Vincent’s Top 5 Moments of 2017

2017

Last year, I started this website to have an online presence, a digital footprint and as part of my efforts to evangelize. Thanks to this website, I have been convinced at how powerful a digital portfolio can be. From time to time, I like to surf my own website, re-reading the old posts. By reading the older content, I can see areas of improvement in my writing but also the progress I have made.

During these last moments of 2017, I sit back to reflect on the top 5 moments of this year.

1. Lift Jesus Higher Rally – In March of 2017, several youth from Vietnamese Martyrs Parish had the chance to go to Lift Jesus Higher Youth Rally at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The theme chosen was, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” from John 14:6. I really enjoyed the Praise and Worship sessions led by Chris Bray and his team. To me, it was a repeat of the amazing moments I had at Steubenville Toronto in 2016. There were three talks, each was titled according to the theme of the rally, but Connor Flanagan’s talk, “The Life,” seemed to linger with me the most even to this day. Connor Flanagan himself seemed to have, “The Life,” in him as he sung his Christian Songs with a rap embedded in it… seemed quite attractive to me. Connor sung, “Strong Is Your Love” live, which I love:

2. Student Council Vice-Presidency – May 2016, Chaminade Student Council ’15-’16 hosted their elections for the ’16-’17 term. To my surprise, I was elected as its vice-president for this school year. I see it as a call for me to serve, which I wrote a reflection about it here, and also column about this topic in the Catholic Register, YSN section. Being part of my school’s student council has given me an opportunity to serve others and I am grateful for this gift.

3. Steubenville Toronto 2017 – I was blessed this past July to be able to attend Steubenville Toronto again, this time with new speakers: Katie Hartfiel, Pete Burds, Cooper Ray, with Chris Padgett, Fr. Rick Martignetti as team priest and music ministry by Josh Blakesley, Sarah Kroger and their band. However, this Steubenville Toronto to me was a different experience, not only because of the new speakers, but I also got to meet new people and foster some friendships. At the conference, I met a priest who i have only met for the first time at a Mass at Chaminade only at the end of June, but had the chance to see him again at Steubenville. Fr. Jim Berning S.D.B. is his name, and he is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. That connection with him will continue on you read this blog post. I also had the chance at Steubenville to foster my relationships with members of our Parish’s Youth Groups. Ultimately, Steubenville Toronto fostered my relastionship with Christ and my faith.

It seemed to me as my grade 10 Religion class prepared me for this conference. The topic of relativism, faith and reason was spoken about quite a bit in Religion class. I became quite interested in finding flaws in relativism. Interestingly the conference’s speakers seemed to address this indirectly. Chris Padgett said more than once, “God’s not a feeling. God’s a person”. Then in Cardinal Collins’ Homily, he said that faith and reason go together. There were probably many more statements like that throughout the conference, but I will go in depth in a future post.

4. Knights of the Eucharist Retreat – I was blessed to attend a Knights of the Eucharist Retreat hosted by Vietnamese Eucharistic Movement Eastern Canada. I enjoyed meeting people my age from many different regions of Eastern Canada: Scarborough, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor and Ottawa. We have all come to strengthen our faith and our Lord in the Eucharist. We were blessed to have four priests, one deacon, one seminarian and many youth leaders during the retreat days. Though the food was good and there were a lot of fun moments, what I enjoyed most were the moments of prayer, Mass and Adoration. I was especially moved by Adoration on the second night with the songs and the Confession that I had. I didn’t feel any tensions or distractions. Everything was centred on Christ at Adoration which I found to be beautiful. I hope to have the same experiences next year.

5. Salesian Leadership Retreat – At the end of November, myself along with two guys and one of the chaplains from Chaminade went on a retreat, known as Salesian Leadership Retreat (SLR). The Salesian order is a religious order founded by St. Don Bosco in which he focused on the development of youth and their education. Many students from the different areas of Toronto and from far as Cornwall, Ontario. I knew none of the retreatants, but the retreat days lead me to know so many new people and developed some good friendships, that I hope will last a lifetime. Interestingly, the chaplain of the retreat was no other than Fr. Jim Berning S.D.B. It seemed like the first encounter I had with Fr. Jim way back in June prepared me for this retreat.

I am aware that some readers may attend SLR in the future, so therefore I will not spoil anything here. However, if any senior in secondary school whose school brings a group to this retreat, I strongly encourage it! It is not only fun and engaging, but I have learned a lot of leadership skills that you cannot learn simply from a textbook.

 

I have been to quite a few retreats and conferences this year, including those not listed here. This new year, I will take what I have learned this past year and apply it at school and parish.

Thank you to everyone of you who have journeyed with me this year. Be assured of my prayers for you. To all blog readers, thank you for your support!

Good-bye 2017 and hello 2018!!!

 

 

 

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Christmas Eve Mass Complexity (?)

Christmas eve complexity

Christmas is only a couple days away. Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year. Thouh that may mean a short Advent, there have been many who have been confused about how many Masses they have to attend on December 24.

I’ve seen several versions of this chart this past Advent season on several webpages :

December 24 Mass Combinations (from catholicherald.co.uk)

Many reading such a chart may say, “Oh, so confusing!”, or “Two Masses in a weekend?” The answer to that is simple. One has to fulfill both the Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Advent) and Christmas obligation. No shortcuts here.

However, I pose a question, “Why are we so concerned about how many Masses we have to go to?” For many of us, Christmas is a time to shop around, spend time with family, party, recreation time. Sadly, Christmas has been secularized today that it seems like Jesus has been forgotten on his own birthday. When I go through the Christmas card aisle at Walmart, I find it so difficult to find a Christmas Card with depicting the Child Jesus and/or the Holy Family. Rather, snowmen, Santa and his elves adorn the front of many Christmas Cards.

Going out into the streets, there are many beautiful displays. Yet, what percentage of the displays depict the Child Jesus or has some reference to Jesus? How many Nativity Scenes are displayed in public? Or is there that fear of discrimination or possible scandal among the public?

We as Catholics should bring Christ back into Christmas. However, that starts with ourselves. Why are we so concerned about the fact that we have to Mass twice in one weekend? Why do we see going to Mass as such a burden but going to a friend’s party a pleasure?

This last Sunday of Advent and Christmas, let’s resolve to do this:  Don’t go to Mass just to fulfill the obligation. Rather, go to Mass with your whole heart to give to the Child Jesus laying in the manger.  Also, don’t leave the Church early. Take time to go to the Nativity Scene set up at Church and look at the figure of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Often we complain about little things in life. But compare ourselves to the Holy Family and reflect on the obstacles they had to go through. The truth, the hardships they had to go through is nothing compared to the little we have to endure today.

Read more:

Vincent Pham’s 10 Ways to Celebrate an Authentic Catholic Christmas

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Reflecting on God’s Not Dead 1 and 2 and Relativism

God's Not Dead

Last school year in Grade 11 Law class, the law teacher lent me a movie titled, God’s Not Dead. Just a couple days ago, I managed to stream God’s Not Dead 2 online. Interesting enough, in my grade 10 religion class, the religion teacher (who was very good about apologetics) discussed the concept of God. For years, I have always loved the teachings of the Church. However, I never faced an argument and that religion prompted me to put myself in such position. I realized that perhaps I couldn’t argue the concept of the existence of God theologically, based on “the Church says this, says that”. In that religion class, I really learned about the existence of God not only theologically but logically based on reason.

Everything on earth is has a cause. For example, an apple came from a store, the apples at the store came from tree on the farm, the tree came from a seed, the seed came from an apple… so on and so forth. But that “backwards cause motion” simply cannot go on forever. If you can trace it back to the big bang theory, great! But, where did the big bang come from? There must have been a primary cause that started everything. We call that the prime mover. Christians acknowledge the prime mover as God.

Sometimes, we may encounter who may say, “I only believe in things that are scientifically proven.” That statement is simply baloney!  That itself statement cannot be scientifically proven! If you can prove that that statement is true scientifically, you would be very famous.

The God’s Not Dead movie series is a response to the growing philosophy of relativism present in the world today. Relativism is the philosophy that there is no absolute truth, no right and wrong in the world. Everything is subjective to one’s own feelings, one’s own preferences. By rejecting the truth, we reject the existence of God, who Himself is the author of reality, and in which Jesus, true God, said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6)

The victory of relativism is the hammer that crumbles the walls of society. When there is no absolute truth, no rights and wrongs in a world, everything becomes subjective to the human being. The legalization of euthanasia, abortion is the “fruit” of relativism. Human life has a purpose and the Creator has given it as a gift to human beings so the we can “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). That has simply been rejected now. In this relativistic society, human life has become something subjective to one’s own feelings and emotions. Through the legalization of euthanasia and abortion, we undermine the value of human life, putting it into our hands.

We must use our minds in which God has created to reason, not our feelings to determine right and wrong. We must recognize that morality is objective, not subjective to man.

“God’s not dead.” That statement is powerful, but how can we integrate it into society? Image result for God's not deadFirst, we must recognize the presence of God in our everyday lives through the people we meet, through nature, through His creation. Second, we must not be relativists. When we let relativism be the philosophy that leads society, we reject God because God is the author of morality. Relativists allow themselves to become their own god, in which there is no room for reason, for truth and therefore ultimately rejecting God.

Let us not fall into trap of relativism. Instead, let us follow the path of objective moral truth, which is the path that leads to God Himself on the last day.

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Meaning Behind a Sweater: Identity

sweater post

If you have met me in person either outside of school, at Church or just simply outside of home, you’ve likely seen me wearing Chaminade’s black Student Council sweater. I started wearing it after Council members bought one, custom made in June 2016. Just last June, another Council sweater was made (so I don’t wear the same one all the time)!

A sweater is a sweater, but such apparel bears great meaning behind it. I remember that story, The Hockey Sweater by Rich Carrier. The boy’s Montreal Canadiens sweater became small and his mom ordered a new one, only to get a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater. The boy, I believe was not upset about the wrong sweater, but was ashamed of the identity associated with the sweater. He wanted to be associated with the Montreal Canadiens like the rest of his peers, not the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Many secondary school clubs often have sweaters, t-shirts or other custom made apparel to first of all, distinguish themselves from a different club or sports team. Every group is unique and group members should always take pride in the great things that they do.

The Council sweaters I have are probably one of my most valued things. Perhaps it does not have much monetary value but it is the sense of belonging to a group, answering the call to serve in a specific group, in a ministry.

I find that it is the same meaning when I put on the alb and cincture (no stole and chasuble yet… for a long time 🙂 ) for the celebration of Mass of assist the priest. The alb and cincture are reminders of the one who serves that what they are doing is for the glorification of God and His Church through the celebration of Liturgy.

One can connect similar ideas to apparel of their profession. For example, scientists in the lab puts on a lab coat before work and police officers, depending on their ranking puts on the appropriate pieces of their uniform.

I reflect on my mission every time I put on the council sweater. I am reminded of my call to fulfill my roles on Student Council to the best of my abilities so that my brothers and Chaminade can have a great experience during their years at high school. A similar meaning goes for the alb and cincture when I put it on for Mass. I am reminded to be there to serve the priest, and faithfully assist in the Liturgy for the glory of God and His Church.

However, sweaters, albs and cinctures are all material things. Ultimately, in anything that I do, my first identity is that I am a child of God, a soldier of the Gospel. Do we ever realize or remember that? The “sweater” saying “child of God” was permanently put on our souls on the day when we were baptized. No one can take away or destroy that “sweater”. The “child of God sweater” is on us forever!

Do you not feel like you belong to anything? Remember always, that you always wear the permanent “child of God sweater”.

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Talking about the Pallium…

pALLIUM

On June 29, Pope Francis will bless and give the pallium to new Metropolitan Archbishops to be imposed by the Apostolic Nuncio on their own dioceses. Prior to 2015, the palliums were imposed on Metropolitan Archbishops at St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. However, Pope Francis changed the tradition by having the pallium imposed on the Archbishop in their own dioceses, therefore only blessing the palliums and concelebrating Mass with the new Archbishops on June 29.

Many may be asking, “What is a pallium and what does it symbolize?” A pallium is a band of white wool with two pendants embroidered with six black crosses. The ends of the pendant are black. The pallium is worn around the neck with one pendant hanging from the front and one hanging on the back. Special pins are attached onto the crosses on the top cross of the two pendants and the left side cross. The pallium itself have gone through significant development in its shape. In the past, a pallium was a very long stole of wool that was wrapped around the neck with its ends suspended on the left. Then, the ends of the pallium were slowly moved to the centre. Eventually, the pallium became a circular band with the pins added only for decorative purposes, no longer used for its practical purpose. Then, the two pendants became shorter, and shorter to the size it is today.

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Figure 1: Development of the Pallium

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Figure 2

The pallium used today did go through some interesting times. Once during the Pontificate of John Paul II, he used the pallium with two long pendants and red crosses (see figure 2). However, he used the standard pallium like other Archbishops throughout his Pontificate. The pallium became quite interesting during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. During his installation, Benedict was

pallium

Figure 3

given the “old-style pallium” with the ends suspended on his left shoulder (see figure 3) and decorated with five black crosses. That pallium was later changed to a new one that had red crosses in 2008. Pope Francis wore that “revised” papal pallium until June 29, 2014 when he reverted back to the standard pallium that was given to Metropolitan Archbishops and he has kept that style since.

The wool of the lamb traditional comes from two lambs who has been blessed by the Holy Father on the feast of St. Agnes (January 21). The blessing of lambs is to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Agnes whose name means “lamb”. Obviously, the wool must have come from other lambs too since the wool of two lambs would not be enough to make palliums for almost forty bishops.

The pallium bears two meanings. First, it is a symbol of the union of the Pope with its

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The pallium is a reminder for the Archbishop to be like Christ, a good shepherd

Metropolitan Archbishops in taking care of the Catholic Church. Metropolitan Archbishops may only wear the pallium in their Metropolitan See, in their boundaries. The Pope however has no boundaries and may wear his pallium universally. The pallium is a symbol of the good shepherd. Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago explained his his Pallium Mass homily, “Made of lamb’s wool, marked with crosses and stained at the ends in black to resemble hoofs of the sheep, it is placed on the shoulders reminding the one who wears it and the entire church he serves that we are a community that goes after the lost sheep.” The pallium is a representation and reminder of the lambs the Archbishop must carry upon his shoulders. In union with the Holy Father, he must guide the church in faith, hope and charity and like Christ the good shepherd, bring home those who have gone astray, therefore ultimately glorifying God.

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Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago receiving the Pallium from the Apostolic Nuncio in 2015

The pallium is a very interesting vestment and rich in symbolism. We pray that the Archbishops who wear the pallium may be reminded to be like Christ, the good shepherd, seeking out the sheep who have gone astray and with the Holy Father, guide the Church in the right path, the path of faith, hope and charity.

 

 

 

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ICS Video Game: Mario Bros, Vati-Run Edition, v. 1.1

In my Introduction to Computer Science Course (ICS) at Chaminade College School, as part of the Independent Study Unit, students were required to create a video game on Scratch, which is a “free programming language […] where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations.” 

The Planning Stage – As part of my brand The Catholic Man, I want to create a game that has a Catholic aspect. I was thinking for sometime and suddenly, the image of St. Peter’s Basilica popped up in my mind. “A perfect game setting”, I thought. I also wanted to put include an aspect of Christianity today, the many persecutions that occur. Interestingly, I happened to bump upon an article recalling how a seminarian saved the Eucharist from ISIS and later on returns to the area as a priest. Therefore, the goal of the game is to collect all the Chalices but at the same time dodge the rocks. The rocks are a symbol of persecution. St. Stephen was the first martyr and he was stoned to death (cf. Acts 7:54-60). Today, there are many more gruesome forms of persecution of Christians. Mario also collects the flames, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of persecution, Jesus reminds us, “…for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:20). In the end, after completing all three levels, each one progressing in difficulty, Mario sees Jesus whom He calls Mario, “good and faithful servant” as mentioned in the parable of the tenants Matthew 25:23.

Preliminary Sketches

 

Level1

Level 1 – Originally, I planned to use a various number of Sacred Objects that Mario should catch. However, I figured that collecting one specific vessel would be more meaningful. In my plans, I intended to have the devil popping up at random moments. After some time thinking about it, that feature was scrapped from my plans.

level2

Level 2 – In level 2, I planned to have Mario catching stars, a Marian symbol. However, it would not seem reasonable to have stars falling from the sky. Level 2 was going to take place in the Crypt Chapel where the tombs of most Popes are located in St Peter’s Basilica. It was impossible to find a panoramic background of the Crypt Chapel and therefore, I had to change the setting for Level 2.  I also intended for my game to only have two levels. The two levels seemed too easy. Therefore, a third level was added which was a little bit more difficult.

Sprites

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Mario – He is the main character of the game. His mission is the save the Church from persecutors and from destruction.

 

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Rocks – Mario must avoid these rocks. Rocks in the context of this game is a symbol of persecution.

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Fire – Mario can collect these to boost up his scores if he is hit by the rocks. They are a symbol of the Holy Spirit which gives the Christian People strength to withstand persecutions.

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Chalice – Mario must collect all the chalices in each level. They are a symbol of salvation, “The Cup of Salvation” (Psalm 116).

Jesus Risen

Jesus – After achieving the goal, after dodging much persecution, Maria sees Jesus, the “pot of gold”, Salvation. God is our goal in the after life after overcoming the many challenges of life… to meet God face to face in Heaven one day.

Screenshots

 

 

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Box Art

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled at EB-Games as this might appear on the shelves one day!

Mario Vati-Runs box art

 

Download

Well, the game might not be at EB-Games right now, but you can download it free-of-charge in the link below!

  • Version 1.1  << CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD >>
    • First edition of Mario Bros. Vati-Run Edition
    • First time Mario completes a mission through one of the holiest sites in the world!
    • Download the Scratch file and open it in Scratch
    • ***Minor glitches and notes*** (Please read before playing) 
      • The game may be run very slow. Please use a fast computer.
      • If “green flag” is pressed the first-time and things seem to be a little bit messed up, press the “green flag” again and everything should function correctly. It has been an error I have been unable to diagnose.

Credits

A special thanks to the following individuals who helped me throughout the process to make this edition of the game possible:

  • Mr. Mason (ICS Teacher)
  • Tyler Nguyen
  • Joseph Tran

 

Closing Remarks

Any recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

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A Catholic’s Call To Serve

Service

As my grade 10 year at Chaminade College School came to a close, I once again ran

Vote for Vincent Pham

My campaign poster

for Student Council hoping to continue with a third year on the Council for the 2017-2018 school year. I have been involved in Student Councils ever since Elementary School. From the moment I walked through the doors of Chaminade College School in September 2015, I knew I wanted to participate in Student Council and other religious activities. I was elected by my peers to be one of the two gr. 9 representative. In May 2016, I was re-elected by the student body to be part the Student Council for the current school year, 2016-2017. This past Wednesday May 24, 2017 was the elections for the Student Council for the 2017-2018 school year. The results were announced yesterday morning on the announcements yesterday Thursday May 25. I was surprised and humbled at my election to vice-presidency (vice-chair) of the Student Council, something I would have never expected since I stepped foot into Chaminade College School almost two years ago.

Going through the halls with others recognizing who this, “Vincent Pham” guy was, I was humbled. I have informed my friends that I am still the same old Vincent Pham, vice-president or not. I never expect to get high positions or even to get many votes. I entrust everything into the hands of God and go with His will. Now that I look ahead into the future with responsibilities in my hands, I have reminded myself of that call to serve others in faith, hope and charity. It has come to my attention that the higher your position is anywhere in life, the more you must serve others, not the other way around.

“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mt 20:28) I believe this will  be my motto for the remaining of my time on Student Council. Many people often want to seek high positions, or what many call “rankings” in a hierarchy. The key that many want is power because with power, one can control other people with it so other may go with their wants, their taste. Yet, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:25-28) Jesus, most supreme in power because He is true God, did not come so that others may be His servants. Rather, Christ humbly came to earth without majesty, “taking the form a slave” (Phil 2:7). This was evident through Jesus’ act of washing the feet of His disciples before the Last Supper (cf. Jn 13:1-17). 

All of this brings me back to an event I took part in last year. The one-day program hosted by TCDSB called, A Catholic Call TServe (ACCTS) was not only a day of prayer, Mass and discussions. However,it was a day I really learned the true meaning of Catholic service. Students were assigned to volunteer at different charities and shelter in Toronto. I was blessed to volunteer at Mary’s House in Downtown along with some other of my brothers and Chaminade College School. I do have to comment that the work was not as easy as I thought. We were to clean the baseboards of three floors. Each student wore gloves and used sponges to scrub those baseboards. Afterwards, I commented jokingly to one of my friends, “Today was one of those days when you really don’t want to be a Catholic (LOL)!” I went home that day reflecting on what I have done that day and realized that Jesus did similar acts too.

The higher the position one is in, the more service they must do. Those ordained to Holy Orders are called to serve. Priests, though they are called “Father”, wears beautiful vestments for Mass and using such fancy chalices, all of that would mean nothing without service. Same with Bishops and above. They are called by the people as “Your Excellency”, wear such beautiful mitres, hold elaborate croziers and wear elegant pectoral crosses, these insignia would mean nothing without service. We can see in the Popes after the Second-Vatican Council, especially in Pope Francis. Those days of the gestora and the Papal Tiara are now gone. The vestments worn by the Pontiff are much simpler. Yet, their acts of service are great and becoming more visible to the Christian people to show that even those of high authority are called to serve the people, not to be served. This should be the case not only with the Supreme Pontiff but with ALL World Leaders and those with authority. Prime Ministers or presidents and their companions should be the ones serving the people of the country, not to be served by the people of the country. Sadly, this is the case in many countries where citizens are forced to work for the glory of the government.

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Cardinal Blase Cupich serving food (@CardinalBCupich Facebook) 

Since my time on the Student Council, I have looked up to Cardinal Blase Cupich, now Archbishop of Chicago. He was student council president in his senior year of high school in 1967. Now he is now Archbishop and was elevated to the College of Cardinal in November 2016.  According to Fr. James Martin S.J., he is one of the most influential men in the U.S. church. With all the titles, Cardinal Cupich has never failed to stop serving. To me, he is, like Pope Francis a model of humble service.

I believe that service should be placed at the centre at a leader’s life. One should use their high position in an organization to do what is best for the community, not self centred. Christ could had come to make all of us serve Him because He is the King. Yet, Jesus did not do that. He said, “I do not call you servants any longer[…]but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15).  Those days of servant and king were gone. We must be people of service because, “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).

 

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The Long Mass: The Easter Vigil

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Note: I started writing this post on Good Friday of last year and since then, I have not completed it. I finally sat down and completed this post, on my second year as the Master of Ceremonies for the Paschal Triduum Liturgies. 

Tonight, Catholics will start the Easter Season with a celebration with a humble name: The Easter Vigil. This celebration can be said as the peak of the Liturgical Year as it is the celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead. The Roman Missal states that this “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities” (EV 2Image result for lucernarium). The celebration of the Easter Vigil is the most solemn of Liturgies of the Liturgical year and concludes the “series” of the Paschal Triduum rituals.  Have you noticed that after the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday night, there was no final blessing? Tonight, at the end of the Easter Vigil, there will the final blessing with the two Alleluias.

The celebration of the Easter Vigil begins in a dark church. All the lights are turned off. The only source of light is the fire. This part is known as the Lucernarium. The priest will begin as usual with the Sign of the Cross. He will greet the people in words stated in the Roman Missal, emphasizing the our listening to the word of God and the celebration the Paschal mysteries that night as we await for Christ’s Resurrection. The priest will then bless the fire. The fire is a symbol of Christ Himself as He has said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12) It may also be considered as the symbol of God guiding us just as He has done so with the Israelites during their escape from Egypt (cf. Ex 13:21). After, the fire that was just blessed is used to light the Paschal Candle. Once the Paschal Candle has been lit, the priest may trace the cross, the sign of our salvation, the Alpha and Omega and the four numerals of the year. When the priest traces the symbols he will say, “Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and for ever. Amen.” (EV 11) The priest will also insert five grains of incense into five points of the cross saying, “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us. Amen”. (EV 12) As the prayer suggests, the five grains of incense represents the five wounds of Christ. Often, these grains are five pins of wax with incense embedded into them.

The next part of the Lucernarium is the procession, similar to that of the Veneration of the Cross in yesterday’s Liturgy. This procession focuses on the Light of Christ. A priest or deacon holds the newly lit Paschal Candle and pauses three times through the nave of the Church, singing, “The Light of Christ”, and the people respond, “Thanks be to God”. By the third “The Light of Christ”, everyone has on their candle, the flame of the Light of Christ.

The celebrant then reverences the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet and in a special way, the Paschal Candle with burning incense as he does during the Gospel. A priest, deacon or minister proclaims the Exsultet. The Exsultet, an ancient Easter Proclamation is sung with solemnity beside the Paschal Candle. It explains the history of salvation and at the same time explains the significance of the Light of Christ, “the pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin”.  It praises the Light of Christ, comparing it as the “Morning Star who never sets”.

The Exsultet concludes the Lucernarium and the second part of the Liturgy begins, the Liturgy of the Word begins. There seven Old Testament readings, one Epistle and one Gospel at this Liturgy. However, many communities, including that at the Vatican only proclaims three readings. However, the Roman Missal states that, “Never, moreover should the reading of chapter 14 of Exodus with its canticle be omitted.” Exodus 14 records the events of Passover, the Crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14:15-15:1) and its events foreshadow the salvation of God’s people from the hands of sin. After each reading is its Psalm/Canticle. In this Liturgy, after the Psalm/Canticle is a prayer said by the celebrant summarizing the meaning of the reading and asking for the necessary graces (especially for the Catechumens). After the last Old Testament reading, its Psalm/Canticle and prayer, the celebrant/cantor intones the Gloria, a prayer the has been silent throughout most of the Lenten Season and sung last on Holy Thursday with solemnity. In today’s Liturgy, the Gloria is sung in great solemnity in the same manner as Holy Thursday with bells. All the candles in the Church are lit at this point and flowers and other decorations may be put into the church at this time.

The Mass formally begins with the Collect. The Roman Missal clarifies that it is said, “in the usual way”. Everyone responds “Amen” and is seated to listen to the Epistle.

After the Epistle is the intoning of the “Alleluia” which is followed by Psalm 118(117),Image result for Alleluia the Confitemini Domino. This may be done by a priest, deacon or lay minister. The “Alleluia” is done in a call and response form. The cantor intones it and the congregation responds, each time, a step higher in tone.

The Gospel is then followed (the solemn Alleluia takes place of the Gospel Acclamation). Candles are not carried with the Gospel because the Light of Christ from the Paschal Candle takes the focal point of the whole Liturgy. The Book of the Gospels may be reverenced with incensed as usual.

Image result for rcia clipartThe homily follows. Once the homily has concluded, the third part of the Liturgy begins which is the Baptismal Liturgy (the Rites of Initiation for the Catechumens). The celebrant calls everyone to pray for the Catechumens who are to be baptized. The Litany of Saints begins the Rites of Initation. Everyone stands during the Litany instead of kneeling as kneeling is an action of penitence. Easter is a season of joy, of being redeemed and therefore the congregation stands. The Blessing of the Baptismal then follows. This beautiful prayer mentions the significance of water throughout the bible: The Spirit “in the first moments of the world’s creation hovered over the waters”; the water of the flood “foreshadowed regeneration”; the crossing of the Red Sea “prefigured the people of the baptized”; Jesus was baptized in the waters of Jordan, blood and water flowed from His side. The main message, the waters of baptism brings life. The Paschal candle is immersed into the blessed water as the people acclaim, “Springs of water, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all for ever.” 

The actual rite of Baptism takes place after Blessing of the Water. It begins with the Renewal of Baptismal Promises for the Catechumens (if they are to be baptized). The Catechumens are then baptized one by one with the same formula in every baptism, “N…, I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The newly baptized are then vested with the white baptismal garment and then given the Light of Christ. The Rite of Confirmation follows as the priest anoints each Catechumen with the Sacred Chrism saying, “N…, be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit… Peace be with you…

Once the Rites of Initiation has been completed, the congregation are invited to stand Image result for Sprinkling riteto renew their Baptismal Promises. To conclude the third part of the Liturgy, “Vidi Aquam (I saw Water)” is sung as the priest(s)/deacon(s) sprinkle Holy Water on the congregation.

The Prayer of the faithful is then offered.

The final part of the Liturgy then takes place which is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Mass continues as usual at this point with the Offertory, Prayer over the Offerings, the Preface and the Eucharistic Prayer (often Eucharistic Prayer I, though this is not mandatory).

The blessing is finally given to the faithful after all the Paschal Triduum rituals. This solemn blessing concludes with the two “Alleluia”s at the end.

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Looking at the Good Friday Liturgy

Good Friday

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Pope Francis prostrates at the start of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at St. Peter’s Basilica

The Good Friday Liturgy, known in the Roman Missal as the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is not a Mass as some people may call it. The bread and wine is not consecrated at this celebration. Before the reform of the Liturgy, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion was known as the “Mass of the Pre-Sanctified”, as the faithful who attended received communion consecrated the previous day, as we still do in today’s Good Friday Liturgy.

It is the most somber and silent of all Liturgies of the year. The Liturgy of Good Friday is consisted of three parts. The first is the Liturgy of the Word, then followed by the Veneration of the Cross and finally, the Communion Rite.

The celebrant (and concelebrants and deacons) proceed out to the Sanctuary with red vestments. The red vestments symbolize the blood poured out in Christ’s Passion. This was not the case before the Second Vatican Council. The vestments were to be black, a colour which had died down in the New Liturgy. The first part of the Liturgy is not a procession. It is a simply the act of the ministers moving to the Sanctuary in silence. The celebrant prostrates as the other ministers and the congregation kneels in silence. The gesture reminds me of John 10:11, when Jesus says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Literally, the priest through this gesture says this. However, prostration is also an action of full surrender to God and an act of penitence. There is a silent moment of prayer by the congregation. As the priest rises, the congregation stand. All this is done is silence, without an opening hymn or bells.

The opening prayer is said without “Let us pray” at the start as the congregation have already prayed through the moment of silence prayer.

The reading from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 records the prophecy of Christ’s passion, describing the fourth canticle of the servant of God. It is a very emotional reading, recognizing the innocence and pain the Man had to go through.

The response of the Psalm (Psalm 31) is, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” and is one of the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross. Luke 23:46 records these words. When hearing these words, I have the image that Jesus was totally obedient to the Father’s will and did so in excruciating pain on the cross until His last breath.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews chapters 4:14-16; 5:8-9.  It talks about Christ the High Priest who died for our sins and understands our weaknesses as human beings.

The Passion is read in the same form as Palm Sunday. This Passion however, is from

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The reading of the Passion

the Gospel of St. John and is read every Good Friday.

The priest or deacon may give a brief homily as usual. However, after the Homily is the Solemn Intercessions. Unlike the usual Prayers of the Faithful, the Solemn Intercessions includes fixed prayers from the Roman Missal. The priest reads the prayer, not a layperson as seen as usual Mass. A lay minister says an invitation to help the people recollect themselves so to pray for that specific intention. Today, the Solemn Intercessions include ten prayers, (1) For the Church, (2) For the Pope, (3) For all orders and degrees of the faithful, (4) For the Catechumens, (5) For Christian Unity, (6) For the Jewish people, (7) For those who do not believe in Christ, (8) For those who do not believe in God, (9) For those in public office, and (10) For those in tribulation. These prayers were composed to pray for the WHOLE world, not specific for any parish or community. The faithful, with the priest raise their prayers to Christ, the one slain on the cross but have redeemed the world from the power of sin.

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Pope Francis holds the cross up high as the faithful silently venerates it

The second part is known as the Adoration of the Cross. In the ancient days of the Church, the faithful literally venerated the wood of the true cross. Due to the widespread of Christians in the world, it was not possible for every community to have a sliver of the wood of the true cross. Therefore, a dignified crucifix is used, large enough for the faithful to see and venerate. The minister (priest/deacon) sings three times, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” The faithful respond, “Come, let us adore”. After each responsorial, a moment of brief silencer takes place as everyone adores the Cross. After the third responsorial, the celebrant kisses the cross first, then the ministers and finally the lay faithful. In services where there are many people attending such as that of St. Peter’s Basilica, the ordained ministers and representatives of the faithful kiss the Cross and then the Holy Father raises the Cross up for a period so that everyone can venerate.

The third part is the Communion Rite. In silence, a minister goes to the Altar of Repose to bring back to the Altar the Eucharist consecrated the Mass of the night before (Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper). This is all done in silence, without solemnity as the focus of the service is on the Cross of Our Lord, therefore keeping the somber mood of the service. The celebrant begins the Our Father as usual. Once the faithful respond, “For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, now and forever”, the prayer for peace is omitted and everyone kneels for the Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God…) prayer in preparation for Holy Communion. Communion is distributed to the faithful as usual. Everyone goes up to receive Christ, truly present as the Sacrifice Victim on the Cross. Everyone goes back to their pew in silence, reflecting on the Mystery of the Cross and of the Eucharist.

A Prayer After Communion is said by the celebrant as usual with a short Prayer over the People. There is no blessing. Everyone leaves in silence. As we depart that Good Friday Service, keep our hearts the thought of Jesus loving us until the end, becoming the Passover Lamb so that we may be saved.

 

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