Updated: November 24, 2021 03:00 AM GMT
A drawing of St. Francis of Assisi with his motto 'Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.' (Photo courtesy of tonggiaophanhanoi.org)
Priests normally choose mottoes for their priestly life when they are ordained. In 2005 I was selected for the priesthood by superiors. During the retreat before ordination, I chose for myself one of the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
The reason for the motto is quite simple. In 1986 I joined the altar boys group at my parish. I was paired with a boy named Binh. My name (Hoa) and his name combined to be Hoa Binh meaning Peace. The parish priest told us that our appearances looked out of proportion with one another, but our names were wonderful and easy to remember and call.
When I studied at the St. Joseph Major Seminary in Hanoi, one of my friends was Binh. Fortunately, both of us spent one year doing pastoral practices in But Dong parish as part of our priestly formation after we completed our studies at the seminary.
Binh had been assigned to Phu Da Parish, but local government authorities refused to allow him to work in the parish since the parish priest erected statues of two Vietnamese martyrs in front of the church, which displeased them. Consequently, Binh had no place to serve.
The priest at But Dong suggested I invite Binh to join me at the parish. Then both of us formed a perfect couple, Hoa Binh.
Perhaps in the history of seminarians who spent one year doing ministries in local parishes, there had never been two seminarians in the same place, except practices in summers.
I feel it as a message God wants to remind me to be a peacemaker bringing peace and happiness to those you meet on the road of life
I often told catechism classes that we had nothing but only a message from our names Hoa Binh to teach them. We encouraged them to build peace and live together in peace, so that they could enjoy life to the full.
Since the two words Hoa Binh kept repeating to me over and over again, I decided to choose the motto “Blessed are the peacemakers” for my priesthood.
I feel it as a message God wants to remind me to be a peacemaker bringing peace and happiness to those you meet on the road of life.
Life is always full of disagreements. Just yesterday afternoon, a parishioner texted and asked me to teach local people how to pay less attention to idle gossip as many are terrible gossips.
I see gossip as a perennial problem in all communities in the world. People living together always cause problems for one another no matter what. Even full or blood brothers and sisters come into conflict and friction, let alone outsiders.
In my experience, when two siblings live on the same piece of land inherited from their parents, it is difficult for them to be in concord with one another. They usually have petty squabbles and even bitter quarrels caused by siblings, in-laws or their children. Therefore, if parents could arrange for their children to live apart, there will be less friction among them. Brothers and sisters will live in harmony and love one another more.
Disagreements, quarrels or prying into other people's lives are all because people have no peace in their hearts. It is said that when you try to find other people's faults to condemn, it is because your inner world is in big trouble, and you have no deep inner life yet.
I see it is right. If people are happy with themselves, they do not need to care about others. It is because we remain highly unstable inside, so we seek to lower other people's values and get ourselves exalted.
Maybe tremendous losses or horrific accidents wake them up and they realize that life in this world is impermanent
Reconciliation with others will never be secured if people cling to their inflated ego. I have met a lot of people who are entirely egocentric. They could not listen and never know how to listen to suggestions from others. They always think they are right.
Such people can only be transformed when they undergo great upheavals. Maybe tremendous losses or horrific accidents wake them up and they realize that life in this world is impermanent. They experience the fragility of the human condition.
Their ego suddenly disappears to make room for the loving presence of God. Love begins to flood into their souls, and then that stream of love will break down all barriers and help them become one with others.
As long as we remain alive, we have to face the trouble other people are asking for. You and I are called to be messengers of peace. Let us repeat together the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy."
Father Joseph Ta Xuan Hoa is from Hanoi Archdiocese. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published by tonggiaophanhanoi.org here.
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