Father Thanh’s Mailbox

MESSAGES FROM FATHER THANH

November 1, 2020

SAINTS: THE WAY THEY LIVED!

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints—not the feast day of one particular saint such as St. Luke (feast day: October 18) or a group of saints such as St. Paul Miki and his martyred companions (feast day: February 6)—but all of the saints we celebrate throughout the liturgical year.

Once a year, on the first day of November, we pause and honor all these holy men, women, and children who stand for the best in the Christian faith.

Two important aspects (among others, of course!) that we need to pay attention to concerning the saints:

  • What makes these people saints is not the way they died, but the way they lived. They  are living proof of faith because they showed the world what it really means to be a Christian and how the Christian lifestyle can make a difference in every area of our personal and social environment.
  • The Church canonized those exemplary men, women, and children, not because of their intelligence (St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance) or wealth (St. Hedwig, Queen of Silesia in Poland), but because of their holiness. 

Again, the holiness of the saints consists of two dimensions:

  • The vertical dimensionan intimate relationship with God they constantly maintained through prayers and personal piety.
  • The horizontal dimensiona close connectedness with their fellow humans they also maintained through services and relationships. In a sense, they were not people who set themselves apart from the world, but they engaged” and were active people who may often have marched to the beat of a different drummer by living out the Gospel’s values.

As we come to church to honor all the saints on this occasion, we are reminded we are sons and daughters of those courageous and holy fathers and mothers who challenge us to continue to build the kingdom of God upon the solid foundation they themselves laid for us.

Could you and I one day be counted among the saints?

Peace,

Fr. Thanh

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October 25, 2020

MORE FAITH: HOW TO GET IT?

 Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

 The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. That seemed to be a reasonable request. It was something Jesus would be willing and eager to do. But I am wondering exactly what the disciples expected Jesus to do.

Maybe they thought Jesus possessed some kind of magic formula for multiplying faith?

If this is what they had in mind, they would have been very disappointed! Faith is a fundamental part of our lives. We all have it, we all use it, and we all need more of it. We get stronger faith the same way we get stronger muscles—through proper nourishment and exercise.  

In other words, the only way for us to get more faith is by using what we already have: “Mustard-seed faith” is what Jesus talked about when the apostles asked him to increase their faith.

Jesus told them that it is not a question of more or less faith, but how you live with the little faith you have.

If you and I feel the need of a greater faith, this is the way to get it: We must take the faith we have and put it to work. Start doing things with it. Faith is not really faith until we act upon it.  

Some years ago, all major TV networks told a story about a Bangladesh banker named Mohammed Yunus who received the Nobel Peace Prize. His bank has a very unusual policy: It loans money only to poor people who have no collateral. His typical customer is a rural woman, and his typical loan is $100—a lot of money in Bangladesh. These women have used their loans to start businesses and hire workers. And 97% of them have paid him back. Do not tell Mr. Yunus that nothing can be done about poverty. He knows otherwise.

It all started with a basic belief in the abilities and honesty of the poor people of his region.

He decided to put that faith to work.

That is the way, the only way, that you and I can increase our faith.We must put it to work!

Peace,

Fr. Thanh

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October 18, 2020

GENEROSITY AS A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

One of the few virtues that the Bible extols is the virtue of generosity.

The apostle Paul believed that generosity was an important aspect of true Christian living.

If not, he would not have mentioned it in the closing advice of his letter to the Hebrews.

Why is generosity so important as a Christian virtue?   

Simply because:

  • Generosity is an indication that a person is free of the sin of covetousness.  People who covet wealth are not in the habit of giving generously to others.
  • Generosity is a sign of impartiality. We are generous to those people whom we think deserve to be helped. People who look down their noses at the poor and the destitute are not likely to be generous toward them.
  • Generosity is a reflection of the love of God. God is generous in his love, offering it to those who do not deserve it and cannot return it in kind.

Another important aspect of generosity is “giving roses to people while they are still living” as this little story cleverly points out.

“Why is it,” said a wealthy businessman to his minister, “that people call me stingy when everyone knows that when I die, I’m leaving everything to the church?”

  “Let me tell you a story about the pig and the cow,” said the minister.

The pig was unpopular while the cow was beloved. This puzzled the pig.  

‘People speak warmly of your gentle nature and your sorrowful eyes,’ the pig said 

to the cow. ‘They think that you are generous because each day you give them milk and cream. But what about me? I give them everything I have. I give bacon and ham. I provide bristles for brushes. They even pickle my feet! Yet no one likes me. Why is that?’”

 “Do you know what the cow answered?” said the minister to the wealthy businessman.

“The cow said, ‘Perhaps it is because I give while I’m still living.’”

 Peace,

Fr. Thanh

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October 11, 2020

ALL SOULS: BELIEVING IN LIFE BEFORE DEATH

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

On Monday, November 2, 2020, we will be celebrating the Feast of All Souls at the 9:00 a.m. Mass. It is indeed a special day in the liturgical year dedicated for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.

It is a time when we remember, in a special way, those of our family members and friends who have “died in the Lord.”

The commemoration of the dead (All Souls) is rooted in ancient Christian tradition from around the 2nd century A.D. Saint Odilo of Cluny established a memorial of all the faithful departed in 988 and it was accepted in Rome in the 13th century.

All Souls is the time to capture the full meaning of resurrection.

       Resurrection means freedom from death.

  • Freedom from physical death is the most obvious implication of our belief in the resurrection.
  • But freedom from spiritual death is the most important implication of believing in the resurrection.

We die spiritually whenever selfishness gains the upper hand over generosity, whenever lust overpowers the ties of love, whenever despair crowds out the light of hope. By the same token, we come back to life spiritually whenever we overflow with generosity, whenever we reach out in love and whenever we are lifted on the wings of hope.

If you would like your deceased loved ones to be remembered in all the Masses celebrated throughout the month of November, please fill out the All Souls envelopes with the names of your deceased loved ones and place them in the Sunday offertory baskets or simply return them to the Parish Office.

As a remembrance, these All Souls Mass intentions envelopes will be left at the altar during the entire month of November.

May all the faithful departed rest in the peace of the Resurrected Christ.

God bless,

 Father Thanh

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September 27, 2020

THE OBSTACLE IN OUR PATH

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Needless to say, we all have at least one thing in common: problems. None of us would choose to have problems, but they come to us as part of our package of living. But, fortunately, we have the option of how to respond to them.

If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give into resentment, bitterness or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually carry with them the potential to benefit and bless us.

       In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but no one did anything about moving the stone out of the way. 

      Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move  the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

       After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

At times in our daily lives or in our journey of faith, blessings and opportunities come to  us as tough times brilliantly disguised. Instead of lamenting about them or seeing them as misfortunes or curses, we need to seize them as opportunities to grow.

”What does not break you, strengthens you.”

 Peace,

_Fr. Thanh

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September 20, 2020

PREPARING FOR THE BEST!

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ, 

Most of us are familiar with the story of Chicken Little.

Chicken Little thought the sky was falling. One little piece of bark fell from a tree as she passed under the limb, struck her on the head—and the rest of her story was one of perpetual alarm.

All it took was one little injury. From that day forward, Chicken Little lived in a constant state of anxiety. She was prepared for the worst. The only thing for which this paranoid little chicken was not prepared was forthe best! The sky did not fall.

The hurricane season is not over yet and we still live in a state of preparation and expectation. That is understandable and even wise from a human standpoint.

But preparation can go either way: for the best or for the worst.

The horrible images of the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake in Mexico, hurricane Katrina in the Gulf coast, hurricane Isaias in Southport/Oak Island and most recently, the forest fires in California can easily paint a pessimistic picture in our minds and hearts. All over the globe, people are scrambling to hoard water, canned food, munitions and money. They are trying to prepare for the worst!  

As Catholics, armed with the faith in God, we are challenged to prepare for the best! In other words, a wise life is not a Chicken Little fearfulness nor a callous looking out for ourselves. But a wise life does include a sense of expectation that God is coming, that our greatest joy is to join him in his celebration and that we are not to give up on that hope, even if his coming is delayed longer than we first anticipated.

Even so, Jesus calls us to a life of expectation and preparation. And what are we to expect? Expect the best! He calls you to join him for a great celebration. He does not want you to miss it. No matter how hurt you have been by your experiences in life, do not become cynical. Chicken Little is wrong. The sky is not falling.

So, spend less of your life preparing for the worst. You might miss the most important joy of life while you are hiding behind your protective walls.

Come today to the Lord’s Table, preparing for the best!

Peace,

Fr. Thanh

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September 13, 2020

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

One of the most fundamental ingredients that we must have in our lives is faith.  We all really want to understand what faith is and how we can get more of it.

In easy times, when everything goes smoothly in our lives, faith can be rather optional.  We can take it, or we can leave it.  It does not seem to matter either way.  But when we encounter difficulties, hardship, and great challenges in life, faith is imperative.  We must believe in something or we give up and fall into despair.

Faith is indeed a fundamental part of our lives. We all have it, we all use it, and we all need more of it.  We get stronger faith the same way we get stronger muscles – through exercise and proper nourishment.

In other words, the only way for us to get more faith is by using what we already have:

Mustard-seed faith” is what Jesus talked about when the apostles asked him to increase their faith.  Jesus told them that it is not a question of more or less faith, but how you live with the little faith you have.

If you and I feel the need of a greater faith, this is the way to get it:

We must take the faith we have and put it to work.

Start doing things with it.

Faith is not really faith until we act upon it.

That is the way – the only way – that you and I can increase our faith.

We must put it to work!

Peace,

Fr. Thanh

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September 6, 2020

GIVE A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Some time ago, I came across Sir Winston Churchill’s inspirational quote: “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”

Needless to say, most of us are givers simply because “giving is a way of life.”

One way for us to do that is to give to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA).

Your monetary contributions to the BAA indeed make a difference in the lives of many people in Eastern North Carolina and beyond. There is an abundance of human needs surrounding us: the poor, the sick, the elderly, troubled families, the disabled, and those in crisis, especially during this difficult time. 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.

As most of you are aware, the 2020 BAA goal of our parish is $133,727.00. Because of your generosity and sacrifices, we have not only reached our goal, but exceeded it beautifully!

As of August 28, 2020, 625 families in our parish have pledged $197,587.00 helping us to reach 148% of goal. So far, we have fulfilled (paid) $190,319.00 of our BAA pledges. This year, we broke all the records of our BAA giving of the past. Congrats to all of you! In the Spring of next year, 100% of the money collected over the goal will be returned from the diocese to the parish for our own use.

Let us continue to give praise and thanksgiving to God for this great blessing!  May almighty God, through the love and mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, continue to bless all of you and your loved ones, especially throughout this challenging time.

God bless,

Fr. Thanh

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August 23, 2020

”THE LORD BE WITH YOU”

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

When God calls someone, he always gives that person a mission.  In the Bible, when God called Moses, prophets and the apostles, he always expected a response from them.  And when God entrusted them with a mission, he would not leave them doing the work all by themselves.  This is an interesting thing: Whenever God sent them on a mission, he did not promise them anything but this: “’I am with you.”  That’s all.

The angel Gabriel said the same thing to Mary: ”The Lord be with you.”

To the apostles, Jesus simply assured: “I will be with you until the end of the earth.”

”The Lord with be you” is all we need because when we have God, we have everything.  Therefore, the greeting ”The Lord be with you” at the beginning and at the end of Mass is very meaningful.  But because we hear it so many times, we tend to pay little attention to its profound meaning.  God does not leave us orphaned.

I think this is the heart of the matter: Do we accept God to be with us?  In marriage, do husbands, wives and children let God to be with them through his words as a guiding light?  Do they accept God to be with them through the Holy Eucharist and the Mass as an uplifting force?  Do they accept God to be with them through the sacrament of penance when a husband and wife have conflicts or succumb to weakness?  That is the heart of the matter.  It is not God’s part but our part.

Moreover, the call to the priesthood or to a married life is based on the call to be a Christian.  And the call to be a Christian is always a call to the cross.

Because every Christian is called to reach the perfection of love, that is, to follow in Christ’s footsteps, we cannot afford to forget that Christ is a Crucified Christ.  However, death does not have the last word: The Risen Lord is our hope and strength.  Once again, “The Lord be with you.”

God Bless,

Fr. Thanh

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AN UPDATE FROM FATHER THANH 

August 14, 2020

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

I pray that all of you and your families are doing well and have started the process of cleaning up after the hurricane Isaias.  Although there were some of our parishioners’ property damages, especially parishioners in Oak Island, we give thanks to God that none of us have been physically hurt.

As most of us are aware, the Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, decided to delay Phase III of Re-Opening.  So we are still in Phase II, that means, we are conducting our church’s business the way it is right now.

On the positive side, this weekend, at the Saturday 5:00PM Mass, we will welcome 3 RCIA elect (candidates and catechumens) into the church and our faith community. They will receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist). Then on Sunday, we will have 2 children who will receive their First Communion.  Let us continue to keep them in our prayers.

Finally, I thank all of you for your prayers and continued support to the parish during this challenging time.

Peace,

Father Thanh

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August 15, 2020

THE TRAIN OF LIFE

[Note:  A parishioner from my previous parish sent me this reflection last week and I would like to share it with you this weekend.]

At birth, we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train, and they will be significant i.e.: our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of your life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they vacated their seats.

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live the best way: love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.

Reap success and give lots of love.

More importantly, thank God for the journey.

Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

(Author unknown)

God bless,

Fr. Thanh

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