November 20, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. It is a time in America when people of all faiths express their appreciation for God’s abundant gifts, including life, faith, family, friends, country and the food many of us enjoy around a table filled with love and joy. We remember that the blessings we experience in life are not a result of our works and efforts alone.  We depend on a mighty God who provides and guides!

One of the very first lessons we teach our young children is the importance of being thankful. I have no doubt God, our Heavenly Father, takes great joy in hearing words of thanks from the grateful hearts of His children. St. Paul affirms, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thus it is essential to give thanks “in everything” that we go through, although there are many things we may find challenging to be thankful for, such as the death of a loved one, the illness that comes on suddenly, the suffering of human relationships, or the daily stress over which we have little control.  Nevertheless, we can still be thankful in those circumstances knowing that God will help us go through that journey.

As the beautiful old hymn “Count Your Blessings” goes, I invite you to “count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” In counting my own blessings, I cannot help but recall the faces of so many of you in this parish—the priests, deacons, staff, leaders and lay faithful— who have been a godsend to me in many ways. Please know that I am grateful for each of you for your loving support to me and to our parish family.

In that spirit of thanksgiving, I invite you all to join us this Thursday, November 24, at 9:00am in the upper church for our Annual Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving to the Lord! Your evening meal at home with your loved ones will be much more meaningful when you can count blessings received both from the Lord’s Table and from the family’s table.

And in the same spirit of Thanksgiving, I invite you to join us next Sunday, November 27, when the Vietnamese Apostolate of our parish will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of its Founding with a Solemn Anniversary Mass at 3:00pm, followed by a formal reception opened to the whole parish at 5pm in the Institute. This joyful occasion will coincide with the Feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions, the 117 Vietnamese Martyrs who represent more than 300,000 Catholic faithful who suffered persecution and martyrdom for their faith during the 17th and 18th centuries, giving rise to the robust Catholic presence in Vietnam and abroad, especially in America, the home of many Vietnamese Catholic immigrants.

In our parish, the Vietnamese community has been an integral part for many years. It has contributed many priestly and religious vocations to our local Church. On this significant milestone, we will give thanks to God with a Solemn Mass, which will begin at 3:00pm with the Procession of the Relics of the Vietnamese Martyrs from Mary’s Garden (between the Rectory and the School building) into the church. A special Decree from the Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary will be proclaimed, granting participants a Plenary Indulgence as a spiritual gift from our Holy Father Pope Francis. After Mass, we invite you to join us for further festivities, consisting of a formal reception with international food, music and cultural performances. We will be honored by the presence of our bishops as well as many guest priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful.

I wish to thank the leaders of our parish groups and ministries who have worked hard together to coordinate various activities for this event. I am personally grateful to those who will help organize the special liturgy next Sunday, those who will set up and decorate the hall, and those who will provide the international food, drinks and entertainment. I appreciate the youth and young adults in our Vietnamese and Spanish speaking communities, who have been enthusiastically practicing beautiful dances and cultural performances that will delight us. I am sure that this event will be an additional thanksgiving event unique to our multi-cultural parish. I look forward to seeing everyone there.

A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

 

November 13, 2022

Dear parish family,

This weekend marks the thirty third Sunday of Ordinary Time. A week from now we shall come to the end of the liturgical calendar. Our Scripture readings at Mass for this Sunday poignantly point to “the end of time” and our final victory in Christ. Indeed, the liturgy itself offers a sober reminder that this life is not our aim and that God’s justice will triumph in the end. As the ancient saying goes, “Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but final victory comes to the one who endures.” Let us endure until we triumph over all the forces of this world in Christ.

In the first reading for this Sunday, the prophet Malachi speaks of the day of the Lord. He paints two pictures. First, the fate of the evil one. Second, the triumph of the righteous who endures till the end. This reading serves as an encouragement to us in order to continue patiently in good works. The prophet ends with a promise of victory: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays” (Malachi 4:2). This is our hope and reward.

In the second reading, St. Paul encourages us to keep working hard to earn both earthly and heavenly life. Laziness or idleness is not compatible to Christian discipleship. The Church even teaches that sloth, that is, the reluctance to work, is one of the seven capital sins. Hard work yields good and enduring fruits. Hard work makes a good Christian. It abhors laziness and idleness. Sadly, many people today, including Christians, no longer appreciate hard work. Instead, they like to depend on others, and prefer a life without any serious commitment, including the spiritual. In order to feed this easy lifestyle, some would not hesitate to engage in evils like gossip, fraud, drugs, robbery, and even violent crimes. This is what St. Paul means by: “Now we hear that some of you are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with anyone else’s” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). A lazy person, even a Christian, yields easily to all sorts of vices.

In the Gospel, Jesus foretells the end of a time in the history of Israel. By warning that the Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed in spite of its elegance and greatness, as this in fact happened later on in 70AD, the Lord reminds us that nothing of this world will last forever no matter how precious they are to us. The only thing that will endure is our soul and relationship with God. Therefore, we must keep our focus on eternity, despite even hardships and persecution: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name” (Luke 21:12). Sounds scary. Nevertheless, the Lord promises that “Your endurance will win you life” (Luke 21:19). He urges us to persevere in righteousness. He encourages us to endure difficult moments.

Today, brothers and sisters, we face difficulties that at times question our faith and test our relationship with God. These difficulties abound in our families, businesses, careers, workplaces, in our world and even in the Church at large. The midterm election this past week has brought many of those difficulties to the forefront of our consciousness. They even cause many of us sorrow and anxiety. However, if we endure all these patiently as Christ tell us, we shall have enough reasons to smile at the end, when “the sun of righteousness will shine on us with healing in its rays.” Until then, we need to press on with the firm conviction that Christ will be victorious over all evils, and for us, the struggle is worth the joy that awaits!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong Pham

November 6, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This Tuesday, November 8th is Election Day. I encourage you to vote.

In this country we enjoy freedom at the voting booth to choose those who serve us in government, a freedom that most people in the world do not have. It is both a privilege and a civic duty to participate in the election of our government officials, those who will govern us and define the course of history for us and our future generations. The right to vote gives a significant testimony to our democratic process. The winner may not end up being the candidate of your choice, but the fact that everyone who is eligible may participate in the election guarantees that everyone’s voice is heard, and that their views and beliefs matter.

It is not the praxis of our Church to tell you for whom you should cast your ballot. Nor is it the business of your priests. However, it is our praxis to urge you to exercise responsible citizenship by making your choice at the poll. As a Catholic, it is essential that you educate yourself on the issues that are critical to our nation and weigh them against our Catholic teachings in order to make an informed decision. Participation in the electoral process is an obligation of good citizenship, and the Church instructs us to be good citizens.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “as far as possible, citizens should take an active part in public life” (no. 1913). This teaching is found in the section on the common good which concerns the lives of all people. It goes on further to say that “Co-responsibility for the common good makes it morally obligatory to exercise the right to vote” (no. 2240). This teaching is found in the section concerning the duties of citizens. Both of these teachings of the Church are included in Part III of the Catechism, which is titled “Life In Christ,” a theological presentation about what it means to be incorporated into Christ and to follow Him. In other words, for a Catholic, civic duties, such as voting, flow from both our baptismal identity and faith in Christ.

The Church in the United States makes available a guide to assist us in understanding the variety of issues that concern the common good of the nation. “The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” is a document promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It examines these issues from the perspective of our Catholic faith and is designed to assist a voter to make informed choices. The guide is available at www.faithfulcitizenship.org. Other useful resources are available through the New York Conference of Catholic Bishops at https://www.nyscatholic.org. These sources offer sound faith-filled advice for Catholic voters.

The role of the laity in public life is clear. Voting on Election Day, November 8 is one way to exercise that role. As people of faith, all Catholics must be concerned about who represents us in government and about public policies which affect our lives and the lives of many throughout the world. So dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, don’t stay home on Election Day! Be a good Catholic and VOTE. If anyone is unsure about who to vote for in this election, I invite you to pray to the Holy Spirit and create a space within your heart and your mind for Him to operate. My golden rule is to follow the motto that I have chosen for my own priestly life and ministry: “Let thy will be done, and not mine!” (Mt: 42). In the end, it really does not matter what I like or want, but what God wants for His people and for the world that He has created. And what God wants is quite clear through the lens of our faith: “I came so that you may have life, and have it abundantly”  (Jn 10: 1-10).

My personal vote, therefore, will be cast in light of my own recognition of the value of life and the dignity of all human life. I pray that you will find this exercise of your freedom on Tuesday, November 8, a meaningful and empowering experience as both a citizen and a faithful Catholic.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

October 30, 2022

Dear parish family,

Tuesday, November 1, will be All Saints Day. This beautiful Solemnity celebrates the Church Triumphant in heaven with all those Holy Ones who came before us, the famous as well as the unknown. This year, All Saints Day will be a Holy Day of Obligation. We will celebrate solemnly each Mass of the day, and the Relics of the Saints will be exposed for veneration by the faithful.

Wednesday, November 2, will be All Souls Day. This annual Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is a powerful expression of our Catholic belief in Purgatory. We affirm the Church’s teaching that sin is an offense against God’s love and deserves His just punishments. We also affirm our belief that prayer is a powerful instrument before God, by which we can intercede for our deceased brothers and sisters.

In our parish, it is a custom to cherish in a special way the memory of those whose funerals were celebrated in our church during the past year. We will read out their names during Mass. If you have a family member who passed away and their funeral was held here, be assured that the person will be automatically on the remembrance list. If your loved one’s funeral was held elsewhere, and you would like to include him or her, please contact the parish office to present your request.

Starting last year, I have revived the ancient tradition of All Souls Novena here, which is a series of Holy Masses for the Holy Souls which begins on November 3 and continue for 9 consecutive days. Those enrolled will share in a special remembrance at the Altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. Enrollment envelopes are available at the doors of our church and in the parish office. Like many of you who are still in mourning, I find consolation in these spiritual rituals, recalling the memory of my beloved father who died a year and a half ago. My dad used to request Mass intentions for the souls in Purgatory every November. He taught me to do the same, with a simple belief that the Holy Souls whose suffering we ease, once ascended to heaven, will not forget us before God.

Scripture tells us that “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46). In November, the Church grants special graces called “Indulgences” that the faithful may obtain for the Holy Souls by visiting a cemetery to pray for the dead. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment one deserves for one’s sins. We may gain a “partial indulgence” all year round by visiting a cemetery, but from November 1 through November 8, it is a “plenary indulgence”. This means that by performing the requirements for an indulgence on those days, we will make it possible for a soul who is suffering in Purgatory to ascend into Heaven, completely free and forgiven by God. To obtain the plenary indulgence, we must receive Holy Communion each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

As you know, our parish’s cemetery is located on 21st Street and 26th Avenue, opposite the New York Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. On Wednesday, November 2, I invite you to join me and the priests of our parish in making a visit to that cemetery. You can meet us by the church parking lot at 10:00am and we will walk together there, or you can meet us there and join us in prayer at 10:15am. We will conclude in time to walk back for the 12 Noon Mass at church.

Remembering you and your deceased loved ones at the Altar, I remain

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

October 23, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This past week more than 200 Vietnamese American priests who are ministering throughout the United States gathered in Dallas, Texas for a four-day Convocation for Priests, which occurs every three years. The theme for reflection was “Emmaus IX: Love One Another With Mutual Affection.” (Romans 12:10). While it was a highly anticipated event for me, the Convocation was even more special for our Father Hung Tran who participates for the first time as a newly ordained priest.

This special Convocation, similar to the one that was held two weeks ago in Huntington for the priests of our own Diocese of Brooklyn, fostered community and brotherhood among Vietnamese American priests, some of whom are stationed in remote parishes or serve as the only priest of multiple mission churches in rural towns across the fifty states. The gathering included diocesan priests as well as priests who are members of various religious orders. The opportunity to spend four days together in spiritual talks, prayer and fellowship was well-received by all. Father Hung and I enjoyed very much the reunion with our friends who have studied and served with us over the years, as well as those who have given us inspiration in our priesthood.

The keynote speaker, Bishop Thomas Thanh Nguyen of the Diocese of Orange in California, addressed the theme “One in Christ’s Priesthood: Priestly Fraternity in Service of Unity.” He urged the priests to reflect on our unique relationship with Christ and our common bond as brothers in the priesthood, offering practical suggestions for us to stay focused in and to seek fraternal support. I myself was invited to lead a discussion on “The Canonical Rights and Obligations of Priests: Ministering in Today’s Complex and Challenging World”, which was among the most animated activities as priests enthusiastically shared their incredibly diverse pastoral and administrative experiences. Other presentations included “The Eucharistic Revival”, “The Catholic Priest and Social Media”, “Journeys of Vietnamese Priestly Fraternity”, and “Air Force Chaplaincy Program: Ministering to Our Military Men and Women”. The experience of the gathering itself was awesome, and the incredibly delicious Vietnamese meals each day was the icing on the cake.

For me, the most moving experience during this Convocation was the Evening of Eucharistic Adoration on Tuesday, during which the memories of priests who passed away in the last three years were lovingly recalled. As the image of each deceased priest appeared on the large screens in the dimly lit, silent church, and a priest stood up to give a moving testimony about the deceased’s life and contributions, my heart was filled with gratitude and pride. The witness of these “spiritual giants” no doubt strengthened my own resolve to be faithful to my unique calling. It was in that intensely prayerful gathering around the Lord that I discovered the transforming energy of priestly fraternity.

Throughout the Convocation, Father Hung and I reminded each other to pray for each of you, each family and each group of our parish. We lifted your hopes and fears, blessings and concerns, to the Lord at the Altar, knowing that many of you have also been praying for us. We appreciate all your emails and messages of encouragement. I am convinced that this joyful and holy experience will bear copious fruit in our ministry among you!

Yours in Christ’s peace,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham   

October 16, 2022

Dear parishioners in Christ,

Last week, the priests of our diocese gathered at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York with Bishop Robert Brennan and all our other bishops.  The occasion was the Priests Convocation which takes place every three years.  We came together to renew the bonds of priesthood that unite us in our apostolic mission to serve God’s people.

The Convocation was a big success, with several hundred priests attending, and the weather could not have been better. Every day there was bright sunshine. For most of us, returning to the place that has been our home during the formation years was also a happy occasion that brought back many beautiful memories.  It felt as though the Seminary has not changed at all after my Ordination twenty-one years ago. I still recognized my favorite places in the vast campus, even my own imprints in some of the chapel decorations that are still there. The lively conversations with brother priests brought back vivid memories of the men and women who have become foundational to the person that I am today.

I must admit that it was not easy for me to set aside three days for attending the Convocation, given my busy schedule at our parish. I have had to make all kinds of arrangements in order to free up time. Nevertheless, I was glad and grateful that I came. During those days, we followed the example of the Apostles. Scripture tells us that after Jesus sent them on their mission of preaching, and casting out demons and curing the sick, they came back to him and reported all they had done and taught. It was then that Jesus said to them, “You must come away…and rest by yourselves” (Mk 6: 31). I knew I needed those days of rest. I needed to refocus and recharge my energy. As I spoke to my brother priests, I realized that all of us needed quiet interludes of rest and prayer, of reflection and recreation from our hectic lives, away from the noise and constant activities of the parish. In fact, I believe that all of us, regardless of our vocations in life, need to set aside some quiet time for ourselves if we are to grow in a deeper relationship to the Lord.

One of the most moving moments for me during the Convocation was the experience of concelebrating daily Mass with the bishops and the priests from all age groups and cultures. When the words of the consecration resounded in the rustic chapel of the Seminary, I was moved to tears, deeply touched by a sense of priestly unity, mission and purpose. My heart was filled with gratitude for the gift of priesthood, and for the generosity of priests who offer their lives every day for others. Most of those priests are no longer young; many are already retired from administration yet are still working; some have left even their own parents and fatherland to come here to serve. Their unique stories of joy and sacrifice inspired me.

The formal presentations during those days focused our attention on the need to cultivate friendships and fraternity among priests, who often find themselves ministering in isolated, needy and even hostile environment. I thought that the organizers could not have picked a better topic for us to reflect on. Our culture, unfortunately, is becoming more isolationist. The current pandemic has certainly not helped the situation. We are disintegrating ever more rapidly and becoming more polarized — this is evident in our Church and our national politics. What fraternity does is to allow for the diffusion of ideas in a safe environment among those with natural bonds. Fraternity allows for conversation, and conversation, especially holy conversation, allows for the cooling of passions and the redirection of energies onto a common goal. Certainly, we all need this, but our clergy especially need to be frequently engaging in holy conversation and fraternity. It helps us to feel that we are not going at our ministry alone.

This week, Father Hung Tran and I will participate in another three-days Priests Convocation in Dallas, Texas. This Convocation will bring together more than two hundred Vietnamese American priests who are ministering in the United States. Coincidentally, the theme of this occasion will also focus on the importance of priestly fraternity. I have been invited to lead a main workshop on the canonical rights and responsibilities of parish priests. I hope to bring the experience of our parish to the conversation, especially that of living and ministering in such a vibrant and culturally diverse community as our own.

If there is one thing I took away from the Convocation last week, it is the recognition that I also need my brother priests for support and encouragement.  At times, I’ve felt the temptation of isolation; I’ve felt that I can do it all and do it alone. Thank God for small humiliations! No one can live in isolation, least of all our priests who bear tremendous burdens.  Father Hung and I look forward to a few days away with our brother priests, so that we can bring home greater zeal and energy to better serve you. Please say a prayer for your priests this week.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

October 9, 2022

Dear parish family,

Gratitude to God is the most concrete expression of our faith in His saving power. The Scripture readings for this weekend demonstrate the vital importance of gratitude in the life of the Christian believer, for gratitude leads us to worship God who offers us salvation. In the first reading, Naaman went back to thank Elisha when he was cured of leprosy. In the Gospel, the Samaritan caught the admiration of Jesus when he was the only one among the ten persons healed who “returned, praising God at the top of his voice, and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.”

When was the last time you and I expressed this kind of gratitude to God? Like the nine others to failed to return and thank Jesus, often we too have failed to recognize the blessings, answered prayers, and healings, both physical and spiritual, that the Lord showers upon us every day? The truth is that our very lives and every breath we take are His gift to us. But we can get so caught up in the stresses and distractions of daily life that we lose touch with this truth.

Recognizing the extraordinary gift just received from the Lord, the Samaritan came back to express his profound gratitude. His response led to worship and earned him a far more precious gift than a physical healing. Jesus offered him the gift of salvation: “Your faith has saved you.”

Today’s Gospel is thus about healing, restoration, and life. The ten lepers were members of the walking dead. In Jesus’ time, these people were so rejected that they had to wear little bells around their neck in case they forgot the constant chanting: “Get out of my way, I’m a leper. Don’t come near, I’m a leper.” Their whole life was unbelievably sad, rejected, lost, until, of course, when they encountered Jesus. Jesus was going through another town. Lepers were not allowed to enter towns. They saw him coming and they went towards him with their little bells ringing and they said, “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us, have pity on us.”

And what did Jesus do? He sent them to his Father’s house, symbolized by the Temple. While on their way, the ten lepers were suddenly healed. Perhaps most of them ran home right away because they were forbidden to see their wives, their children and their families until they received the blessing of the priest in the Temple, who certified that they had been cured. Yet, the only Samaritan among them remembered to return to thank Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, in a certain sense, each one of us is a leper, a person in need of healing. We too are born for love, to be a good person, a member of a faith community, and to bring joy and happiness to all that we meet. God created us to be so. But somehow, along the way, selfishness seems to gain the upper hand and we at times have become selfish, small and narrow-minded. We need to run to Jesus, the Divine Physician, so that he can heal us, make us whole again, and send us forth on our way back to the Father’s house.

When Jesus asked, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? I can hear the voice of Jesus echoing: why have you not come to give thanks? Some of us may feel that we are too busy to pray or go to Church. We may feel that we merited the blessings we worked hard to achieve. We may even feel that God has not blessed us the way we wanted. Of course, none of these justifies an ungrateful heart. The Scripture reminds us that “in everything, we ought to give thanks to God” (1 Thess 5: 16-18).

Dear brothers and sisters, before you leave your bedroom in the morning, remember to thank God. In the night before you go to bed, do not forget to thank Him. Show your gratitude through a grateful heart and, most importantly, come back to our Father’s house every Sunday for the Eucharist, the ultimate worship and celebration of our thanksgiving.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham 

 

October 2, 2022

Dear parish family,

October is the month dedicated to the Rosary because the feast day of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is celebrated on October 7 each year. The feast day was established by Saint Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Catholic fleet over Islam at Lepanto on October 7, 1571. This victory was attributed to the direct intervention of the Blessed Mother, through the prayers of the Holy Rosary.

In thanksgiving for this major event in the 16th century that saved Christendom, Pope Leo XII dedicated the entire month of October to the Holy Rosary so that individuals, families, and communities would pray the Holy Rosary daily for peace in the world. “Not only do we earnestly exhort all Christians to give themselves to the recital of the pious devotion of the Rosary publicly, or privately in their own house and family, and that unceasingly, but we also desire that the whole of the month of October should be consecrated to the Holy Queen of the Rosary” (Pope Leo XII; On Devotion of the Rosary, September 1, 1883).

Since that time, the Rosary has proven itself to be a powerful prayer. Countless divine favors and spiritual graces have been granted to those who faithfully recite the Holy Rosary, including the protection from evil and the blessing of a happy death. Today, we desperately need Our Lady’s intervention through the Holy Rosary to turn back the moral, spiritual and physical threats that we are facing as a deeply divided nation. Our Lady will overcome all these threats if we turn to Her in confident prayer and courageous action, just as she had saved Christendom in 1571.

October is also the month dedicated to the protection of all human life. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ whose mission is to help and defend the poor, the weak and the helpless. Many causes taken up by the Church are essentially human rights issues. Defending the unborn children is the preeminent issue among all of them.

Without the right to life, all other human rights would be meaningless. We know that once conception occurs, there is a human being in existence. We now have an individual separate from the person of the mother even though that unborn baby is dependent upon the mother for growth. Through ultrasound technology, we also know that the baby, when sensing the impending threat of an abortion, will try to get away from the instruments that will rip his or her body apart. It’s incredibly hard to believe that a civilized society, which can have so much compassion for weak and troubled people, does not extend the same compassion to the most defenseless among us. Perhaps more education on the science and the dignity of human life is needed. Certainly, more prayer is needed for the protection of the unborn children, and for any expectant mother who are in need of help and support.

This is where the Rosary can come in as a powerful prayer for life and for peace. Prayed together with the family, it will create a cradle of life and a locus of peace in the home. Prayed together as a community, it can strengthen unity and spirituality. The indulgences attached to the Rosary, which can bring about the remission of temporal punishment due to us even if we die in a state of grace, are also a tangible sign of our communion with those who have gone before us, including the innocent aborted children.

I am inspired by many of you who pray the Holy Rosary each day after Mass as a community. The Rosary Society of our parish exists precisely to promote this devotion. I urge everyone to make a commitment to pray the Rosary often, in church, at home, on the move, whenever and wherever you can. Be assured that Our Lady will not fail any of her children when they come to her through this beautiful prayer.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

September 25, 2022

Dear parish family,

The Scripture readings for Mass this Sunday invites us to reflect on the sin of indifference. In our first reading, the prophet Amos vividly describes and roundly denounces the self-indulgent, complacent, and comfortable lifestyle of the wealthy who ‘Lying on ivory beds and sprawling on their divans, they dine on lambs from the flock and stall-fattened veal’, but do not care about the afflictions of the poor (Amos 6:4), He identifies their basic sin as indifference.

In the Gospel reading from St. Luke, Jesus recounts a familiar rich man vs. poor man folk tale, adding fresh and telling nuances. In the parable, the poor man has a name, Lazarus, which means “God will help”, whereas the rich man has no name. Usually, it is the poor who are nameless, while the rich have names, glamor, fame, and fortune. Furthermore, the fortunes of Lazarus and the rich man are reversed. The final destiny of Lazarus is to be “carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham”, whereas the rich man ends up “in torment in the netherworld” (Lk 16:22-23). Was the rich man condemned because of his abundant wealth and earthly possessions? Absolutely not. Rather, he was condemned to the place of torment and suffering because he was indifferent to the needs of the poor Lazarus. Like the prophet Amos, Jesus pinpoints indifference as the basic sin of the rich man. Cushioned by his lavish lifestyle, he is utterly oblivious to the presence of the poor man at his gate, starving and ‘covered with sores’ (Lk 16:20). He fails to see Lazarus as a fellow human, a brother, in dire need. The story shows how the worlds of the rich and poor can exist side by side but never meet.

Indifference is perhaps the worst of all sins. It lies at the root of so many other sins of neglect. Indifference does not mean that one is unaware of injustice or oblivious to the needs of the poor. Rather, this attitude says that the situation or person at hand isn’t worth the emotional energy either way. In other words, indifference doesn’t even care. It keeps us small and locked in self-preservation mode. It forces us to settle for less than we were created to be. It numbs our heart and our capacity to feel. It’s the sin that says, “What’s the use?” in the face of anything that involves commitment, perseverance, and sacrifice, which is almost everything that gives life meaning.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is particularly relevant to our time, when the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. We are all aware that the recent dramatic increase in the price of gas and basic food supplies is having dire consequences for everyone, especially the poor. Many are unable to make ends meet. We are also aware of the constant influx of migrants who are arriving to our city. Perhaps you have met some of them right here in our neighborhood. At the meeting with the priests and staffs of parishes in our Deanery this past week, I learned, with great surprise, that several thousands of migrants have been placed in hotels across Astoria by the city government. Most of them arrive with nothing, and many have families and small children. A representative from St. Rita’s Church in Long Island City reported that her parish is completely overwhelmed by the needs of this enormous population. Everyday, people come knocking on the door of the church office pleading for food, clothing, shoes, toiletries, baby products and other social services, which are beyond any one parish’s ability to provide. Their stories have broken my heart.

We may say that this is a problem for the government to solve, but it must be our concern, too, as Christians. We cannot be indifferent to the poverty around us. We are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. As St John Chrysostom, that great champion of the poor, reminds us, we cannot celebrate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist without serving Him present in the poor: “Do not pretend to honor Christ in the Church while you neglect him outside where he is cold and naked” (Homily 50, 3-4). Saint John Paul II once urges us, “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation.” (Homily at Yankee Stadium, 2 October 1979).

Without going into the debate about who should be responsible for this humanitarian crisis that is a hot-button issue here in our nation, I believe that each one of us has a moral responsibility to assist these brothers and sisters in charity. It is also a unique opportunity for evangelization, which lies at the heart of what we do as Church. For this reason, I am working with the pastors of every parish in our Deanery to plan a special Food Drive throughout Astoria in the coming week. Details will be available to you as soon as we get the green light from organizers. Stay tune for more information in next weekend’s bulletin.

Dear brothers and sisters, as St. Josemaria wrote: “Time is our treasure, the ‘money’ with which to buy eternity” (Furrow, n. 882). May the Word of God this Sunday spur us to move from indifference to compassion. Let us remember that the works of mercy carried out in this life will have a direct consequence in the next, for the love of neighbor is inseparable from, and is the “thermometer” of an authentic love for God.

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

September 18, 2022

Fall into a new way of giving

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Allow me to thank you for your generous and faithful support to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. As we look forward to fall and all the exciting ministry opportunities ahead, I’d like to ask you to consider taking a next step in your stewardship efforts.

You may have missed an opportunity to give because you weren’t able to attend Mass. Perhaps you mailed it or remembered to include it on a future offering, but I’d like to propose a safer, simpler solution that allows you to remain consistent in your giving while helping us be more accurate in our budget forecasting as well.

We partner with Faith Direct for a secure eGiving option that lets you support the ministries you care about, even if you can’t attend Mass in person. When you choose a recurring monthly gift, you provide our parish consistent support that lets us better plan and budget for programs that allow us to share God’s love throughout our community.

Please prayerfully consider eGiving as a way for you to make sure that your faithful support will always make a difference for our parish. It is easy to sign up. Simply choose one of the following options that seems most convenient for you:

 

  • Visit faith.direct/NY370
  • Call Faith Direct toll-free at 866-507-8757 to speak with someone directly
  • Text “Enroll” to (929) 254-3850

For those already enrolled, I want to thank you for your participation in the Faith Direct electronic giving program. May Christ, through the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, richly bless you and your family for your active participation in His mission right here at our parish.

Gratefully yours in Christ,