Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Tuesday, February 1, 2022, marks 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. 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 Tiger. Father Joe Pham, Father Hung Tran, and I will concelebrate a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for our Vietnamese community this Sunday, January 30, 2022, at 3 PM in the Lower Church. 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 worship space will be adorned with blooming cherry blossoms and splendid spring flowers reminiscent of South East Asia. Come to experience with us some of the most beautiful Vietnamese Catholic traditions including the Remembrance of Ancestors and Deceased Loved Ones, 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, our Asian brothers and sisters would gather at their parents’ homes to celebrate with a sumptuous feast. 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. This year, however, many still find it hard to celebrate or gather, when those closest to them are no longer with them. My mother, my siblings and I are going through this feeling as we mark the First Anniversary of my father’s passing. In this context, we are reminded that the greatest blessings in life are not material things. What matters most is not money, food, properties, or the latest gadgets, but relationships with those we love. All too often we forget this, 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 stuff 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, tigers are often associated with being strong, resilient, independent, fearless, and loyal. People who are born in the Year of the Tiger are believed to be persistent, determined, and strong in the face of adversity. They never back down from a challenge, but always know how to turn it into an opportunity. May the celebration of the Year of the Tiger inspire each of you to remain steadfast, courageous, and spiritually strong in these challenging times.
Commending you and the Asian members of our parish to the divine protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and assuring you all a special remembrance at the Altar on this Lunar New Year, I wish to send every family my personal blessings and best wishes.
Happy New Year / “Chuc Mung Nam Moi”,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham