are so right! The Holy Eucharist is a way God brings people together. In the Holy Eucharist, He draws their families together—and He draws their families together with all other families in our parish.

This First Communion Sunday also serves as a reminder to parents about teaching children about the Holy Eucharist. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church cleverly points out, parents are the first teachers of Christian faith. Although Sunday catechists prepare them for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Christian formation of their children still belongs to parents. We cannot afford to forget or neglect this important parental responsibility.

Using the Bible will help build a solid foundation for a child’s faith. Even young
children can begin to learn the meaning and importance of the Holy Eucharist.

Here are some suggestions that can be effective with children:

   Jesus is a Lamb.  Read the story of the first Passover (Exodus 12: 1-39) to
your children and explain that the lamb in this story is a symbol of Jesus.

  Jesus feeds us. Read John 6: 27-69Jesus teaches in these passages that He
becomes “the Bread of Life” in the Eucharist.

Jesus heals us. Read the story of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2-3). Explain the concept
of sin. By eating the fruit of the Cross—the Holy Eucharist—Jesus heals the
wounds of sin. Explain that the Holy Eucharist is like “medicine” for our souls.

Fr. Thanh

April 25, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Needless to say, most of us are richly blessed so that we may become a blessing to others. But the truth is that many of us do not know how to respond to life’s blessings.

Let us turn our attention to God’s words for wisdom, inspiration, and enlightenment. The Bible is filled with stories that are not only historical facts, but they teach an important moral or spiritual lesson.

Past events are recorded in order to provide present inspiration and guidance. To compare with Jesus’ miracles of walking on water, turning water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is not spectacular in any way.

This incident hardly holds a candle to the other miracles reported in the Gospels.  Against this array of miraculous healings, curing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever is pretty tame stuff.

We may wonder why this story was ever included in the New Testament. The reason, I think, is to teach us how we ought to respond to life’s blessings. We are told that when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, she immediately got up and began to wait on him.

That is the appropriate response to receiving a blessing—to pass that blessing on to someone else. Being a recipient of a good deed carries an obligation of gratitude that goes well beyond merely thanking the source of that blessing. Such gratitude ought to generate good will toward others.

How can we hold back extending a helping hand to another person in need if we have been helped by someone else? Most of us have received so much more from the concern of others than we have earned.

We owe the same generosity to those who have not earned our concern for them.
In brief, our lives should be conduit, a distribution center, rather than a storehouse.
Fr. Thanh

April 18, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

The U. S. Army has a recruiting slogan that I like: “Be all that you can be.”  Why not apply this concept when we go to church on Sunday? You can be “your best” in the house of worship

Recently, in the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper,
a reader of the column “Dear Abby” wrote:

“Can you please settle our question about what is proper attire for church?
Are short shorts, tube tops, and flip-flops suitable for a house of worship?”

And the smiling Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”) responded:

“I was raised that a person should dress ‘respectfully’ in the house of the Lord.”

 As a man who lives and works in the house of the Lord, I totally agree with “Dear Abby.” Today, I want to put my two cents into this topic to give you a glimpse of my own personal point of view on this church etiquette issue.

Every time I go to the church on Sunday, I put on my best clothes and wear my best shoes, though I do have flip-flops for other occasions. I comb my hair and try to look my best in the house of worship. I do this for three main reasons:

First, I want to show respect to myself. It would be very difficult for me to respect others if I don’t respect myself. In this life, there are very few things that are more decisive than a self-image. According to psychologists, the worst things on this earth are done by people with a lack of self-respect and low self-esteem.

Second, I want to show respect to my parishioners. To be “a doctor of souls,” and to effectively minister to them, I must show my respect to my parishioners.

Finally, I want to show respect to the God whom I worship. Would you wear the same clothes to church if you were to go to the White House to meet the President of the United States?

So “be all that you can be” in the house of worship!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

April 11, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday, April 11, 2021, at the 11:00 a.m. Mass, 5 young people of our parish (Molly Delair, Leanna Dover, Noah Kuhn, Karley Satterwhite and Madison Waldron) will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, the last of the 3 Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation).

This Sacrament will be administered by Bishop Luis R. Zarama. Not only for these 5 candidates and their families, sponsors, and friends, this is a communal event.

At our regular Sunday worship, we also will pray and rejoice for our candidates as they step toward their spiritual maturity.

Although the Sacrament of Confirmation had precedents: The New Testament mentions the apostles sometimes imposed their hands on converts—an action associated with the Holy Spirit, Confirmation as a separate Christian sacramental ritual did not exist before the 3rd century and became a regular practice after the 5th century.

Historically, the word ”confirmation” was first used by the French councils of Riez (439) and Orange (441). The councils allowed priests to anoint the children they baptized with sacred chrism. Between the 9th and 13th centuries, episcopal confirmation became the Roman custom through all the countries of Europe (except in Milan and some Spanish dioceses). In 1274, the Second Council of Lyons named Confirmation among the 7 sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

Like baptism, Confirmation can be received only once because it bestows a sacramental character: the candidates receive the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 11 and cited by Ambrose: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

My friends, let us join our voices to pray for and rejoice with
our young members and their families as they receive
the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

April 4, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Easter happened! Christ is risen!

But how can we prove Easter’s victory and joy to the world? We cannot. We do not have irrefutable evidence to confound the skeptics.

The world will always resist efforts on the part of Christians to prove their claims about the resurrection of Christ. They will find holes in the evidence and weakness in the argument.

But remember that in the courtroom of Christian life, we are witnesses, not attorneys. And the world will always listen to the simple story of how Christ has changed lives.

Bearing witness to our own experience of the resurrected Christ make our faith a live option for others.

Easter is real because Jesus is alive in the Church and in you and in me.

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit.
All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.
The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their strength. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead.
Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.
The other frog, however, continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.
When he got out, the other frogs said, “Didn’t you hear us?”
The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Happy Easter, everyone!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

March 28, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the most important time in our liturgical year. It is when we turn our attention to the suffering of the Lord. There is an irrefutable correlation between suffering and love.

The French people express this mutual relation with a familiar saying: ”Aimer, c’est souffrir” (to love is to suffer). In a sense, Holy Week carries that truth from theory into practice in the life of Jesus. In other words, the Lord suffers simply because he loves.

From a Christian point of view, love is not only something we feel, it is what we do—not only a warm feeling, but a concrete action. There are times when loving is the costliest thing in the world because love can be extravagant!

The classic example is the cross of Calvary. Love cost the Lord everything he had, down to the last beat of his heart and his last breath.

Jesus measured it in terms of blood, and that was not too great a price to pay. Our Lord’s love was the most extravagant of all.

For us, love is not always doing something dashing and romantic. Sometimes, it mops floors, cooks meals, darns socks, or makes party dresses. I have seen love work more than 40 hours a week at a job, and make time in the evening to help with their children’s homework and spend Saturday mornings teaching kids how to play football. That is also the extravagance of love.

When we speak of the extravagance of love, we are not denying
its involvement with the mundane events.

It’s part of our package of daily living!!

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

March 21, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Lent is a time of introspection, self-examination and self-purification. Like our houses, our spiritual lives can get cluttered with undesired and unnecessary things that need to be weeded out. To do this, we need an honest Introspection—a sincere  inward look at where we are on our Lenten journey.

From a spiritual point of view, one of the best qualities a person should have is the ability to empty himself or herself. During Lent, this self-emptiness is crucial because, without it, God’s grace and blessings cannot permeate our lives. When we empty ourselves of self-concern, we allow God’s presence to fill our lives and when we have God, all other things become secondary.

Nan-in, a Japanese Zen Buddhist master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen Buddhism. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.

 “It is overfull. No more will go in,” said the professor.

 “Like this cup,” Nan-in replied, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” 

Self-emptying is a quality necessary for our faith to grow. This noble ability can be practiced daily, especially whenever we enter the church. Each week we often come into the presence of God with a heavy package of unnecessary stuff: worries, bitterness, frustrations, boredom, distractions, fatigue, etc. Try your best to leave these problems at the door where they belong before entering the church so that you may be in unison with God and with other members of our faith community. Actively participate in the Eucharistic celebration and, when you leave the church, you will walk a little bit lighter and taller than when you first entered the house of God.

Fr. Thanh

March 14, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

One afternoon, on my way home from a nursing home visit, I saw a police car’s blue lights flashing a few hundred yards ahead of me. Being curious, I slowed down to see what was going on. A policeman was testing a young motorist for drunk driving by making him walk a straight line ___________________.

As you may know, no matter how hard a drunk may try, they cannot walk a straight line. Walking a straight line is an acid test of sobriety.

Several years ago, Johnny Cash popularized a song entitled I Walk the Line in which a hard-living man promises his wife that he will keep his eyes open all the time and walk the line. Not surprisingly, we find the same test of sobriety and rectitude in the Bible.

With Ash Wednesday, we began our Lenten journey. And we need to walk a straight line! In other words, we need to re-examine our relationship with God and with one another and re-evaluate the quality of our faith life.

What is the straight line that we should walk during this holy season of Lent?

  1. It’s a line of honesty. Telling the truth is not easy in a day when lying is almost a requirement of success in business and too common in relationships. Telling the truth is like walking a straight line—you either tell the truth or you fall off the track.
  2. It’s a line of purity. Living a pure life is not easy in a time when promiscuity hardly raises an eyebrow. Maintaining vows of chastity or fidelityare like walking a straight line—you either keep yourself from temptation or you end up in a ditch.
  3. It’s a line of honor. Living by your word is not easy in a time when character has gone the way of the horse and buggy. Being a quality personis like walking a straight line—you either maintain your standards or you waver in the wind.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

March 7, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Once again, we have entered the season of penance and preparation known as “Lent.” Lent is traditionally a time for practicing great austerities of prayer, fasting and alms giving. During this season of Lent, the Church calls us to pause for our life journey in order to re-evaluate the quality of our faith life and re-examine our relationships with God and with others.

In other words, Lent is an opportunity of self-examination and self-purification. Like our houses, our spiritual lives can get cluttered with undesired and undeserved things that need to be weeded out. To do that, we need an honest introspection—a sincere inward look at where we are on our Lenten journey.

There are many Lenten opportunities in our parish for you to achieve this goal such as actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration, going to the Stations of the Cross, daily Masses, receiving the Sacrament of Penance, participating in the Adult Bible class, being a Rice Bowl or Dresser Project contributor, etc. But, to do all that, you must slow down the engine of your life, pause for your faith journey and prioritize the pieces that make up your life. You must empty yourself of worldly cares and secondary “stuff” so that the grace of God may permeate your spiritual life.

This pause for the journey is important to all of us to re-orientate the direction of our life. In the course of our life journey, right things can be out of joint, and we may confuse secondary matters with the primary as A. K. Chesterton adroitly points out:

Christianity is losing ground with most of us, not because we are unbusy,
but because we are carrying briefcases packed full of secondary stuff.

May God continue to bless all of us with abiding presence
and guidance throughout this holy season of Lent.

Fr. Thanh

February 28, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Lent is a season of purple color: not purple at the horizon, not purple on flowers, but purple in the human heart because Lent calls for penitence and exhorts return.

Where to return?

Not to dogmas, not to duties  but to a Person.
He knows us before we know Him.
He loves us before we love Him.
His love begets us and only when we love Him, our happiness may be complete.
His laws protect us on the road to that happiness.
His religion is a string that connects His love to ours.
Therefore, violating His laws is to disconnect ourselves from His love.
Penitence is indeed a return to the Person who loves us.

We can return like  Zacchaeus. He was a corrupt tax collector. Upon hearing that Jesus would pass by, he was curious to see him. His return starts with a joyful welcome of Jesus into his home.

We can return like the adulterous woman. She was brought to Jesus. Everybody accused her of adultery, but Jesus remained silent. Finally, Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” Her return begins when she totally surrenders herself to the mercy of God.

We can return like  Peter.  He denied knowing Jesus three times. His Christian discipleship seemed to be over, but it had hardly begun. Upon leaving, he turned back and saw the look of Jesus upon him. His return commences when he is willing to look at Jesus.

In brief, to return is to encounter God in order to accept His forgiveness with faith and love.

This kind of return is perpetual because when do we cease to be sinners?

Fr. Thanh

February 21, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Once again, like all the 97 parishes and missions in the Diocese of Raleigh, our parish has embarked on an important effort to assist the Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) to raise funds that support the work of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) is conducted in every parish throughout the diocese to help finance various activities and programs of the Catholic Church in the eastern part of North Carolina.

The BAA reminds us we are one with other parishes in our diocese and the diocese itself. We have a chance to work together to care for the people of the church by sharing the gifts that God has given us. We are “one faith, one family in Christ” (the 2021 BAA theme).

There is an abundance of human need surrounding us—the poor, the sick, the elderly, troubled families, the disabled, and those in crisis.

The Bishop’s Annual Appeal gives us an opportunity to respond to those in need and to show Christ’s love by puttingour faith in action as a diocesan family. The diocesan agencies and programs supported by the BAA help with both spiritual and physical needs and go beyond what an individual parish can accomplish alone.

The 2021 BAA goal for our parish is $133,727.00—the same as last year. 100% of over-the-goal money collected through the BAA will be returned to our parish for our parochial needs.

Last year, our parish generously pledged $209,087 or 156% of the goal. Your BAA pledge is part of your personal commitment to Christian Discipleship, giving thanks to God by returning a portion of the blessings God has given you.

Thousands of people, many programs and agencies, your parish and your diocese need your help. Please plan to make your pledge to the BAA.

More information is to follow in the next few weeks with how you can help in this effort.

God bless,
Fr. Thanh

February 14, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

In the past few weeks, through the BAA literature, from the pulpit, and in this Mailbox page, I have discussed and asked you to pray for the success of the 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

Many have affirmatively responded to this call and I feel confident we can be successful in spite of the current economic situation and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that has not improved as we would like it to. Now, our 2021 BAA commitment weekend has arrived.

Humanity is challenged by the ongoing political unrest and unpredictable weather in the U. S. which serves as a reminder that help is in need. The 2021 BAA gives us the opportunity to extend God’s love to those in need. Also, the BAA embraces the charitable, spiritual, and educational needs of thousands of families, helping to unite our various parishes into one diocesan family. Through the BAA, we can demonstrate our stewardship by showing our love and caring for all of God’s family by moving from the profound to the practical.

From a Christian point of view, love is not only a warm feeling of one person toward another, but it is an act of giving. In other words, to love is to give and love is a gift.

“God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son…” (John 3: 16).

Our prayers are also vital for the success of this year’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal. They help us to remain focused on the goal to continue Jesus’ mission in the modern world. Please join me by praying that God touches our hearts, so we may share generously and joyfully the gifts we have received.

May God continue to bless each of us with his unfailing love and constant care,
especially during this holy season of Lent.

God bless,

Fr. Thanh

February 7, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

You and I may have all kinds of thoughts and ideas about love. In other words, love means different things to different people. But, from a Christian point of view, love is more than a warm feeling of one person toward another—primarily it is an act of giving—or meaning, to love is to give and love is a gift.

“God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son . . .” (John 3: 16)

During this time of the year, I would like to emphasize our need to participate in the
2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA).

The BAA embraces the charitable, spiritual, and educational needs of thousands of individual families, helping to unite our various parishes into one diocesan family. Through the BAA, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our stewardship by showing our love, caring for all of God’s family.

In the course of our daily lives, we have received many gifts from God and, I dare to say, most of them are free of charge! If we receive so many free gifts from God, we should also give back a small portion of what we have received and share it with other people in need through the 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal. 

I call this process of sharing “sportsmanship” or playing the game and playing it fair.”

Our prayers are also vital for the success of this year’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal. They help us to remain focused on the ultimate goal—continuing the mission of Jesus in the modern world.

Please join me by praying that God touches our hearts so that we may share with others generously and joyfully the gifts we have received from God.

May God bless you all for your sacrificial gifts to the 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
God bless,
Fr. Thanh

January 31, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

As we all know, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama is the 6th bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh. He is continuing The Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA), which was initiated by the late Bishop Gossman to raise funds to support the work of the Diocese of Raleigh.

Thus the 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) is conducted in every parish throughout the Diocese to help finance various activities and programs of the Catholic Church in the eastern part of North Carolina.

The BAA reminds us that we are one with other parishes in our diocese and the diocese itself. The BAA gives us a chance to work together to care for the people of the church by sharing the gifts that God has given us. We are one faith, one family.

There is an abundance of human need surrounding us—the poor, the sick, the elderly, troubled families, the disabled, and those in crisis.

The Bishop’s Annual Appeal gives us an opportunity to respond to those in need and to show Christ’s love by putting our faith in action as a diocesan family. The diocesan agencies and programs supported by the BAA help with both spiritual and physical needs and go beyond what an individual parish can accomplish alone.

The diocesan 2021 BAA goal is $7,345,212. Our parish goal is $133,727.

Your BAA pledge is part of your personal commitment to Christian Discipleship of giving thanks to God by returning a portion of the blessings God has given you. Thousands of people, many programs and agencies, your parish and your diocese need your help.

Please plan to make your pledge to the BAA.

Be Christ for others ………. pledge a generous gift to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

God bless,
Father Thanh

January 24, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

None of us is a total stranger to a hopeless situation. We can do our best, but our best may not be good enough. At moments like these, do we deeply believe that God really cares?

This may be easy when the stars are shinning, and the sea of life is smooth! But when storm clouds gather and the sea is raging, this question takes a new urgency!

Does God really care?

I could tell you that he does. But you could point out that nothing much seems to come of it. Ultimately, this question is not answered by assurances from this Fr. Thanh’s Mailbox page or from the pulpit.

We must find him there ourselves.
And how do we do that?

Surely, it is by asking that other question: Do I care?
When you and I care, it is easy to believe that God cares.

Jesus often described life in terms such as this.
He said it is the merciful who receive mercy.
The only way to experience God’s mercy is to start practicing mercy.
The only way to experience God’s forgiveness is to start forgiving.

Does God really care?

Only those who care know the true answer to that question.

Yes, my friends, God really cares, and he is always with us in every storm of our lives.
But much more than that, God is also
beyond the storm.

Every Sunday, we come here to worship him. Our parish would not be a Catholic Church
unless we can come here, expecting to meet him who is beyond the storm.

When things look hopeless, we can hold on to our faith in him!

Father Thanh

January 17, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Honestly speaking, you and I will do anything to go to heaven. The only way to achieve that goal is to become a holy person. That is why we attend Mass on Sunday, go to confession, read the Bible, give alms, etc.

Remember the day when Jesus told his disciples and us: “If your holiness does not surpass the holiness of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of God.”

But “holiness” means different things to different people. As a priest, I can only talk about holiness from a Christian point of view.

  • Holiness is not only a matter of personal piety—a relationship between you and God by going to Mass, etc., which I call that the vertical dimension of holiness.
  • Holiness is also a matter of relationships between people. I call this the horizontal dimension of holiness.

Many people accentuate the vertical dimension and neglect the horizontal or social dimension of holiness. Jesus seemed to suggest otherwise when he said, “When you go to the altar to offer a gift to God and there you remember you had some conflict with your fellow human beings, leave the gift there at the altar and go back to make peace with them before returning to offer your gift to God.”

The last parable Jesus told (we call it the parable of the Final Judgment) also stresses the social dimension of holiness: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting prisoners and welcoming strangers.

A young man felt sullen and downcast and went into a church looking for God to enlighten him. He bowed his head and prayed. An elderly lady in the church thinking he was hungry, offered him $10 to buy food. The young man thanked her saying he was not hungry. He left with a refreshed spirit, saying to himself: “The church is not the only place to find God, I can also find Him in people.”

Fr. Thanh

January 10, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

One of the most common things we usually do on New Year’s Day is to set a lofty goal. But it is less common to choose the procedure leading to that goal.

A man went to Greyhound bus station in Wilmington, planning to go to Philadelphia.
He boarded a bus, fastened his seatbelt, sat back and relaxed. Several hours later,
he walked off the bus, only to find himself in Kansas City. His intention concerning
Philadelphia had been very sincere. That was the goal he had in mind. The problem was
that he had boarded the wrong bus and ended up in a place where he did not intend to be.

Something like this continually happens in our human experience. People make plans for one destination but end up somewhere else.

The problem with most of our New Year resolutions is that they are too general. We must break them down into tiny and feasible steps that can be put into action because good intentions alone will not accomplish anything.

For example, if you say to yourself: “This year, I am going to be a better husband and father,” you must start with little things like helping your wife around the kitchen, offering words of appreciation, helping your children with their homework, and being patient when you want to blow your stack.

The good intention of going to Philadelphia will be to no avail, unless you board the right bus that will take you there.

The good news is that putting good intentions into action is almost always a matter of tiny steps which
is within everyone’s reach.

We have been dealing with some of the most critical issues of life:
Where are we going this year and how do we plan to get there?

May God continue to bless all of you and your loved ones during
this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.

Fr. Thanh

January 3, 2021


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

God’s Christmas gift, Jesus Incarnated, could not be confined within the limits of one nation. These visitors from the East, the Magi, are some of the mystery characters of the New Testament. Bringing gifts along with them, these astrologers are studying the stars and set out in search of a newborn king in Judea.

According to a catholic legend, not supported by the Scripture, the names of the magi are: Casper: young, ruddy and beardless; Melchior: old, white-haired and bearded; and Balthasar: black-skinned and thickly bearded.

As we are celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, a day in which God manifests himself to all people, let us take a brief look at how the gifts of the magi to Jesus can still make a difference in our lives.

Recently, I heard a quip—a clever and witty remark, often sarcastic—from a woman:

   “Only WISE MEN would go shopping for baby gifts and return with gold and perfume!
    A group of WISE WOMEN would have brought diapers and blankets and baby food.”

I think, either from WISE MEN or WISE WOMEN, their gifts to the Baby of Bethlehem have their own values and elements of wisdom.

  • The gifts of the WISE WOMEN could have immediately helped Baby Jesus to deal with the cold weather in Bethlehem.
  • The gifts of the MAGI might have contributed to the financial support of the Holy Family until they could return to the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.

But the really important thing is not what the receiving of the gifts meant to Jesus, but the giving of them meant to the MAGI and WISE WOMEN.

This is always the primary impact of a gift, not on the receiver, but on the giver. We need to learn that lesson. A wise person surely knows that he/she must get in order to give, but the main flow from his/her life is outward, not inward.His/her primary purpose is not to get, but to give; and this is an element of true wisdom.

Fr. Thanh

December 27, 2020


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a feast that we can easily relate to or be associated with.

My 26 years of priestly ministry to the church has brought me into contact with all kinds of families.

They have varied in size—some large, some small.
They have varied in structure—most have 2 parents, some are single-parent.
They have varied according to race—white, black, Asian, or Hispanic.
The families I have known came from all kinds of economic conditions:
A few have been rich, some poor and most have adequate means.
But all the families I have met had at least one thing in common—problems.

In addition to the lack of communication, one of the main sources of family problems is the blame game.

It has never known to solve a single problem. But it does create a few.
The worst thing is that it drives a wedge between people who need to be, should be and could be friends.
We would still have problems. But as long as we remained friends, we could work through them together.

And if you stick together, you can come out the other side more of a family than you have ever been.

A family had a special guest coming for dinner, and the 6-year-old son had been briefed to be on his very best behavior. As everyone sat own at the table, the boy reached for a roll and accidentally knocked over his glass, spilling water all over the table. He froze in terror—he knew he was going to be scolded. The boy looked over at his father.  His father looked at him, smiled and knocked over his own water glass. Then, together, they got towels and wiped up the mess.

Do we identify with people when they make mistakes?  Are we compassionate enough?

Fr. Thanh

December 20, 2020


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Our Advent season is almost coming to an end. This is a critical time in our preparation, not only external, but also spiritual, for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.

Our external preparation, such as setting up the Christmas tree, writing cards to friends or buying gifts for relatives and co-workers, is the most obvious belief in the coming of Christ.  But our spiritual preparation, with focused prayers, spiritual alertness and personal piety, is the most important preparation that we all need in the final week of of this season of grace.

We live in a highly commercialized society and Christmas is probably the busiest season of the whole year.  It is very easy for us to be drawn into this hectic pace of consumerism that may rob us of the joy and peace that we look for at Christmas.  To combat this malaise, we need to use the final week of Advent season as a time to adequately prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

Be watchful and stay awake!

This is a common thread in the teachings of many great teachers in the world such as Confucius, Socrates, Buddha and Jesus.  This ”art of constant awareness” will help us to stay focused on the spiritual aspect of Christmas rather than being lost in the noises of the highly commercialized season. We don’t have to stop our daily tasks or change our work routine in order to focus on the meaning of Christmas during the season of Advent.

To experience the coming of Christ in the doing of our daily work depends not so much on the nature of the work as on the attitude of the worker.  If the heart is right and the mind is expectant, we will find him in many places, even in the midst of the joy and sorrow of our daily lives.

Fr. Thanh

December 13, 2020


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

I grew up in Vietnam where Zen Buddhism was a major religion. In fact, 75% of the Vietnamese population was Buddhist. Being immersed in such a religious environment, I had the opportunity to see the meeting of minds between Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and Jesus, the founder of Christianity.

One striking similarity between the two religions is the concept of awareness.

Awareness is an important aspect of Buddha’s teachings and it is also a requirement for any Buddhist student to be elevated to the rank of Zen master.

One day, after 10 years of study of Buddhist theology, a student asked his old and enlightened Zen master to elevate him to the rank of Zen master. 

The old Buddhist monk agreed and asked his student to come to the temple the following day for a small test. It was raining when the student arrived at the temple. He removed his shoes and left his umbrella at the front door before entering the temple to see his Zen master who was meditating in front of a Buddha’s altar. 

The old Zen master asked his student, “Where did you put your umbrella, on the left or on the right side of your shoes?” 

The student could not tell his master exactly where he put his umbrella. He failed the simple test of constant awareness. He spent 10 more years of study and practice before mastering the art of constant awareness to become a Zen master.

In the New Testament, Jesus constantly called on his disciples to be vigilant, on-guard, alert, awake and watchful. As for us, this Advent season is also a time to exercise our awareness of his coming. He will come, not in the noisy commercialized shopping season, but in the quietness of a burgeoning flower and in the stillness of a sleeping baby. Only those whose hearts are expectant can catch a glimpse of him this season.

Fr. Thanh

December 6, 2020


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

The season of Advent is all about watching in waitingI venture to say that we all despise waiting.  

    • We do not like waiting in line at the airport or at the grocery checkout counters.
    • We honk our car horns impatiently as we wait in slow traffic.
    • We stare at the clock every other minute waiting for the result of a loved one’s surgery.

But when it comes to matters of the soul, we need to remember that the waiting itself is a necessary part of the journey.

Like the building excitement as you look forward to a big summer vacation, waiting for God allows our spirit to become more sensitive, our souls stronger and our minds more alert.

One day, a monk asked:

“Abbot, what has God’s wisdom taught you?  Did you become divine?”
“Not at all.”
“Did you become a saint?”
“No, as you can clearly see.”
“What then, O Abbot?”
“I became awake.”

Watching in waiting allows us to be more sensitive to the coming of the Lord, to slow down the Christmas rush and to call us beyond the noisy commercialization and hurry that robs so many of us of the joy and peace we seek at Christmas.

Thus, Advent is a season for great expectations.
It is a special time for being spiritually alert.

If our heart is right and our mind expectant, we will experience
that the coming of Christ is indeed “the reason for the season.

Fr. Thanh

November 29, 2020


Dear parishioners and friends in Christ, 

You don’t have to be an economist to know that the stock market is up and the economy has recovered after the Presidential Election and the coronavirus vaccine perhaps will be available at the end of the year or early Spring.

With this new enthusiasm, consumers are more confident in their spending, especially during this highly commercialized shopping season.

Needless to say, we live in a culture of instant gratification.  Belk’s advertisement at the Independence Mall in Wilmington convinces us to buy that perfect gift before it is sold out: Don’t wait. Buy now while supplies last!

This is the Advent season, a time to wait.

Advent keeps us from rushing into Christmas without preparation of the heart and soul.
Advent allows us to savor the moments of mystery of the
Incarnation of the Son of God.
When the culture says, “Now,” Advent says, “Not yet.”

Why wait?

Waiting during Advent is a discipline that God wants us to use to build our character.

  • How many of you who are parents teach your children to wait for the right person to date and marry rather than just take whoever is around at the end of High School?
  • Do parents delight in the frustration of the child’s desire for instant gratification? The answer is obvious:  No.
  • Wise parents know that their child’s life is headed for disaster if that child grows up without learning to delay instant gratification for the greater long-term good.

Waiting during Advent also allows us to notice the small beginnings of God’s coming. 
The coming of God is not announced with loud clarinets and tambourines.
God comes like a tender new shoot and as vulnerable as a tiny baby.

Fr. Thanh