October 1, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings from Rome, the Eternal City!

As you gather for the Eucharist on this 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, I pray that today’s Scripture readings may deeply resonate with you. They invite us to reflect on virtues like repentance, humility, and obedience to God – essential in our Christian journey. Even from Rome, these themes profoundly shape my daily reflections.

Spiritual life, as we know, isn’t a one-time affair. It’s a continuous journey, demanding consistent alignment with God, placing Him at the center, and putting His will above our own desires. Embracing virtues of humility, conversion, and obedience has its challenges, even for me, a priest. But as I walk amidst the ancient beauty of Rome, passing holy sites where Saints once tread and reflecting upon their timeless stories, I’m reminded that embodying these virtues, while daunting, remains achievable. The legacies of St. Peter and St. Paul, amidst numerous others down the ages, serve as living testaments to this possibility.

These days, I have the joy of reuniting with friends who are priests, religious and lay people serving the Church at the Vatican and in Rome. Coming from many different corners of the globe, each shares a unique narrative of relinquishing familiar comforts to serve the Holy Father and the global Church here. Their stories, brimming with sacrifice and love for God, further illuminate the depth of repentance, humility and obedience required in our Christian journey. Their faithful service, often hidden and unsung, yet profound and significant, underscores the depth of true discipleship, emphasizing God’s will above personal desires.

Though I may be miles away, my heart remains close to our parish. Each day, as I walk pass the Eternal City’s ancient and revered sites, I offer up prayers for all of you. I hope that, inspired by the indomitable spirit of Rome’s Saints – both past and those still walking its streets – we too find the resolve to prioritize God’s will in our lives. This Sunday’s Gospel, contrasting two sons, serves as introspection. I often see myself in the first son, who quickly assents but fails to follow through. Yet, my deeper desire is to mirror the transformed spirit of the second son, who, despite initial hesitance, chooses to align with the Father’s desires. This parable tells me that repentance, humility, and obedience, while challenging to embody at times, remain achievable to us. No matter our past hesitations, it’s never too late to realign with God’s call.

If even this recognition seems difficult, we have a powerful tool to guide and strengthen us: the Holy Rosary. This simple yet profound prayer has, for generations, turned ordinary people into extraordinary disciples, leading them towards virtuous lives. As we step into October, the Month of the Rosary, may we daily strive to emulate Mary who epitomized these virtues so perfectly. Remember, with every recitation of the Hail Mary, we are called to transform, serve humbly, and submit to God’s divine plan, echoing Mary’s unwavering “yes” to the Lord.

In the United States, October also marks Respect Life Month, emphasizing the sanctity and inherent dignity of life from conception to natural death. In a world often indifferent to the vulnerable – the preborn, the differently-abled, the elderly – we are summoned to champion their cause. Embracing the values of repentance, humility, and obedience to God becomes even more crucial now. May the examples set by Our Lady, the Saints, and countless other holy people in the Church propel us towards a life steeped in these transformative virtues.

With warm regards and blessings,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham