Fr. Thanh’s Mailbox

MESSAGES FROM FATHER THANH

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

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


THE FIRST TASTE OF HOLINESS

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.

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


HOW TO RESPOND TO LIFE’S BLESSINGS

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.
Peace,
Fr. Thanh


BE THE BEST THAT YOU CAN BE!

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


CONFIRMATION: A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY

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


EASTER: CHOOSE LIFE AND NOT DEATH

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


HOLY WEEK: THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF LOVE

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


LENT: A TIME OF TIME OF EMPTYING OURSELVES

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.

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


LENT: A TIME OF WALKING A STRAIGHT LINE

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


PAUSE FOR THE LIFE JOURNEY!

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.

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


LENT: A TIME TO RETURN

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?

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


“ONE FAMILY IN CHRIST”

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


B.A.A.: FROM THE PROFOUND TO THE PRACTICAL 

 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


B.A.A.: LOVE IN ACTION!!

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

THE 2021 BISHOP’S ANNUAL APPEAL

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

DOES GOD REALLY CARE?

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!

Peace,
Father Thanh

January 17, 2021

THE TWO DIMENSIONS OF HOLINESS

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.”

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


January 10, 2021

NEW YEAR AND LOFTY RESOLUTIONS

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.

Peace,
Fr. Thanh


January 3, 2021

EPIPHANY AND THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI

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.
    and
  • 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Peace,
Fr. Thanh


December 27, 2020

FAMILY GRACE

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?

Peace,

Fr. Thanh


December 20, 2020

ADVENT: KEEPING US FROM RUSHING INTO CHRISTMAS

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.

God bless,

Fr. Thanh


December 13, 2020

ADVENT: AN EXERCISE OF AWARENESS

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.

Peace,

Fr. Thanh


December 6, 2020

ADVENT: A TIME FOR WATCHING

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.

Peace,

Fr. Thanh


November 29, 2020

ADVENT: WHY WAIT?

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.

Peace,

Fr. Thanh 


November 22, 2020

THE YEAR’S END: A BACKWARD LOOK

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, also known as Our Lord, Jesus Christ King of the Universe Sunday.

To bring the liturgical year to an end, the Church invites you and me to direct our attention to Jesus who is the center of the universe, and to also reflect on our spiritual journey.

We have journeyed throughout this whole year, trying to find God and to maintain a close connectedness with the Lord.

BUT HAVE WE REALLY FOUND HIM?

Not a remote and vague God, but an intimate and living God!

Is there any feasible way that will help you and me find God?

The Gospel reading for today suggests to us the best way to find God. There, at Calvary, we met 5 different types of people:

      1.  The Jewish people in general.
      2.  The Jewish leaders.
      3.  The Roman soldiers.
      4.  The thief on the left side of the cross.
      5.  The thief on the right side of the cross.

Among the 5 diverse people, only one type really found God. The other 4 did not.

Let us see how he did it!

It was the 5th and only different one who had really found God. He did not go along with the crowd, but he courageously declared that Jesus was innocent. The secret of the penitent thief who had found God lies in the fact that he loved people.  

We can ask God to help us to love others. Loving people is the way to lead us to God.

God is waiting to be found behind suffering people–and through them–we will surely find him.

Peace,

Fr. Thanh


November 15, 2020

UNBOUND: A LAY SPONSORSHIP MINISTRY

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ, 

The Church is a multi-dimensional institution that exists to continue to carry the mission of Jesus to us. At the Ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the Good News to all nations on earth. There is a special group of preachers who do just that, mostly in rural settings—the Glenmary Home Missioners, who serve in rural Southern United States where Catholics are a minority.

This weekend—November 14-15, 2020—we welcome Father Frank Ruff who is with

us to celebrate Masses and tell us about the work of Unbound, a lay Catholic sponsorship ministry that helps children and the elderly in 19 developing countries. Fr. Ruff, a member of the Glenmary Home Missioners, resides in Trenton, Kentucky and has faculties in the Owensboro, Kentucky Diocese.

Long active in ecumenical relations between Catholics and evangelicals, Fr. Ruff was a field representative for the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs to the Southern Baptist Convention. He has served as Vocation Director, fundraiser, director of the program to start mission churches with lay pastoral ministers, and President of Glenmary.

Father Ruff enjoys gardening, canning vegetables, and raising animals. He continues to serve on the Glenmary Ecumenical Commission.

I am sure Father Ruff’s pastoral experience will bring a different life perspective of the Church to our parish and enlighten our minds and hearts to reach out in love to the children and elderly in developing countries.

May God continue to bless you and your families, especially during this uncertain and challenging time.

Peace,

Fr. Thanh


November 8, 2020

WILL YOU COME TO CHURCH AGAIN?

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

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

In addition to the pandemic, more and more people are their 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 church and the 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 their 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 using the familiar argument that he could communicate just as easily with God in the natural setting of the fields 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 piece of coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth. The two men watched as the coal quickly ceased burning and turned an ashen gray while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The pastor remained silent.

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

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


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


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


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


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 the9:00 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 memorialof 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