Culture Diversity and Ministry Presentation
Vy just shared what it is like to be a born-Vietnamese Catholic who is actively involved and lives in the midst of the Vietnamese Church in Rochester. I am going to share how my Vietnamese roots play an important role in living the contemplative way of life in the American Church.
Growing up in Vietnam, unlike Vy, I had but very little awareness and knowledge about Christianity and faith. And that made it very difficult for me the first 3 years I lived in America. Until I came to college where I was introduced and nourished by an American community of faith, and almost 9 years later, I was born into the Catholic Church. Through the American Church, I have been learning how to proclaim and live my Catholic faith. To be more specific, mysteriously, but not surprisingly, once I entered the Church, the Lord entrusted me to be taught and nourished spiritually by Abbey of the Genesee, a Cistercian community of brothers who live a contemplative way of life. And my spiritual father is its retired Abbot John Eudes Bamberger.
The contemplative life requires one to go deeper into reflection, meditation and prayer to learn how to know oneself better as St. Bernard taught that one has to learn to know himself, in order to know others and therefore to know God.
Together with the Cistercian spirituality, my spiritual father who is also a psychiatrist, teaches me how to relate my ethnic backgrounds and experiences to my present life and struggles in learning how to be a good Christian. The more I learn about myself, my strong temperaments and weaknesses, and that I am a very complicated Vietnamese, the more I learn to be more compassionate toward others and the more I learn about God's unconditional love and mercy toward the human race! For those of us who are called to ministry, my teacher taught me:
"... a teacher who is young in spirit always learns from his pupils something new about life. A good teacher keeps on learning not only from books but from his students... a teacher who really teaches is always obeying his students. He cannot teach what the students are not ready to learn; he cannot teach what the students do not want to learn; he cannot teach as fast or as slow as he would like but must obey the students in all these things or he will not be able to teach no matter how much he knows."
Being a student is also not so easy either. Learning is one thing, but applying what we learn and live it are much more difficult. For instance, as happy, blessed and loved as I have been, I always feel the challenges of being different because of where the Lord puts me, and how he leads me in his providence which sometimes I don't like. So whenever I am weak in faith, I am very tempted to feel lost and alone like a stranger and an orphan on this earth. But whenever I receive the grace to think like God, to follow his teachings and to live the Christian life trusting in providence, I always feel so blessed and humbled knowing the not-so-pleasant past experiences are but opportunities for my spiritual growth in self-knowledge which ties in with the contemplative way of life. Living the spiritual life is quite hard, but very fascinating. And from it, I realize how much I have to depend on God and his grace alone. My poor Lord loses a lot of sleep over me, and so does my spiritual father!
Graces upon graces I received. Then one day while searching for a vocation, with my strong temperament, I got quite impatient and upset because the Lord has been so mysterious about it! In angry tears and frustration, I complained to my spiritual father that I don't seem to belong to anyone or anything, and how I feel like a homeless wanderer on this earth. Gently and patiently as always, he responded that as long as I belong to the Lord and to the Blessed Mother, I belong to everyone and everything. It pleased me very much to hear that wisdom and insight. My journey with God then began with a fresh impetus.
I go to places to give slide presentation about my unique conversion story to the Catholic faith and my spiritual journey with God. At these events, I met a wide variety of persons, and through them, I learned a greater appreciation for the Universal Church. This eventually helped me to be more aware of the Vietnamese Church as well. And the Lord sent Vy to me to extend and deepen my acquaintance with Vietnamese Catholics.
As I continue to grow in faith, my spiritual father helps guiding me to discover my true self. I come to recognize that my Vietnamese roots and ethnic backgrounds have a lot to do with who I really am whom God makes and allows her to be for himself. I have many good qualities, and sadly I also have many not-so-good qualities. But CHERISH AND "DEVELOP WHAT IS GOOD. LIMIT AND WEAKEN WHAT IS A SOURCE OF TROUBLE AND A PROBLEM": is what my spiritual father consoles and reminds me often.
Being a Christian is not so easy, but then nothing else is more worth being! Praise God for who he is because as Fr. Thomas Merton said that, it is not what we can achieve pleases God, but our desire to please him pleases him.
God gives our Holy Catholic Church so many graces and precious gifts through the many Churches around the world. We are called to share and help each other grow using these gifts and graces. Share and "DEVELOP WHAT IS GOOD. LIMIT AND WEAKEN WHAT IS A SOURCE OF TROUBLE AND A PROBLEM" Yes, our faith includes everyone, all races and nations. It is Universal, and that what Catholic literally means. It is neither color, language, custom nor else that bonds and unites us, but the love of Christ who reveals God the Father, through the Holy Spirit then, now and forever. As Vy mentioned in her "Three Don'ts", we each should be proud of who we are; However, we should always remember that our highest privilege is being Christians and being children of God.
Let's pray that we will always have the grace to recognize, to live and to cherish our identity, dignity and privilege as God's children who live because of love, who live for love, and who live in love.
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