January 24, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
Today is the 9th day of my new knee. By the grace of God obtained through your prayers and mine and others, I have been spared the worst complications. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart - not only because you care about me, but also, and especially, you are the reason for me to be the priest at St. Agatha’s.
I went to Holy Mass the first time yesterday and I can’t tell you adequately how that event has changed my outlook on everything. I had been living a very regimented and structured life since my discharge. I had my pills and my supplements and my physical exercises that I must carry out regularly and frequently. People had been bringing food and helping me with chores (for which I am very grateful!). The rectory is warm and has all the conveniences and creature comforts. My post-op recovery had been uneventful and without much suffering. But yesterday’s morning I felt strong enough to hobble over to church to attend Mass. And I did. And as usual Mass was wonderful. Father Eirvin preached great homily and celebrated Mass devoutly. So everything was as it should be for a Christian at Mass. I was contented at Mass! But I began to notice a profound difference back at the rectory after Mass was long over. My day yesterday, for the first time, was no longer ordinary - in the sense of being just another day in the long series of days of a tedious rehabilitation after surgery. My routines were no longer just ‘one damn thing after another”! Now, my very mundane and quotidian existence has been pierced through with enlivening grace! The Eternal has broken through into my utterly uninteresting life - through the Mass. Now, I feel I am not alone managing my pitiful life. Everything has found its rightful place in the great schema of things. Now everything I do makes sense because everything has been elucidated. Now, my prayers are no longer something I do, but my glad response in front of God’s great gratuitousness that encompasses my life. Without the Mass, I would be all alone in this world and on this earth trying to handle everything, trying to stay alive, trying to not give in to despair. But just a few minutes near the altar of sacrifice was enough to elevate my daily existence and transform it into one coherent song!
January 10, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
Please read the following from the Catholic News Agency (CNA): “On the 8th of December, 2020, Pope Francis announced a Year of St. Joseph, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church. Pope Francis said he was establishing the year so that “every member of the faithful, following his example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the complete fulfillment of God’s will.” In making his declaration, Pope Francis noted that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1870. Pope Francis said the coronavirus pandemic has heightened his desire to reflect on St. Joseph, as so many people during the pandemic have made hidden sacrifices to protect others, just as St. Joseph quietly protected and cared for Mary and Jesus. “Each of us can discover in Joseph -- the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence -- an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” the pope wrote. He also said he wanted to highlight St. Joseph’s role as a father who served his family with charity and humility, adding, “Our world today needs fathers.” The year begins Dec. 8, 2020, and concludes on Dec. 8, 2021.’
Personally, I have not met any Catholic does not have a special affection for St. “Joe”! Years ago, he assisted the Vietnamese Catholic community in Portland in their efforts to purchase the Holy Child Academy property on NE Alameda Drive for their spiritual home. It was an amazing success! St. Joseph has accompanied me all my priestly life and protected me from all kinds of dangers – spiritual and physical. He and the Blessed Mother saved our family through some very difficult crises. At our weekday Masses, I and the daily Mass people always remember to pray to St. Joseph for his protection over our school and parish families. So far, through his help, the darn virus has been kept at bay! We could not have survived this far without him!
I will be out for several weeks for knee replacement surgery and recuperation. Please remember this poor priest in your prayer on Tuesday this coming week. God bless you!
January 3, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
This epitaph was found on the grave of St. Ignatius of Loyala: “Non coerceri maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est” (“Not to be contained by the greatest, yet willing to be encompasses by the smallest – that is divine”). This is the essence of Christmas! Think about it! God, Whom nothing could contained, has allowed Himself to be encompassed by the smallest! The infinitely great was willing to be encompassed by the infinitely small! Yes, that is the kind of God we Christians worship. He Who is infinitely great has stooped down to our own level. He Who is maximum has allowed Himself to be bound by the minimum! He Who is beyond the greatest thing or idea human beings could ever imagine has deigned to become a little tiny baby! This thought about God has consoled me so much in these COVID times. There were times when I was about to give up on bothering with God, God reminded me of how much He in fact cared about me – me and my petty sins and non-sins, me and my irrelevant worries, me and my trifling concerns! Christmas was a most beautiful reminder of this to all of us, I hope. May we always remember that, regardless how helpless and frustrated we may feel in front of God’s apparent silence, God does indeed pays attention to each one of us. God is so great that nothing, however small, can escape His notice. No prayer of ours ever goes unanswered. No sorrow of ours is ever ignored. And no tear of ours is ever not acknowledged. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and before we even think about asking Him for something, He has already known what He would do to help us! This is how I have been able to continue to pray and to trust in God, even now! As we entering a new year, may we never forget this truth about God! Have a most blessed New Year! God Bless You!
December 27, 2020: My Dear Parishioners,
A man from Uganda was notified that he had tested positive for COVID, and the first words he uttered were these: “Thanks be to God!” This man, Brother Elio, was a great Catholic layman in his country Uganda. He was instrumental for the establishment of an important hospital, the rebuilding of the Cathedral, and many other monumental works of charity. He passed away recently of COVID, but the life of faith he lived continues on, even now, so that people still remember the very words he spoke upon receiving the terrible news of his illness. “Thanks be to God!” Only someone with a view broader than this visible world and a heart filled with affection for his eternal destiny promised by the One who is the author of everything could have spoken those words with total calm and abandonment. With a deep desire to obey God’s will that resulted from his awareness of God’s Exceptional Presence in this world, a Presence that had always sustained him and generated love and affection for his life in the heart, Brother Elio departed this world not in despair but in joy. “Thanks be to God!” How could anyone in his sound mind ever utter those words at the news of his possible demise? Only those who believe and who are certain of their eternal destiny in the Risen One can speak like that! That is why the Eternal Word of God came down from heaven and became a little child! The Incarnation is for you and for me so that we have the confidence that we were not created to be dead-enders, but to be given a glorious destiny beyond anything we could ever imagine for ourselves. The Incarnation is an event for us so that the certainty of this destiny is as real as human flesh and blood! Merry Christmas! God bless you!