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Confessions of a Vietnamese parish priest

If we priests are highly dedicated to praying and having a deep inner life, our presence is always a delight to the community
Confessions of a Vietnamese parish priest

Priests concelebrate a Mass in Tan Do parish, Hanoi archdiocese on Feb. 2. (Photo courtesy of tonggiaophanhanoi.org)

Published: February 09, 2022 03:40 AM GMT
Updated: March 02, 2022 09:21 AM GMT

During the latest priestly retreat, a classmate confided to me that at times he felt he could do nothing for his laypeople. He reminded me of the story of how Saint Paul worked to support himself, while we priests now only do spiritual things and forget about the aspect of working for a living. Finally, he told me that it was interesting to write a piece on the subject.

Perhaps I share his opinion. On arrival at parishes, priests are highly acclaimed as those who bring Christ to people, offer daily sacrifices to God to atone for their own sins and people's sins, preach God's word to the laity, do management services to connect parishioners with one another, build unity and peace in parishes, and serve as another Christ.

It could be said that we are seen as saints but we are also humans with limitations, fragility, and weakness.

The confessions of my fellow priest are not unreasonable.

I see that we priests often perform spiritual duties but fail to have a corresponding inner life and do such things mechanically. Sometimes we are like civil servants carrying out administrative jobs.

We place financial burdens on other people because of costly construction work, torture our parishioners with words unworthy of priests in our homilies, and cause difficulties to our brothers and sisters in administering the sacraments, especially matrimony.

In short, we fail to bring joy to people and have not really loved them yet.

I still vividly remember the advice of an old priest professor at the seminary. Every time we met him, he said: "After you graduate from the seminary, please remember to love your parishioners."

Do my friend and I have far too pessimistic opinions about priests? It is also possible that we are rather gloomy. Although there are still many wonderful priests who bring true joy and happiness to the communities they serve, we really want to raise the problem so that we can look at ourselves and repent.

If we have received everything freely, then we must also give freely. If we have not really loved our parishioners, we should not expect them to love us either. You reap what you sow – that is the law of life. If we are present in communities without transforming the people we are responsible for so that they can live happier lives, then surely we have not fulfilled the mission given by God.

This morning, after I finished Sunday Mass for children and was still in the sacristy, an old woman gave me some money, of which part was Mass stipend and the rest was her thanks to God and me. She told me that she had asked me to pray for her two grandchildren and both were blessed by God. One person who had left his home for family problems was reunited with his family, while the other who was infected with Covid-19 in Saigon recovered well. When she asked me to pray, the latter at the age of 41 was in a critical condition in a field hospital and other patients around him died of the contagion. She believed that God answered my prayers for her family. In her words and eyes, I knew she trusted in my prayers.

I was like a dog with two tails after meeting with the woman. I was delighted not because I did something for this life but because I saw how strong her faith was. Perhaps it was due to her faith that God did good things for her two grandchildren, and I just acted as a mediator, a catalyst to create more trust for her.

In the Gospel, the Lord once said: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Many times Jesus affirmed, "your faith has healed you." It is faith that makes real miracles happen in daily life. When he returned to his homeland, Jesus was unable to perform any miracles because his people did not have faith.

The story of the old woman makes me feel quite confident in priests' vocation and mission. If we priests are highly dedicated to praying and having a deep inner life, our presence is always a delight of the community. On the contrary, if we carry out our priestly ministry like the world, it will be a complete disaster for God's people.

However, as humans, we easily commit sins of displeasing God. May each time we stumble and fall, each time we become stronger to implicitly trust in God's mercy. Thanks to this, we become more and more like Jesus the Shepherd, who always loves and cares for his sheep and who comes that they may have life and have it abundantly.

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.net here.

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1 Comments on this Story
ARLENE JOY
God mightily and greatly bless you dear Father Joseph Ta Xuan Hoa. Such an open hearted and humble homily. Thank you. Every day I pray for Priests and Sisters to always remain true to their faith and with their eyes always on our Lord Jesus Christ
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