Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This Sunday, January 22, 2023, marks the first day of the Lunar New Year, a time of joy, thanksgiving and family reunion for millions of Asians throughout the world, including the Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other oriental communities in the United States. I am grateful to have had a chance to experience a little bit of pre-New Year’s celebration with my relatives and friends in Vietnam. It has been so long since I was there for this occasion, and while I could have stayed for the festival, I wanted to return and join our Vietnamese community and my immediate family here on this sacred day.
It is my pleasure to offer warm greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all Asian brothers and sisters of our parish as well as those who will join them in celebrating the Year of the Cat. We will have a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for our Vietnamese community this Sunday at 3PM. You are all cordially invited to attend this joyful celebration of faith and culture, which will include various generations of Vietnamese from young children to the elders serving in different roles. Our church sanctuary will be adorned with blooming cherry blossoms and splendid spring flowers reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Come to experience with us some the most beautiful Vietnamese Catholic traditions including the Remembrance of Ancestors, the distribution of New Year Blessing Parchments that contain randomly picked Scriptural quotes to be used as “words to live by” or personal mottos for the year, and the giving of Red Envelopes with a “Lucky Dollar” gift to the children and teens as a way of wishing them abundant blessings.
Normally, on the Lunar New Year, most Asians would gather at their parents’ home to celebrate. They would participate in traditional ceremonies to pay homage to their ancestors and living elders. Children and grandchildren would present their parents and grandparents with personalized wishes for their happiness, longevity and prosperity, and receive from the latter blessings and gifts in return. Extended family members would travel long distances to visit one another. It is always a time of family and reunion. It is also a time to forgive one another, to let go of the past, and to resolve to living more positively, more lovingly, more generously, and more fully. After all, the ups and downs of life that we have all experienced in the past few years remind us that the greatest blessings in life are not material things. What matters most is not money, food, properties or the latest gadgets, but people and relationships. All too often we forget this while neglecting relationships in the pursuit of money, career, fame and success. Many Asians, for example, tend to think that the best way to love our children is to give them a good education and money to get ahead in life. We also tend to think that the best way to love our parents is to pursue great achievements that will make them proud. Thus, it can become all too easy for us to focus on material things instead of relationships. And sadly, we often only realize our mistake when it’s too late to put things right.
If relationships are what true blessing is about, our faith tells us that the greatest blessing of all is the relationship with God. It is He who created us and blessed us with everything we enjoy. Our health and safety, our family and friends, our opportunities and hopes, and this beautiful world in which we live, are all blessings given by the God who loves us. Too often in pursuing these blessings, however, we fail to pursue the God who gave them. We are like children who receive their parents’ blessings at the beginning of the new year, but fail to love them in return throughout the rest of the year. As the Lunar New Year offers our Asian brothers and sisters the opportunity to renew relationships in their lives, let it also motivate us to seek a fresh start in our relationship with God and with one another.
In the East, cats are often associated with being sensitive, gentle, creative, gifted, independent and affectionate. People who are born in the Year of the Cat are believed to be sociable, highly talented and ambitious people. They are believed to be very good at persuading and convincing with their great rhetoric. May the celebration of the Year of the Cat inspire each of you to cultivate, and celebrate, the personality traits that will lead you to a happier and holier life.
Wishing you and all Asian members of our parish a Blessed Lunar New Year, I assure you all a special remembrance at the Altar.
Happy New Year / “Chuc Mung Nam Moi”,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham