September 24, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Greetings from Rome, the Eternal City! Though I am physically distant, my spirit remains deeply intertwined with each of you. Your heartwarming reactions upon hearing of my pilgrimage to the Vatican last week truly touched me. From those radiating joy, jestingly expressing envy, to those wishing to be by my side—visiting the beautiful country of Italy is, after all, a dream for many.

However, this journey transcends the allure of this historic city. It’s a profound experience of God’s unmerited grace that brings me back not merely as a visitor but as a pilgrim. After having devoted fourteen years in service to the universal Church here, I find myself retracing the familiar cobbled streets and soaking in the spiritual vibrancy of Rome, filled with gratitude and nostalgia. Those who’ve had the joy of returning to a cherished place can surely understand the depth of my emotions.

Heartfelt reunions with friends, former neighbors, and colleagues, both from Rome and the Vatican, have made my days here even more special. A particularly touching moment was my return to the Dicastery for Legislative Texts. Overlooking the lively St. Peter’s Square, I was reminded of the indescribable joy and gratitude of my time here. As I eagerly await my audience with His Holiness Pope Francis next week, please know that I carry your love and prayers with me each day.

While Rome offers endless engagements, I’ve intentionally carved out moments amidst the bustle of Rome to immerse myself in quiet prayer, especially before the Tombs of the Apostles, and revered Saints and Popes like St. John Paul II. Know that every prayer uttered includes your intentions and those of our parish.

This journey, echoing both nostalgia and God’s grace, resonates with the Scripture Readings for this 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, emphasizing God’s immeasurable and unexpected generosity. Here in Rome, I’m reminded that God’s blessings aren’t rewards but pure grace. It’s a lesson that transcends my experiences here and is relevant to our parish community: God’s benevolence often surprises us.

The wisdom of this Sunday’s Gospel, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Mt 20:16), finds a special place in my heart as I revisit my past and present in Rome. God’s blessings often defy our expectations or worldly standards. I was once a humble servant here, quietly working behind the scenes for our universal Church, and today, I return as a beloved guest, graced with unexpected blessings. This reminds us that God’s love and generosity aren’t based on merit but on His sheer magnanimity.

My dear parish family, I hope my reflections inspire you to recognize God’s astounding grace in your own lives. Remember, in God’s eyes, every individual holds immense value, irrespective of the world’s views. Let’s cherish these moments when God’s love uplifts and reassures us.

Until my next update from this spiritually enriching journey, let’s hold each other close in prayer.

In Christ’s peace,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham