November 26, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

As this liturgical year draws to a close, we come together to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, a day that invites us to contemplate the profound truths of Christ’s reign, characterized by justice, love, and peace. This particular Sunday also holds unique significance for our Vietnamese brothers and sisters as they gather to celebrate Saint Andrew Dũng Lạc and the Vietnamese Martyrs, patrons of our parish’s Vietnamese community. In our parish, this convergence of celebrations, though a happy coincidence of calendar scheduling, unveils a divine tapestry that interweaves the universal kingship of Christ with the heroic witness of these Martyrs.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass presents the parable of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46). In this narrative, Christ our King identifies Himself with the least among us, a message resonating with the lives of St. Andrew Dũng Lạc and his companions. These 117 Martyrs, canonized in 1988, are symbols of resilience and faith, representing the hundreds of thousands who endured persecution for their beliefs in 17th and 18th century Vietnam. Their enduring faith continues to inspire Vietnamese Catholic communities worldwide, including our own.

The extraordinary fortitude of these martyrs, from priests like St. Andrew Dũng Lạc to laypersons such as Agnese Lê Thị Thành, exemplifies an unwavering commitment to Christ, even in the face of severe trials and unimaginable suffering. Their final cries of, “Long live Christ the King!” is a timeless echo of their devotion and a reminder of Christ’s eternal reign.

In honoring the Vietnamese Martyrs, we are called to reflect on our own devotion, especially as we approach the Holy Eucharist. Their deep reverence and love for the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist serve as a model for us. When we receive Holy Communion, it is essential to prepare for this profound encounter with the Lord by being in a state of grace, fully detached from sin. As we form a throne with our hands to welcome Christ our King, we express not just an external gesture but an internal disposition. This act of reverence, more than just a ritual, is a tangible manifestation of our deep faith.

The alignment of our Vietnamese community’s celebration of the Vietnamese Martyrs with the Solemnity of Christ the King presents an opportunity for spiritual growth. Their steadfast faith and their deep devotion to the Eucharist serve as a powerful challenge for us to strengthen our own commitment to faith. As we honor their ultimate sacrifice, we simultaneously celebrate their eternal victory in Christ, our King.

Seen in this light, today’s Solemn Mass and the Procession of the Relics of the Vietnamese Martyrs, observed by our Vietnamese parishioners at 3PM in the main church, go beyond mere commemoration. These acts are vibrant expressions of our faith’s living tradition. The Vietnamese community at our parish has been particularly instrumental in this. Their cultural and spiritual gifts have greatly enriched our ecclesial life, most notably through the many priestly and religious vocations they have offered to the Church. The presence of dedicated priests and seminarians, who have regarded Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish as their spiritual home for over forty years, stands as a testament to the dynamic faith inspired by the enduring legacy of the Vietnamese Martyrs.

As we anticipate the Season of Advent next weekend, may the courage of the Vietnamese Martyrs and the sovereignty of Christ the King inspire us to live our faith with renewed vigor, embodying Christ’s love and peace.

In Christ, our King and Lord,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham