Explaining the “Hái Lộc Thánh” Tradition to Non-Vietnamese Catholics

Introduction: This weekend, many Southeast Asian Communities will be celebrating the Lunar New Year. As a Vietnamese Catholic, these upcoming days are an opportunity to see the beauty of cultural inculturation within Vietnamese Roman Catholicism. This piece which explains the custom of hái lộc thánh, was originally written for a third-year University course at the University of Toronto, Ritual and Worship, in which I speak of hái lộc as not, perhaps, a liturgical ritual, but a ritual in a loose, generic sense. The original paper has been condensed for ease of readability of readers of this blog.

A defining ritual for Vietnamese Catholic is called hái lộc thánh. Tết Nguyên Đán (or simply called Tết) are festive days for the Vietnamese people in general as it welcomes a new year in the lunar calendar. In Vietnam, these days are observed as a week-long statutory holiday. Through various decrees of the Vietnamese Conference of Catholic Bishops (one in 1971 and the other in 1991) [1] resulted in a section in the Vietnamese edition of the Roman Missal (1992) called, Thánh lễ theo Truyền Thống Dân Tộc – Masses according to Vietnamese Traditional Cultural Celebrations. The section has five Mass propers for Tết Nguyên Đán alone (out of the six available in the current 1992 edition of the Missal).[2] The second of the five propers is for the Mass at Night (or specifically Midnight – giao thừa). The collect states the following, “Cúi xin Chúa rộng ban cho chúng con một năm dồi dào phúc lộc.”[3] The translation of this is, “We humbly ask you Lord to grant us a year full of happiness and grace.”

“Lộc” is a term defined (in religious context) as gift and grace that is given without condition from the Creator. A read through the propers and Lectionary texts of the Masses of Tết Nguyên Đán, and the texts of the ritual of hái lộc thánh further exemplifies this theme. However, the origins of hái lộc traces back well before the introduction of Catholicism to Vietnam in the late 1620s.[4] Prior, people in Vietnam followed no organized religion, but followed a folk belief đạo thờ ông bà – a religion based on the veneration of ancestors, as well believing in some deities that would provide for one’s daily needs. Thus, the customs of Tết Nguyên Đán were heavily influenced by such notions of thanksgiving to the deities like Ông Trời (literally, the Sky, referencing the creator). As the new year began, people would go to temples asking the gods for a year with much lộc and prosperity.[5] The term has two meanings, one which is the grace from the gods, and the second definition of lộc as a small shoot of a plant or tree. Vietnamese would say of a new shoot, “cây nẩy lộc,” the plant has a new shoot.[6] Therefore, people went to these temples on the first day of Tết and hái (to pick) a branch and bring home and leave it on the home altar until the end of Tết.[7] This served as a reminder of a literal lộc, a new shoot from the tree, a reminder of rebirth, a new spring of the new year, but also the metaphorical lộc, to be showered upon one by the gods.[8]

While the celebration of Tết Nguyên Đán had been lurking within the realm of Catholicism since the time of Fr. Alexandre de Rhodes, S.J.[9], it was not until early 1980s [10] that after the first day of Tết Nguyên Đán, there began the custom of hái lộc thánh which literally means to “pick off a holy gift,” to enculturate folk Vietnamese custom into the lives of Vietnamese Catholic. As the Vietnamese diaspora continued throughout this time, the custom of hái lộc thánh was brought from Vietnam to diasporic Vietnamese Catholic communities, such as that of my own parish. There is no official ritual text from the Vietnamese Conference of Catholic Bishops, but one that I have located is seen distributed on several Vietnamese Diocesan websites, such as that of the Diocese of Thanh Hóa.[11]

The ritual is simple: after the Prayer after Communion on the Midnight of Tết Nguyên Đán, the presider, “still wearing his chasuble,” – the ritual notes – goes to a large tree containing little scrolls or parchments. The pastoral note in the text interestingly notes the presider and congregation to “avoid turning this act of blessing and distribution into an act at a Vietnamese concert or festival.”  The presider or a lay minister may open the rite with a few words of introduction which describes the history and enculturation of the act of hái lộc. The presider would then say a brief prayer of blessing and sprinkle the scrolls or parchments with holy water.

The scrolls are slips of paper rolled up, or folded parchments which are beautifully printed with a Bible verse that either instructs (e.g. Lk 6:29) or gives a prompt for action (e.g. Mk 16:15), or even a mix of both (e.g. Mt 5:3). The congregation would then line up in an orderly fashion to “pick” a lộc thánh off the tree. This imitates the lộc from the folk tradition, but rather than a branch of a tree, it is a branch from the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, which would serve as the compass for the new year, and a reminder of the lộc – the grace – which God pours down on His children. The scrolls or parchments are opened either after Mass with friends or opened at home with family. It is always a joyous, but at the same time prayerful moment to open the lộc and see what God wishes to remind one in the upcoming Lunar year. Hái lộc thánh is not to be mistaken as superstitious or “bible bingo.” It is a tangible reminder for one to live and treat the Scriptures with “loyalty and reverence,”[12] as well as the centrality of God in the life of every Christian.

Hái lộc thánh is a cherished ritual among the Vietnamese Catholic Community. While the ritual may not be deemed a ritual liturgically (since there are no liturgical books that have such ritual), it meets the elements of a ritual. It is a cyclical ritual that has specific meaning and actions associated with the act, steeped in centuries of history, and later enculturated in a Catholic context. Specifically, hái lộc thánh is one of the customs that marks Tết Nguyên Đán for the Vietnamese Catholics to the point that I would say that there is no Tết without hái lộc thánh of some way or form, because it is one of the defining hallmarks of this festival, giving Tết its spiritual meaning. As for the future of the custom at least for Vietnamese Catholics outside of Vietnam, it is the hope of parents and grandparents that young people will truly come to understand and appreciate hái lộc thánh in its cultural and spiritual sense.

[1] Phạm 2021. In this article about the Thánh lễ Theo Truyền Thống Dân Tộc (Masses according to Vietnamese Traditional Cultural Celebrations), Fr. Ái stated (in my translation): “The Vietnamese Conference of Catholic Bishops released two decisions (on August 16, 1971 and April 1991) to form and structure a number of special Masses specific for the Catholic Church in Vietnam according to the Vietnamese harvest season or Vietnamese local customs and traditions.”

[2] The other indicated is that for the Tết Trung Thu – Mid-Autumn Festival. Fr. Ái states that there are two more celebrations: May 5, for crops and agriculture of Vietnam, and September 2, for Vietnam’s Independence Day. These two propers are not available in the 1992 Missal but may appear in the forthcoming edition of the Vietnamese translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. 

[3] Sách Lễ Rô-ma (Missale Romanum) 1992, 1039

[4] Fr. Alexandre de Rhodes, S.J. was one of the first foreign missionaries to Vietnam who arrived in Thanh Hóa in 1627.

[5] Nguyễn 2011

[6] Ibid.

[7] Rite of “Picking” Lộc Thánh, 4

[8] See also, the Rite of “Picking” Lộc Thánh, 4

[9] While there seemed to be no Mass texts in the Tridentine Liturgy for Tết Nguyên Đán until the Missale Romanum of 1992 in Vietnamese, according to Fr. Ái, there was a custom dating to the time of Fr. de Rhodes’ (known by the Vietnamese as “Cha Đắc Lộ”) missionary work in Vietnam that the first three days of Tết Nguyên Đán be dedicated to three different intentions: The first day being for peace in the family, the country and the world; the second day being the repose of the souls of ancestors; the third day is for the sanctification of the work of human hands. (See Phạm 2021, question 5) These intentions are still maintained to this day and serve as the overall theme for the Propers of the Tết Masses in the 1992 edition of the Roman Missal in Vietnamese. 

[10] Nguyễn 2011

[11] http://giaophanthanhhoa.net/Image/Picture/tu-lieu/NGHI%20THUC%20HAI%20LOC%20THANH%202017%20A4.pdf

[12] Dei Verbum 11


“Nghi Thức Hái Lộc Thánh (Rite of ‘Picking’ Lộc Thánh).” Diocese of Thánh Hóa, 2017. http://giaophanthanhhoa.net/Image/Picture/tu-lieu/NGHI%20THUC%20HAI%20LOC%20THANH%202017%20A4.pdf.  

Nguyễn, Bishop Paul Hòa Văn. “Từ Hái Lộc Và Xin Xăm Ngày Xuân Đến Hái Lộc Lời Chúa. (The definition of Hái Lộc and Intercession during Lunar New Year to Hái Lộc of the Word of God.)” Archdiocese of Sàigòn, February 2, 2011. https://www.tgpsaigon.net/bai-viet/tu-hai-loc-va-xin-xam-ngay-xuan-den-hai-loc-loi-chua-40899.  

Phạm, Rev. Joseph Ái Đình. “Hỏi Đáp Về Thánh Lễ Trong Dịp Tết Nguyên Đán. (Frequently Asked Questions about the Masses of Tết Nguyên Đán.)” Archdiocese of Sàigòn, February 2, 2021. https://www.tgpsaigon.net/bai-viet/hoi-dap-ve-thanh-le-trong-dip-tet-nguyen-dan-63114.  

Pope Paul VI. “Dei Verbum – Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.” Dei verbum. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, November 18, 1965. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html.  

“Thánh Lễ Theo Truyền Thống Dân Tộc. (Masses according to Vietnamese Traditional Cultural Celebrations.)” Section. In Sách Lễ Rô-ma (Missale Romanum), 1037–47, 1992.

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Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI: A Lifelong Pilgrim

Just hours before the See of Peter went into a state of “sede vacante” on Thursday February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI from the central loggia of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, said that, after a few hours he would no longer be Supreme Pontiff, but “simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.” In 2018, marking the fifth anniversary of his resignation, the Pope-emeritus in a letter to the senior correspondent of Corriere della Sera newspaper, Massimo Franco, reiterated similar sentiments, “I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.”

This theme of being a pilgrim is one that seemed prominent in Benedict XVI’s Pope-emeritus years. Perhaps too simple of a concept for a world-renown theologian? I would argue not so. It is perhaps with his background as a theologian that he understood very well what it meant to be a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim requires one to first of all, be on a journey, and second, a realization of where the journey is headed. A pilgrim needs an end destination, and Benedict realized very well that that end destination was the Heavenly Jerusalem, the place where he would eventually meet God face-to-face.

As a theologian, he strived wholeheartedly to be a “cooperator of the truth,” hence his episcopal motto, “Cooperatores Veritatis,” and in that search and collaboration with truth, his own faith in God was strengthened for the pilgrim journey. It is in understanding, deciphering and sharing theology that he understood that, “faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love.” (Epiphany 2013 Homily) It is in God alone that one finds rest (cf. Ps 62:1), finds truth (cf. Jn 14:6), and love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Pope Benedict affirmed this for himself in his Spiritual Testament he signed in 2006, in which he said, “I have seen, and see, how, out of the tangle of hypotheses, the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging anew. Jesus Christ is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the Church, in all her shortcomings, is truly His Body.”

We live in a world full of restlessness where people are striving to find an artificial rest, a euphemistic truth rooted in relativism (cf. Mass “Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice” 2005 Homily), and a love rooted perhaps inwards rather than outwards. Society gives us the impression that the pilgrim journey ends on this earth because it seems that everything we need is already here in this earthly life. In turn, we build up for ourselves a materialist and consumerist empire that convinces us that all that there is no need to search beyond us, beyond what Thomas Cardinal Collins might reference as, “the unholy trinity of me, myself and I.” In turn, some who support such an empire might see religion, theology and the Church as all “baloney”.

However, Pope Benedict XVI throughout his lifetime was not at any point convinced so, and so did the generations upon generations of saints. St. Augustine looked for rest in all sorts of crevices of society, only to finally admit that his heart was restless until it rested in the Lord (cf. Confessions I). St. Francis of Assisi literally stripped of himself in front of his father and bishop Guido of Assisi in understanding that wealth would not fill a void within him, and that it is only in total surrender to God and living the Gospel that would bring him a profound joy. St. Ignatius of Loyola, during his period of convalesence from an injury while on the battlefield, came to the understanding that true consolation was found in things related to God. St. Dominic Savio and Bl. Carlo Acutis, both young models of holiness, realized from a young age that their destiny was in God, and God alone, hence they lived simple lives while freely lived as normal teenagers for their time because they already got their priorities straight – they knew where their final destination was headed. Pope Benedict XVI, even he was young Joseph Ratzinger realized his destiny in God and God alone. In 1934, when he was only seven years old, in his letter to Baby Jesus, he wrote, “Dear Baby Jesus, soon you will come down to earth. You will bring joy to children. You’ll bring joy to me too. I would like the “Volks-Schott,” [a German hand-missal] a green chasuble for mass [to ‘play Mass’ with his brother] and a Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’ll always be good.” Interesting to contrast that with what many children’s “Letter to Santa” in today’s society… the young Ratzinger from a young age saw that he did not need any of the latest technology of that time, nor the latest toy for Christmas – all he wanted were the tools needed to foster his vocation, and in turn, a deeper love for Jesus.

There could be a criticism that Christians, or perhaps Catholics in particular, are too “forward-looking,” as we look only to the future. Not necessarily so, as Pope Benedict XVI addressed this in his encyclical, Spe Salvi , “When the Letter to the Hebrews says that Christians here on earth do not have a permanent homeland, but seek one which lies in the future (cf. Heb 11:13-16; Phil 3:20), this does not mean for one moment that they live only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage.” (SS 4) We do not have a permanent home here, but in this life of “common pilgrimage,” we realize that “God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise.” (CCC 1721) If we fail to understand why God put us in the world, then it would be impossible for us to grasp the concept of pilgrimage, and more importantly, the destination of our pilgrimage to the Heavenly Homeland. This, I think, is why Pope Benedict XVI was interested and devoted his life to a study of theology, because in doing so, he came to better know, love and serve God, and God alone. That is what gave him a profound joy in serving the Lord, even in the midst of turmoil and at times harsh backlash and criticisms from various channels of society. Theology was therefore, in no way an end, but rather a means that made him a better pastor, a better son of God. His sense of direction and purpose he set for his life can then, be fully encapsulated in his last words, “Lord, I love you.”

Perhaps I’ll end with a literal image that speaks to Pope Benedict XVI as a lifelong pilgrim. An image that I think has not been brought up (enough) in recent days as we look back to the life of the Pope-emeritus, was that of December 08, 2016, the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy by Pope Francis. Pope Francis pushed open the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of Mass that Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the first pilgrim after the Supreme Pontiff to walk through the Holy Door was Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, with the assistance his decades-long secretary, Georg Gänswein. I vividly remember watching the livestream of the liturgy early in the morning (Eastern Time), and was very moved by this image, recalling what the Pope-emeritus said that evening of February 28, 2013, that that was ahead of him was the “last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.” The Pope-emeritus, like the millions of pilgrims who made the pilgrimages to walk through the thresholds of Holy Doors throughout the world, expressed the desire to one day walk through the one Door, the Gate, who is Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 10:9), in which the act of walking through the Holy Door prefigures.

“Eternal rest grant unto Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on him. May he, and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” May Benedict, the humble pilgrim, walk through the Gate, who is Jesus Christ, the One whom he so longed for.

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Advent: New Beginnings, Renewed hope, Self-Surrender

The Church begins a new liturgical year with the season of Advent. I think this past liturgical year was the least disruptive compared to 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 liturgical cycles due to the pandemic. My question is, how did Catholics see ourselves celebrating the Sacred Mysteries this past year? My hope is that many of us found a sense of renewal, as we celebrated the liturgical season with little disruption, and in turn, found a deeper appreciation for the liturgical celebrations that many were deprived of for so long. Our longing to encounter Our Lord sacramentally hopefully helped us to realize how often we took the liturgy and the sacraments for granted. I know I am part of this group.

However, I think what is most important to think about as we journey through this Advent is: How can I be renewed again liturgically? I think there is a temptation to think that: Advent is here, back to the violet vestments, Advent wreath and candles, etc. But there is something beyond just the exterior signs in our churches and homes. These external signs should be reflective of an interior mood of desiring new beginnings, and renewed hope in Our Lord, Jesus Christ. After years of the pandemic, we must never again take the liturgy for granted, nor can we let secularist ideologies or materialism consume us to the point that we find hope in those things rather than grounding our hope in Jesus Christ. Advent is a time for new beginnings, for renewed hope and let us keep our eyes fixed on the star of Bethlehem that ultimately leads us to Jesus on the day of His Nativity.

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Revisiting and Reinforcing the Catholic Call to Serve

After several conversations I have had with fellow colleagues of various ministries, I have been called to reflect once again on the ‘Catholic Call to Serve.’ The promptings that instilled in me to write the following comes from a series of scenarios that I was previously unaware of happening in a Catholic ministry that I was and still, close to me heart. What was worrisome, even I would say heartbreaking for me was that tensions continue to persist within this ministry. I write this as a response to that and similar ongoing situations, but also for our readers’ reflection.

Whenever someone comes in with an open heart to join a Catholic ministry either within the parish or university campus, I am happy and assured that there are people who still want to take part in the Life of the Church. However, like any organization in society, Catholic ministries have within them more or less politics associated with it. The problem with these “politics” is that it disrupts the mission of a ministry and the Church as a whole.

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Walking Together, Synodally. A Reflection on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Canada

Pope Francis is making an Apostolic Journey to Canada from June 24-30, 2022 with the main goal of expressing his closeness with the Indigenous People of Canada – a group that has suffered much under the threats of colonialisation and assimilation. This assimilation was pushed forward by the government with the implementation of residential schools which took children away from their homes, deprived them of expressing and living their Indigenous culture. Furthermore, many were abused and survived traumatic expriences. It is even more unfortunate that a majority of these schools were run by Catholic institutions, many of them, religious orders.

This past spring, representatives of Indigenous Peoples of Canada were received by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in the Vatican over a course of several days where they spoke to him from their authentic experiences and trauma they have endured through these residential schools, and deprivation of cultural expression. Pope Francis listened carefully, and addressed them on the last day as a group from his heart, and apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, asking for pardon and forgiveness from the Indigenous peoples:

I feel shame – sorrow and shame – for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. All these things are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon. Clearly, the content of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to the faith itself: Jesus taught us to welcome, love, serve and not judge; it is a frightening thing when, precisely in the name of the faith, counter-witness is rendered to the Gospel.

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis: Meeting with Representatives of Indigenous Peoples in Canada (April 1, 2022)

Pope Francis recognized that a terrible harm that was done to the Indigenous Peoples: The Faith of the Church, centred around the Gospel of Jesus Christ was used not used to bring Jesus Christ to the people, but rather abused, and used as a means of justification for wrong actions and wrong principles. These wrong actions has caused indescribable pain, sorrow, and trauma to people who should have received love, care and affirmed of their dignity through the Gospel and a true encounter with Jesus.

In this ongoing process of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, as pastor, Pope Francis has recognized the urgency to be with his flock, and in particular, the most vulnerable, those who have been harmed in various ways, to assure them of his own accompaniment and the Church’s accompaniment. The chapters of the past cannot be re-written, but the question this Papal Visit proposes is, how can we all “Walk Together” forward in truth, reconciliation and hope?

This theme of “Walking Together” is fitting as the Church journeys towards the Synod on Synodality – journeying together. Throughout the synodal process, all are called to encounter – listen – discern. Pope Francis is being a role model for the Church, especially for the Church in Canada on what it means to be a synodal Church. This whole process of Truth and Reconciliation with the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples has been a synodal process. There has been encounters with the Church with the Indigenous, there has been much listening especially on the part of the Holy Father and the bishops during the delegations, and now there is the discernment portion which is ongoing. I hope that this Papal Visit with reinforce the verbs of encounter and listening, but also prompt further discernment.

Pope Francis will almost certainly reiterate, and perhaps expand on the apology he made April 1. He will have many encounters with Indigenous Peoples, and also with Catholics throughout Canada, particularly in Edmonton, Québec City and Iqaluit. He will likely continue to listen to more testimonies of Indigenous Peoples. However, the biggest question is what comes next after the Papal Visit? It is my hope that Pope Francis’ “pentiential pilgrimage“will not only prompt further reflection on this ongoing Truth and Reconciliation, but more importantly concrete action on the part of the Catholic Church, the Government and Canadians so to better accompany Indigenous Peoples.

I think there is a temptation to instituionalize matters. By that, I mean that sometimes, items are done for show to the public, so that the public may know that “Yes! XYZ is being taken care of!” but nothing follows through. The same goes with the synodal process – there might be a temptation to encounter and listen for show, to put on some facade. Yet, instituionalized listening, institutionalized encounters defeats the point of any synodal process, they are ingenuine. True encounter and true listening must lead to discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which then ultimately leads to action. This is what I hope Pope Francis’ Papal Visit will achieve – not only will we be able to proceed further to genuine truth and reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. I envision something that goes beyond the $30-million Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, but perhaps a program that works with Indigenous partners to raise the standard among Indigenous communities, which can be attributed in part to the effects of residential schools on later generations of Indigenous Peoples.

As a student an undergraduate student enrolled in the Ethics, Society & Law program, I have been made aware of effects of colonialization through some of the courses that I have taken. That, along with my understanding of the Christian history via my courses in the Christianity and Culture forces me to be informed in what I say, do and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people of Canada. This Papal Visit is a time for Catholics, including myself, to become (more) educated about Indigenous culture and narratives, as well as the history of residential schools, so that we can better support the cultural practices and language of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and be informed truthfully about residential schools. We cannot rely on the media as the source of our education of the history of residential schools. We should and must hear from the Indigenous themselves, and fact-checked sources. To absorb and spread misinformation only deepens the wound already caused by the realities of residential schools, and are of no help in promoting Indigenous culture. In seeking the truth and learn about Indigenous culture, history and the realities of residential schools, we then can move to authentic reconciliation which stirs us to concrete action. That is how we can truly “walk together” and walk synodally.

I will unite with the Holy Father on this “penitential pilgrimage.” I will be in Québec City to not only be there when our spiritual father comes, but to express my closeness with the Indigenous peoples. Do not get me wrong – this is not a vacation, or celebration. To be with the Holy Father in Québec City is an affirmation that I, along with Catholics across Canada will “Walk Together” with our Indigenous brothers and sisters through this journey of healing, truth and reconciliation and that we resolve to find ways to better accompany them, even after this Papal Visit. This is a pilgrimage to the heart of Catholicism in Canada, where I will ask St. François de Laval, first bishop of Canada and defender of the rights of Indigenous Peoples of his time, to intercede for the Church of Canada. The Holy Father will do the same – he will be a pilgrim in Québec City, acknowledging the sins of the Church and the effects of sin on its children, but doing so in a spirit of hope, of synodality. This is what the Church needs. This is what the Church in Canada needs. This is what Canadians need now. Pope Francis’ Papal Visit will hopefully spark that in us all.

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“Fortes in Fide – Strong in Faith” – A reflection on authentic faith

As graduates freshly come out of their convocations, whether it be in elementary, secondary-school, or post-secondary institutions, I am reminded that this year marks the first in-person graduation since 2019, which happened to be my high-school graduating Class of 2019, Chaminade College School. The graduating class from Chaminade this year is special for a variety of reasons that I will not name here, but mainly, because these guys were the last group of grade 9s that I got to meet during my time there – these guys were in grade 9, I was in grade 12. I am proud of them for their commitment to faith and their perseverence, especially over the past ~2 years.

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Expression of the Heart of Jesus: A journal entry after attending a Priestly Ordination

On Saturday March 14, 2022, the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrated the ordination of four new priests for the Archdiocese of Toronto at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. I have attended a number of priestly ordinations, each time I am reminded of what St. John Vianney has said, “The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. And I am reminded of this fact every time I hear and struck by what the presider says in the preface, “As they give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love. That is, it seems, the very essence of the priesthood, to be a reflection of the image of Christ by virtue of their lives and I pray that everyday for our priests.

I share here a journal entry that I wrote at the start of July 2020, shortly after I partook in the Ordination of seven priests. This ordination left a special mark on me, because unlike the other annual priestly ordinations I attended in the Archdiocese of Toronto, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this one was celebrated in late June, just shortly after some lockdown restrictions were lifted, and churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto were opened for some months. Due to limited attendance, as part-time Sacristan at St, Michael’s Cathedral Basilica at the time, I had the honor of being able to serve at this ordination. It was also at this ordination that I was able to witness at close-range, the symbolism, actions and external signs of the Ordination rite very clearly.

“The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” (St. John Vianney)

Many emotions ran through me on June 27, 2020 as I participated in the ordination of eight men to the Order of the Presbyterate through the imposition of hands by Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto. It was my third priestly ordination I ever attended and probably the first one I actively participated in as sacristan and server for the Mass.

Often, an Archdiocesan Ordination would mean a packed Cathedral with “pomp and circumstance”, especially if it was a large ordinandi class like this year. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 swept through the world, that typical ordination was not possible. Originally planned for mid-May 2020, the ordination was postponed until June 27, 2020 – eight deacons awaiting ordination.

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“Jesus, I Trust in You” – A Reflection on Our World at this Point in History

First, a story of a print of the Divine Mercy: Three years ago, I was in Europe with some fellow colleagues of Chaminade College School and we spent approximately two days in Florence, Italy. When we had time to do some self-discovery in small groups, before lunch, myself and some others came across a plain looking church (which turned out to be the church of San Remigio, with its current structure dating back to the 13th century). This church was not elaborate, but what was inside it was special. Not only was our Eucharistic Lord present (as in any church), but there were some second-class relics of Padre Pio, and a beautiful painting of the Divine Mercy… I’ll be focusing on the image of Divine Mercy in this reflection. I can recall, the church was dark, with some dim sunlight let in through the windows, with the exception of the crucifix in the sanctuary and the image of Divine Mercy which were lit with some spotlights. I remember walking quietly into the church and observing the simplicity of the church. There was barely any art in this church, so I spent a short while, a minute or two gazing at the Divine Mercy painting. Beside it, there were some complimentary prints of the painting, so I took one, carefully stored in a folder and went into my backpack. When I was back at my hotel, I wrote the date on the back of the print: “March 13, 2019.”

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The Quiet and Sacrificial Life of a Priest

Despite an already prepared blog to be published tomorrow, and some papers to submit in the upcoming days, I opened Facebook this morning to learn of rather terrifying news from Catholic News Sources in Vietnam, and later, the official Facebook page of the Dominican Order: Fr. Joseph Thanh Ngọc Trần, O.P. was murdered yesterday, January 29, 2022, while hearing confession. The exact motives of his murder have not yet been disclosed (still under investigation), though some speculate the murderer was drunk. Some have even went as far to call him a “martyr,” though I would not give such classification until we know of the motive behind such murder. However, what is clear: The young 41-year old priest died while he was celebrating the sacraments – in this case, the sacrament of Reconciliation.

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Vincent’s Highlights of 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on for nearly two-years, with the end seemingly long ahead as the world continues to face the complications set about by the omicron variant. However, while the media (I believe) persists on fear mongering, and yet while people should exercise prudence, we should be assured that we have progressed far with the pandemic, thanks to the efforts of so many people. Despite the lingering of the pandemic, I take a look back at 2021 at the top moments of the year.

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