Year of Faith

Join in observing the Year of Faith now through November 2013! This is a time in which the Holy Father invites us all to study, renew, and deepen our faith, and share it with others. Connect with the activities at your local parish and maybe even launch some of your own!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four months, Fourth year

In this chronologically-titled post, I’ll try to recap the time since my last post and let you know what’s ahead.

Since April, I finished the semester with an unbelievable amount of term-paper-writing (see posted documents at www.scribd.com/paulmnguyen) and wrapped up the year with our Seminarian Scholarship Dinner the third week of May. I had made some progress in physical therapy after my shoulder dislocation due to my car-vs-bicycle collision in early April, but I would need much more attention to fully recover.

I flew to Nashville to visit with Sr. Anna Sophia for a couple days; it was a blessed time that we got to spend together there and her (my!) sisters commented later that I seemed very comfortable during my visit.

From there, I returned home to Long Beach for a couple months of physical therapy, wrapping up work projects, spending time with friends and family (including a camping trip and a little family reunion) and Oblates, and studying Portuguese using the very cool Livemocha online language-learning community.

In mid-July, I packed my bags, shipped a box to Boston containing things I would need there but not on this trip, and flew to Curitiba, Brazil! I spent a week there with the other World Youth Day pilgrims from Oblate parishes in Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Austria, Italy, and Nigeria, along with several Oblate priests and several sisters of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary of Fatima (founded by an Oblate priest a few decades ago). We had a wonderful time meeting one another, sharing our cultures, and expressing the one faith we treasure through prayer and missionary works in the neighborhood around the parish there. It was a blessed time.

The following week, we traveled to Rio de Janeiro, which took about 18 hours by bus. There, we assembled with similarly-motivated Catholic youth from around the world, all bearing their national and state flags, to attend catechetical lectures by various bishops, meet religious congregations at the vocations fair, and pray with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he led the opening prayer service, the Stations of the Cross, the prayer vigil, and the Mass of Sending, ultimately attended by over 3.5 million people! The next day, we visited the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida to thank her for many graces received and to entrust our lives and vocations to her anew. I then returned to Curitiba for a few days of rest with the Oblate community before returning to the seminary in Boston.

I have spent the past week here recuperating from a complicated cold I developed while in Brazil and helping around the house here at St. Clement’s. We have several work crews remodeling the fourth floor of one of our residence buildings to become the novitiate residence for this year.

And that is where I will be! I am very excited to begin this special year of formation, my fourth year (my brother novices’ third year). It is a year of discernment and prayer, and learning about our founder and history and the vows taken by religious. It is also a year in which, in order to focus on these activities more fully, we renounce much of our communication with the world outside our community, spending more time in silence and with each other to study the material and learn more about ourselves and how to live charitably in community. We will make a trip to Italy, with the other novices from around the world, to visit the sites where our congregation was founded and experience a bit of our hereditary culture. At the end of the novitiate year, we may apply to make first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, for one year, and then study theology in preparation for priestly ministry. So this is a very special year, indeed!

All of this also means that this is most likely my last blog post until next August! You can follow Oblate news on our homepage, www.omvusa.org, and the Seminarians’ Blog at www.omvusa.org/vocation/seminarians-blog/.

Please pray for me and my brothers, and I will pray for you!

Love the Immaculata!
Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Violence and the Infidel

I am sure we are united in prayer for the victims and those traumatized by Monday’s attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I found out via two text messages that came in within a minute of each other, one from a good friend who sings here at St. Clement’s and the other from a good friend back home, 3,000 miles away. I was spending the beautiful Patriots’ Day at Josh’s parents’ home in the Worcester area, about an hour west of Boston, studying scripture most of the day.

We bounced around the various news outlets but as things settled, I recalled an observation that was made earlier in the day by Glenn Beck in response to standardized testing in New York (“Common Core”) that is driving curricular change in a bad direction (forcing educators to teach to the test, which indoctrinates progressive ideas and perspectives), and that whole dynamic is cascading through other states by adoption. The observation was a challenge to the assertion that individual rights correlate collective responsibilities. That seems to say that the burden of the exercise of individual rights (health, employment, personal security, personal property ownership, access to and discretion concerning education, etc.) falls on the collective as such. Beck challenged this, saying that the burden of individual rights should fall on the individual (individual responsibility) and that the burden of collective rights should fall on the collective.

As should be evident, the collective is composed of individuals, each exercising his own will. The common sense balance of rights and responsibilities may be shown in any number of cases: an individual person’s right to own property bears the responsibility that it not be used to the detriment of others. Should it be used in such a way, that person bears the responsibility (individually) via such sanctions as fines or imprisonment such that behavior is deterred which compromises the good for which that right was granted.

I would like to apply this logic to what we saw on Monday afternoon at the finish line near Copley Square.

Certainly violence was committed. Blood was shed, property was damaged, and hundreds of trained personnel descended upon the area to provide security and medical assistance, and to begin the investigation of what had taken place. Three have perished, and their loss is deeply felt nationwide. Almost two hundred others are maimed in various degrees, with a dozen in critical condition in some of the best hospitals in the world. Several others lost limbs.

Media outlets show people speculating on who did this, on how security can be increased to prevent this in the future, expressing wishes for violence against the perpetrators, or at least that they be found and “brought to justice.”

My feeling is this is a tragic reminder of the brokenness that exists in our world, and the need for us individually to take responsibility in showing virtue by our lives and fighting for others to be able and inspired to do the same. I was vividly reminded of God's own people’s chronic infidelity as I studied the book of Judges in the hours before chaos broke out just 3 blocks from the church where I live, though I was out of town at the time. Reading Pope Francis’ reaction and message is very similar to what we might expect of one whom God raises up to judge and reclaim His people at such a time.

“In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.” (Source: Vatican Radio)

The party responsible for the carnage receives his reward. We do not have to worry about that. As Obama said so well in his remarks yesterday, we respond to this evil “selflessly, compassionately, and unafraid.” We walk through the dark valley but fear no evil, for the Lord is at our side, with his rod and staff that guide us and give us courage. Christ has come into the world, the light shining in the darkness; and the darkness does not overcome it. Fr. Tom pointed out yesterday at our midday Mass and again at a special holy hour in the afternoon, that such evil cannot have an explanation; we will not “figure it out” or come to understand it in a way that resolves the issue. Rather, we respond with love and generosity to those affected, and, lest their lives, whether lost totally that day or partially in various ways, be given in vain, we must take this as an opportunity for personal conversion, turning from the little evils in our lives and embracing virtue courageously.

It is this infidelity in ourselves that these moments should expose; it is these violences that we inflict upon ourselves and that bleed over to those around us from which we must repent. Yet what can we do but open ourselves to the saving grace of the One who loved us into being and calls us to Himself?


Love the Immaculata!
Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca

Friday, March 15, 2013

Oblate Reception of Pope Francis

Speaking at least for this community at St. Clement Shrine in Boston, we answered our Rector Major’s request that, following the election of the pope, each member renew the Oath of Fidelity to the teachings of the Church. After Evening Prayer this past Wednesday, the professed priests and brothers came forward before the Blessed Sacrament to recite the formula of the Oath and so swear their fidelity to hold and teach all that the Church stands for, including magisterial pronouncements of various degrees (as I studied in my Fundamental Theology class last semester). It was a beautiful moment of solidarity and witness to communion with the universal Church.

In the coming days, we shared at mealtimes and in the car to and from St. John Seminary various reactions and news stories we had read and facts we had looked up since last we spoke. It has been a wonderful time getting to know a man who instantly drew you into himself, and immediately gave way to meeting God in prayer, with a wonderful Marian tone.

And he is so funny! I watched his homily at the Mass for the Church (Missa pro ecclesia) from last night, and his reverent yet conversational homiletic style is absolutely captivating. His message is simple yet deep, that in those readings and in the Church, we are journeying (caminare), building (edificare), and professing (confessare). Yet we cannot do so without the Cross. He kept repeating the Italian phrase, la cosa non va, meaning, unless you have the right ingredients (especially the Cross) and keep working at the journey and the building and the profession of faith, it just doesn’t work! After his final exhortation, which invited his cardinals to ask Mary’s intercession, he closed with cosi sia, an Italian alternative to the ancient Amen, so often used by other preachers. I love his style!

Then later, I watched a report about his meeting with the cardinals this morning, from Rome Reports. Yet again, his cheerful and close fraternal spirit overflowed and he stepped down from his chair to greet them standing, he showed tremendous respect for them and commented that they must all take courage (referring to Cardinal Mejia’s situation), as they are in their golden years, but that their age, as with aged wine, yields wisdom and it is up to them to impart that wisdom to today’s youth. Awesome!

I saw Cardinal Dolan’s reactions in an interview posted on Facebook in which he continuously laughs about all the moments that Pope Francis surprised the college by his spontaneity or his humor or his simplicity.

Finally, I read a short recap by Peggy Noonan, whose book on speechwriting we are reading for my Communication & Evangelization class. Her account is charming to read and is a wonderful account of her reactions to the new pope, many of which I share, and it is just a delight to have access to so many good and favorable resources to balance all the opposition that criticizes him for every viewpoint.

And can I say I love listening to Italian?? Viva il Papa!


Love the Immaculata!
Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Others' Reactions to Pope Francis

Here are some reactions to Pope Francis’ election today. I hope these are informative and encouraging for you all!

From Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM, of Philadelphia:
Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio, is a man from the new heartland of the global Church; a priest of extraordinary intellectual and cultural strengths; a man deeply engaged in the issues of contemporary life and able to speak to the modern heart; open to the new realities the Church faces; and rooted in a deep love of Jesus Christ. He is a wonderful choice; a pastor God sends not just to the Church but to every person of good will who honestly yearns for justice, peace and human dignity in our time. May God grant him courage and joy, and sustain him with his divine presence. (source: http://bit.ly/Wovqz2)
From Cardinal Timothy Dolan, of New York and President of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference:
Cardinal Dolan: “So we take the buses over and cardinals kind of wait outside to greet the new Holy Father as he comes back to Doma Santa Marta…and as the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off the bus? Pope Francis” ... “So I guess he told the driver, ‘That’s OK. I’ll just go with the guys on the bus.” (source: http://cbsloc.al/ZJpmAb)
From an email from CatholicVote:
Dear Friend of CV, 

Miserando atque eligendo.

"Lowly, and yet chosen."

That was the episcopal motto of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected by his fellow Cardinals and now known as Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is neither "conservative" or "liberal," neither from the left or from the right. He is Catholic. 

This is the holy man who the Holy Spirit inspired the Cardinals to elect, and who we are called to pray for and to go forth with to continue the work of the New Evangelization.

Because of an infection as a teenager, Pope Francis has only one lung. We the laity must be his other lung, and help breathe new life into our Church!

God bless Pope Francis!




Brian



P.S. The installation Mass for Pope Francis is scheduled for March 19, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. The election of a pope from Latin America confirms what we already know: The Church is universal indeed.

 
And after the Mass at the Cathedral, Josh and I were interviewed for the evening cable news. Check out our story here: http://soa.li/OdXWJDF.


Enjoy, and Love the Immaculata!
Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca

Habemus Papam Franciscum!

What an exciting day! Fr. John moved quickly through our halls, excitedly announcing the white smoke signalling a successful election. I was a bit annoyed at the hurriedness, the excitement, the urgency of the message; so many would receive the news so much later than I. But within a minute, I could not restrain the excitement of the moment and called home to make sure they knew. I then went up to our church (St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine of Perpetual Adoration) to offer some prayers of thanksgiving; Fr. Tom soon joined me and led those in adoration in the traditional Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the pope.

We then gathered in our TV room to await the announcement of who had been chosen and his regnal name, and his presentation and greeting. At long last, around 3pm Eastern Time, Cardinal Tauran emerged on the balcony to announce Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had chosen the name Francis. The excitement mounted, because the name was Italian, as many had suspected the pope may be, and already intriguing that he had chosen Francis.

Fr. John quickly turned to Google to find out more about Bergoglio, and landed on his Wikipedia page, which had already been renamed to “Pope Francis,” where we learned that he was Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The South American connection was additionally intriguing and we began to learn more about him.

His appearance itself struck me deeply. At our holy hour tonight, I journalled:
His greeting was somewhat short; he came out and waved, then stood for a minute, hands at his sides, taking in the moment and the cheering crowd. He used the familiar Italian greeting, ‘[Brothers and sisters,] good evening!’ He thanked those of Rome and all gathered, then immediately led us in praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for [Pope Emeritus] Benedict XVI. A powerful moment.
He then delivered a message calling all to pray for each other, calling us ‘fratelli’ – ‘brothers.’ Approaching the Urbi et Orbi blessing, he asked everyone to pray for God’s blessing for him - the silence was beautiful; he bowed his head and received the fruit of our prayers, then rose and imparted that special blessing to the world.
He lingered for a couple minutes... then addressed the crowd, expressing his love and closeness by saying, ‘See you Sunday, when we will pray the Angelus to the Madonna!’
His presence was remarkable; his patience and composure combine with his casual and intimate tone so that we are drawn to him, love him, and are taken up into the solemnity of the moment—he shared his silence with us, and prayed with us virtually continuously. Very cool!
In the hours that followed, we learned that he prefers to cook his own meals, live in a simple apartment, and that his attitude of poor and humble servitude promises to be a distinctive mark of his papacy.

UPDATED: We also learned from Fr. Tim that Cardinal Bergoglio is very well-versed in the Spiritual Exercises and that he attended meetings with him and other experts on the Exercises in South America. Fr. Tim informed us at lunch today that his recollection was of another Argentinian scholar and not Bergoglio.

We seminarians went to the Cathedral for an evening Mass of thanksgiving for the election of the pope, which was said in Spanish by a visiting priest concluding a week of mission talks for the Cathedral parish. It was a lively Mass, full of joy, and the best part was in the homily, delivered in Spanish:
We rejoice tonight because we have a pope, and a pope who speaks Spanish! (applause) But he also speaks the language of humility, the language of service, the language of sanctity... God has not abandoned his church and tonight we rejoice together, united as one family with our Heavenly Father.

Follow more news about Pope Francis via the following articles:
Also, Fr. John quickly assembled a news release for our website, www.omvusa.org.

As Pope Francis did, let us implore the intercession of our mother, the Madonna, that she may protect the Church and strengthen her leaders that, with humility, simplicity, and zeal for their Father’s house, they may teach, govern, and sanctify the people of God until the end of time. Amen.


Love the Immaculata!
Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca