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”.
Now, that university exams are done, I am not taking summer courses but devoting this time to personal reading and learning personal skills, including cooking. Those are things that U of T cannot teach you and so in a sense, I see my university education continuing during this time. While there will be no University credit for the cooking or the reading I do, it will help me become a better-rounded person for my family and society.
All that aside, in the midst of all this, I have to say, I had very positive experiences from my first-year at the University of Toronto (U of T). Today, I want to compile five things I learned during my time of U of T, including some tips I would give incoming first-year students.
Time management is vital – University is much more self-directed than high school and you may become tempted to slack off in the first days. In a sense, there is more “free-time” as in you have less in-class time which may be tempting for you to do other things. You might find that during the first week or so of University. However, as the weeks progress, you will find yourself using that time to read and get assignments done. Therefore, time management is very important because work may pile up before you know it. There is not room for procrastination because the truth is, procrastination leads to more stress. I like to have a game plan in my mind every day. Most often, I would divide my time into slots, and make sure within a certain amount of time allotted, I would get the work done. On “down” days, I would strive to get a bit of the work done, and sometimes, it ends up being the whole thing done with a couple extra days to spare for other work.
Get to know at least someone or two in every course – As a commuter, I did not make a lot of friends compared to those who lived on residence. Besides the aspect of mental support, I found it incredibly helpful to get to know at least someone that you would talk to throughout the duration of the course. Not only will you not feel lonely, but knowing someone makes it easier to ask for assistance when needed. There were at least three instances where I missed lecture (thanks to TTC delays), but knowing that there was someone who I could depend on to get notes or sometimes a recording relieves some stress in an already stressful days. Vice-versa, you can help them find the support they need if they are ever late for lecture. Find one or two people and exchange numbers and email addresses with them at the beginning of the course and it will save you much stress, especially when public transit might not be co-operating!
Don’t delay! – So I previously talked about not procrastinating with school work – now I would say so with extra-curriculars you plan to do. I honestly lacked extra-curriculars this past year. The main reason was my lack of knowledge of how university was going to be in the first few months. Then second-semester rolled around and I felt a little better about navigating university life. I am grateful to the people of the Newman Centre on St. George Campus for your warm welcome every time I passed through the doors… I always felt welcomed and “at-home” at the Newman Centre. I had plans to take part in more of their activities, as well as some Christianity and Culture weekly meet-ups. It seems that I plan to do this and that and say, “I will do them in late March or April.” Bang – the pandemic comes, and everything is postponed or cancelled, students are confined to their homes. Therefore, lesson learned – if you have planned to do something, if you can, do it before it is too late!
Do not be afraid of professors and TAs – I took some First-Year Foundation Seminar courses, and the experiences were positive. One of the things I got out of those seminars are the interactions with professors. I particularly have a deep respect and appreciation for the professors I had a St. Michael’s College – their knowledge and love for Catholicism is tremendous and I have had great conversations with them. Also, if you need any form of assistance with school work, or need some clarification, approach your professor (in a seminar) or TA (if you have one). During their office hours, they will gladly answer any questions or concerns you have and certainly engage in interesting conversations (if there is no one else waiting after you).
Take courses and enroll in programs of interest – I loved most of my courses I took. In the humanities, you will be expected to do a lot of reading and why read something you do not enjoy? I never expected good marks this semester (up to you to interpret by what I mean by ‘good’) but what allowed me to get through first year were the actual interests of the subjects. There were perhaps some courses where I did not have a keen interest in the subject, but I found to be very helpful. I really want to note the courses I took at St. Michael’s College, particularly Beauty Human and Divine taught by Professor Tardif, and The Sistine Chapel: Its History, Usage and Imagery taught by Professor Michael O’Connor – both First-Year Foundation Seminar courses but I loved every minute of those two courses. Worth noting was also Introduction to Historical Philosophy taught by Professor Peter King. Courses outside of realm such as a political socience course, Social Justice and the City taught by Professor Theresa Enright broadened my perspectives on the city and the many injustices that are right in our backyard. Don’t take me wrong – I am not saying that the content of the courses I am interested in are easy – not at all. Have I had 60s and 70s on papers? Yes, I am not afraid to admit that. However, when you have interest in a particular subject, you strive to put your best in and even when mistakes arise, you will care why you got something wrong and learn from them. When you have no interest in the course you take, everything is going to seem dry and you will start to not care about your intake in that course. If you do not like a course, drop it early on and enroll in another course – you don’t want to be a month behind everyone else!
There you go, my five tips recounting my experiences in university. I want to end on some notes, especially for incoming university students (these are based on answers I give from questions I get from time to time):
Marks are not everything! I know how much parents expect of their children and that comes from a good place. However, at the end of the day, you may have the mark but what do you do with it? Are you able to apply your learning to everyday life? That is something I learned from my time at Chaminade – transferable skills and that is what I hopefully got out of my post-secondary education so far. Yes, GPAs are important, but more importantly I think is the fruit you get out of your education. How does your education help you become better people in society? …just something to ponder about.
Treasure your high school friendships and make positive use of each moment you have in high school. While I do have friends at U of T and some classmates I can call friends, university is such a populated place and honestly, the friendships I have made so far do not seem to be as tight knit as the ones I made Chaminade. I still keep in contact with many “Gryphons” from Chaminade to check in and see how they’re doing even after graduation. I still proudly say I am an alumni from Chaminade College School when asked and while I am proud to be part of the great U of T Community, I am still part of the “men of green and gold” and I vow to support my gryphon brothers as much as possible.
On more practical terms: buy used textbooks on Facebook and Kijiji and save!
With that, I wish all high school graduates, Class of 2020 the best of luck in their future endeavours (my younger sister included). Keep your head high and end off strong :).
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.
2. Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic
Have you ever heard of “a man with a large nose” named Lino Rulli? One of the funniest Catholics of all time, Rulli is a radio host of The Catholic Guy Show on SiriusXM 129. To someone who is a first time listener of The Catholic Guy Show, his show may seem a little weird, but the more you listen to him, the more you get to know who Rulli is and how he sees Catholicism. Sinner speaks to Rulli’s attempts “to be a faithful Catholic”. He starts right off the bat understanding that his is not a perfect Catholic, but yet he still tries in every way to be the ideal Catholic. He does so not in a biographical way, but with a sense of humour. Pair a listening of The Catholic Guy Show and Sinner, and you will have yourself a happy day. (Note: SiriusXM is free to listen to till May 15!)
A sequel to Sinner, Lino Rulli speaks ironically not of his triumphant saintly ways, but rather attempts to achieve sainthood – the vocation in which every Catholic should be striving for. We can all relate to the stories of these attempts to achieve sainthood. Yet do you ever feel like sainthood is too hard? Rulli points out that sainthood is in now way easy, but we have to keep trying over and over again. It takes virtue – and what virtues really are, are good habits and in order to form habits, we need to something and practice it over and over again. So don’t give up on sainthood!
4. Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomenon in the Lives of the Saints
Are you thirsting for the day we come again to celebrate the Eucharist together again? I certainly am – livestream Masses is no way the same as physical and communal celebration of the Eucharist. While Eucharistic Miracles and Marian Apparitions are not doctrine, they may, in a sense be concrete confirmations of the doctrines of the Church that cannot be explained scientifically – they are divine signs. Maybe prior to this pandemic, you may have found yourself partaking in the Mass and other acts of piety out of a sense of routine. However, I hope that after a “fast” from the Sacramental reception of the Eucharist, once these restrictions have been lifted, we will have a greater love and devotion for the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Have you ever wanted to learn about the rich history of the Catholic Church but found a thick history book full of text to be daunting? Well this book is for you. Colourful with high quality pictures of 100 artifacts from the time of Christ to the current times of the Church, this book takes you through the Church’s history in a way that is appealing to every Catholic. If you want to do a crash course of Church History, only scratching its surface, then start reading this title!
6. Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope
People have had many opportunities throughout the past weeks to choose from a variety of priests and bishops to “attend” Mass virtually. One of those many priests is Fr. Rob Galea – now a popular Catholic speaker and singer. However, he did have his past. His story of true conversion of heart that turned his life around and eventually lead him to the priesthood… like a modern day St. Augustine conversion. Feeling lost? Especially during these times? This book is for you.
I know some people were expected to be in the Holy Land this Holy Week for the grand celebrations of Catholicism. The thing with books is that it can take you to various places. Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni brings pilgrims back or to the Holy Land in his new book, Encountering Jesus. With Biblical passages, meditations, reflection questions and prayers, Msgr. Peroni is able to capture the events and atmosphere the Biblical sites brought up within this short book. There will be an in-depth review coming in a couple of week on this blog, but for now… I know this book is going to be in my carry-on the day I get to go the Holy Land. For the time being, I’m on “reading” pilgrimage.
8. Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship
Some have said that quarantine period has made this year’s Lent seems like an “authentic” Lent. However, with Lent comes Easter and to prepare ourselves anew, once this pandemic is over, I highly recommend using this time in discernment. For months or years, we may have followed Jesus in a routine matter, or maybe out of obligation. However, Franciscan Fr. Casey Cole’s book Let Go allows one the chance to do a deep examination of conscience. To truly be “liberated” and follow Jesus with out whole hearts, there are seven things that Fr. Casey says you need to “let go” from yourself in order to open yourself up to Christ.
9. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican City
Rome and Vatican City – the centre of Roman Catholicism… I have such vivid memories of my time there in March 2019. I always wondered what it would be like to actually live in the eternal city. This journal of Robert J. Hutchinson’s life in Rome with his family gave a simple, authentic account which I really loved. Allow yourself to step into Hutchinson’s shoes and take some days of “normal” life in Rome, going through the city of saints and relics.
10. Laudato Si’ (Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home)
Laudato Si’ is probably one of the highlight encyclicals of Pope Francis’ pontificate.The call for the care for our “common home” by our Holy Father still continues to echo throughout the world even five years later after the encyclical was published. The thing is, with Papal Documents, Catholics or people in general seem to get tidbits here and there, but fail to read the documents in its entirety or spend devoting time to study them. As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, it is fitting that we spend time to read to re-read this Papal Document. Let us arise out of pandemic not only with a new self, but a new world, a new and clean environment.
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.
“Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
Is it Easter already? It is, according to the Liturgical calendar (and probably from the ‘Happy Easter’ messages and posts you have been seeing). Yet, without public Masses and physical participation in the celebrations of the latter half of Lent and Holy Week, doesn’t it feel like like Lent? A Lent that might go on a couple more weeks? I remarked to my family that this past Triduum was a little “weird” as I am so used to a Triduum filled with liturgies and helping at liturgies. I even had notes for 2020 prepared. While the outward celebrations cannot take place throughout the majority of the world,I think that it is important to know that it is Easter.
The Paschal Candle shines in all its glory in the darkened Church during the Easter Vigil Liturgy. The flame in the darkened building signifies Jesus Christ, the Light of the World who shines forth in a world covered by the darkness of sin.
The mystery of Salvation that we celebrate this night is made evident not only in the dramatic Lucernarium, but also reflected in the Lectionary readings, most vividly in the ones that come from the Old Testament. An Old Testament reading that must never be omitted during this Vigil is that of Exodus, recounting the crossing of the Red Sea. It is interesting that we bring up Exodus at this night because at the start of the Paschal Triduum, with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we read Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14, which recounts the events of Passover, including the directives for the preparation of the lamb and the Seder Meal. Tonight’s Exodus reading serves as the bookend for the Passover and the Catholic Triduum, in which God shows his mighty power to save the Israelites and overturns the Egyptians.
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.