Recently in Catholic news, the pilgrimage destination of “Assisi” has been coming up a lot lately. Though living in Toronto, Canada, a part of my heart has been left in Assisi it seems. The two-hours I spent on March 14, 2019 in that town in the Umbrian region was two-hours that has continued to impact my faith, especially this month as the name of this town keeps on popping up on my Facebook feed.
While I spoke about my moment in Assisi in Part 2 of 4 of The Catholic Pilgrim in Europe series, I wish to retell the visit to the Basilica specifically in more depth and hopefully bring you with me to this Medieval Town as you read.
On Saturday September 19, 2020, I along with several colleagues from the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (VEYM) St. Thomas Thiện Chapter in Toronto were sworn in as official youth leaders. This was a milestone as it was ultimately, a culmination of nearly 12 years of formation and journeying with the movement since the local chapter opened in 2008. The Saturday evening Mass not only saw the installation of 10 youth leaders (six for level-1, and four for level-2), but also a celebration of the VEYM chapter’s patron, St. Thomas Thiện. It was a small Mass with social distancing measures strictly observed but nevertheless, it was beautiful and reverent. I posted this reflection on my Facebook status a couple hours after the Mass as a testament to my journey with VEYM.I share it here so if others have been in similar shoes will know that you are not alone – keep your head high! Please note, there are some terms in Vietnamese which I have put in [square brackets] to facilitate easier understanding.
I am starting to write this reflection exactly a month before today. In all honesty, I did not think that I was ever able to reach this day.
The reason behind this is something I rarely speak about publicly, especially on this public Facebook page.
September 14 is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and it is one of my favourite feasts of the Liturgical year. It is said that the day commemorates the occasion in which St. Helen (mother of Emperor Constantine) found the wood of the True Cross in Jerusalem.
While that is just one part of the feast, it is worth noting that the Cross of Jesus is spoken of prominently twice in the liturgical year, namely on Good Friday at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, specifically at the Veneration of the Cross after the Liturgy of the Word, and September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It seems that Good Friday takes on a number of different dimensions, and so does Holy Thursday. Thus, we notice that even though the Church celebrates the institution of the most Holy Eucharist, we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi on the second Sunday after Pentecost. Again, even though the Cross is solemnly venerated in the liturgy of Good Friday, the Church has a feast to once again speak of the prominence of this cruel instrument of torture which has now become the sign in which Christianity is known by.
I served two-terms with The Catholic Register as a member of its Youth Speak News Team. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute from time to time. While the summer has been busy and my blogging has been on hiatus on recent weeks, I am still writing in various capacities. The WE Charity Scandal that has been unfolding in recent weeks is baffling. In this column for this week’s issue of The Catholic Register, I speak about the importance of transparency within charities, especially during these times.
WE Charity is a Canadian non-profit organization that I contributed time and effort to throughout my years in elementary and secondary school.
I remember when I was in Grade 2, some Grade 7 students went classroom to classroom encouraging students to put spare change in a can to support WE Charity causes. When I was in Grade 7, I actively engaged in several Me to WE initiatives, kicking off with the 2014 WE Day in the fall and then a series of fundraisers throughout the year. I remember distributing small cardboard houses that year to all the classes in the school. The change collected supported WE Charity’s mission of building schools in impoverished countries.
In short, WE was the “go-to” charity in my years in elementary and secondary school as it seemed to be the favoured charity by the schools I attended, though it is not affiliated with the Church.
However, as the WE scandal emerged in recent weeks I started to have second thoughts about WE. The revelations have simply been baffling. While I have always supported the work of WE, the complexity of its organization, lack of concrete answers from the founders and apparent lack of transparency in funding is concerning.
As I sit on my sofa, taking in the fact that my first year of university is now complete, the state of emergency in Ontario possibly extended to July and churches throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto will open their doors for Sunday Mass this week, the members of the Class of 2020 from Chaminade College School and other Class of 2020 graduates from their respective schools (my sister and her friends from St. Joseph’s College School included) are fresh in my mind and are in my thoughts and prayers during this time. It is for that reason that as the school year winds down for students in secondary school, I want to deliver a few words of advice and encouragement. More in-depth advice can be found in my post about my first-year U of T experience and the Class of 2019 Valedictory speech.
With the Solemnity of Pentecost this Sunday, we conclude the Season of Easter. What a journey it has been! We went through the 50 days of Easter reading of the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances after rising from the dead, and read of his Ascension last week. This week, we actually come back to where we started – with the Sunday of the Lord’s resurrection as John notes, “It was evening on the day Jesus rose from the dead, the first day of the week.” (Jn 20:19)
Why does the Gospel read today sound so familiar? Didn’t we just hear this Gospel some time this Easter? Your assumptions are correct. The Gospel today is John 20 verse 19-23 and we heard this portion of the Gospel in its longer form this past Second Sunday of Easter where we read the Gospel of Doubting Thomas which goes up to verse 31. It is interesting that even though this comes from the same Gospel from the Second Sunday of Easter, the emphasis of what is in that Gospel is completely different. That week, we focused more on the figure of Thomas. This week, without the latter portion of Thomas, we focus on the ten disciples that were locked in the room.
My first year of university was gone in a blink of an eye and wow, what a roller-coaster! I think that is the case for many first-year students like myself did not expect to end our first year with online classes and online exams. For grade 12 students like my sister probably did not expect to continue their classes through online means, nor expected the fate of their prom and their graduation. I remember my grade 12 year at Chaminade vividly and the last months of secondary school are supposed to be the most memorable time with classmates, awaiting their Graduation Ceremonies.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down for many first world countries like Canada, and even Catholicism. Being at home for Holy Week and “attending” Mass online was not the same and felt in a sense…”weird”.
1. The Miracle of Hope: Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận; Political Prisoner, Prophet Of Peace
The late-Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn persevered through the darkest nights – thirteen-years in a communist prison in Vietnam, nine of which spent in solitary confinement. However, even in those dark nights, he kept the flame of faith alive. Some people have commented about how restless they are during this lockdown – but it is nothing compared to what the Venerable Văn Thuận went through during his days in Vietnam. This book opens one’s eyes to the injustices Cardinal Văn Thuận’s family had to endure, and his own personal trials and liberation. This biography of the late Cardinal by Andre Châu sheds light on a life of man who suffered much, but within his suffering, he was a source of hope and light for those around him.
It was in my mental calendar – today, April 23rd, 2020, I would be at the St. Cecilia’s Church for the celebration of Mass to pray for the repose of the soul of Thầy Tuấn – a friend, mentor, and humble “labourer in the Lord’s vineyard”. The Mass was also for thanksgiving of his life. Two years ago the Lord called Thầy Tuấn back to Himself. For those who do not know him, I would honestly find it hard to sum up who Thầy was – he held a variety of roles within his family and within the parish.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith — being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7
It is interesting how the Word of God can speak to everyone in times when we need it most. Going on YouTube or various replays of Masses, the homilies of priests and bishops the past month or so have always to some degree addressed the pandemic. The Word of God truly brings us the comfort and inspiration needed during these times.
The Lectionary Readings today to be upfront, speaks about believing – the attitude we should have as believers in the resurrected Lord. For some who hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas which is read every year A, B and C on this Sunday, it is easy to laugh at the disciples for being scaredy cats, and Thomas for doubting our resurrected Lord. “It’s so simple!” some may say. However, I hope we will have a different perspective this year when we read the Gospel among the first and second readings, and Psalm 118 in light of these times.
Vincent Pham, known as The Catholic Man by many of his friends, is a student at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science pursuing a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy along with a minor in Christianity and Culture. Vincent is an alumni of Chaminade College School in Toronto (Class of 2019). He has a great love for all things Catholic, especially Catholic liturgy.