Updated: April 26, 2021 04:33 AM GMT
Truc Lam is officially baptized and receives the Sacrament of Confirmation at Vi Hung Parish in Can Tho Diocese on Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo supplied)
Born and raised in a Buddhist family, Truc Lam often went to worship Buddha and chant Buddhist prayers at the temple with his family.
One day, his soul experienced a sudden change. The boy recounted: “I happened to see a video of a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc. I was curious and decided to click the link to see the Mass. After that, my YouTube channel recommended many other Masses celebrated by the late archbishop.”
That was 2017, when he was only 14 and in grade 8 at Chu Van An Secondary School in Rach Gia in Kien Giang province.
Time passed until one day the boy watched Masses celebrated by Bishop Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan, the assistant bishop. “His homilies on marriage, family and immigration were very good and made me sense God's love. I also admired Catholics’ zeal for God expressed during Mass,” Truc Lam said.
Out of admiration for these two bishops, the boy looked for information on the internet to learn more about them.
Although he was quite young, Truc Lam questioned himself. "Why did the archbishop choose the motto 'God is my source of joy?’ He always smiles lovingly. Probably because of God, he was so happy and lovable. Bishop Tuan’s homilies are so good, easy to understand and useful for me."
Truc Lam's parents, who are progressive thinkers, respected the freedom of their child
The videos gave Truc Lam a lot of knowledge about God and nurtured his affection for Catholics.
Because of the family's devotion to Buddhism, Truc Lam also lived a good life thanks to the Buddhist spirit, so when the boy expressed a wish to become a Catholic, "there was something unhappy on the face of my grandmother and parents,” he said.
But Truc Lam's parents, who are progressive thinkers, respected the freedom of their child.
“A long time ago, when I had not yet learned about the Church, in a conversation with my dad, he said: 'I see that there are many good things about the Catholic Church. Catholics keep good faith and often attend Mass. But in general, every religion is good, every religion teaches people to live honestly, to be virtuous and never teach bad things.'”
His parents said he was mature enough to know what choice is good, so they did not interfere too much in his personal life. However, his grandmother was sad.
“When you were sick, I bought fish to release and prayed to God of Heaven and Buddha for your recovery and now you dare to behave this way,” she told him.
"Now God wants it, what should I do?” he replied.
Other members of his extended family were also critical. His uncle in Canada told him that "Catholics eat dog meat and believe that a piece of cake is holy.”
Understanding that his loved ones did not know much about Catholicism, he prayed to God for his parents and relatives.
God must have accepted his very simple, sincere prayers from the depths of the heart of a child who passionately loved him. "I have many opportunities to tell everyone in my family about God. My relatives softened their hearts and finally agreed to let me join the Church."
On Oct. 24, 2020, he was officially baptized and received the Sacrament of Confirmation at Vi Hung Parish in Can Tho Diocese. The sacraments were presided over by parish priest Father Anphongso Le Kin Thach.
“Louis is the baptism name that I choose because it was Auxiliary Bishop Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan who inspired me to learn about God. I admire him so much,” Truc Lam said.
I cried because I was so happy after receiving God into my heart
One day later, he received the Eucharist for the first time. The lad could not hide the intense happiness in his soul after many days of longing.
"I cried because I was so happy after receiving God into my heart," he said.
“Previously, I was a giddy person, sometimes I refused to listen to my parents, wasted money and was rarely involved in charity work. Every day I spent 500,000 dong [US$22], maybe even more, because I didn't understand the value of money.”
Truc Lam's wealthy parents let the boy use the money at his will without ever questioning it out of respect for his freedom.
“Since I got to know the Church, I began to think about my life. I have learned to sympathize, listen and share more, live for others more," he said.
Regularly reading and meditating on the Word of God has helped him to live a better life and spend more wisely. He asked his parents to give him less money, then used the money to do charity work — contributing money to help the Church, to help retired priests, to buy lottery tickets for the elderly who earn a living on the street and to help victims of the October 2020 flood.
When friends asked why he was doing charity work, he answered: "We need to know how to sacrifice, to love poor people to please God. I do as God teaches. I have little love, but God blesses me to do these things. I am satisfied with my change. I find myself closer to everyone, more sociable and friendly to others.”
Tu Trinh, an 18-year-old parishioner from Vi Hung, said: "Many people think that Truc Lam was born into a Catholic family. He goes to church every day, helps many people and is a good example."
My Trinh, a classmate at Vi Hung, recalled that Truc Lam used to get angry easily, was impatient and his ego was quite big. "Before Truc Lam was baptized, he went to church for almost two years. At that time I felt that he really wanted to be a Catholic. After being baptized, he became calmer.”
Truc Lam is more gentle, he no longer swears, he is very pious
His family’s simple words of encouragement made the boy feel warm and comforted. "On Good Friday I told grandma: ‘Today I'm vegetarian.' She said: 'Today I only made one fish dish.’ Then I laughed happily," he said.
“Truc Lam is more gentle, he no longer swears, he is very pious. Before eating, he knows to make the sign of the cross and pray. Catholicism is very difficult, but if he keeps the religion like that, that's fine," said his grandmother.
Seeing their son is much more mature and obedient than before, Truc Lam's parents in the US are very happy. During their phone calls, they advise their child to live a good life and keep good faith.
Truc Lam completed high school in August 2020. For three consecutive years he won the award for good conduct. Because he was going abroad, he focused on learning English in Can Tho.
Sometimes he still goes back to Hau Giang to visit his grandmother and aunt. He still attends Mass every day. “If I don't go to Mass, I feel sad, as if I don't have the Spirit. Now, I always live in the spirit of thanking God because God has made me his child. I want to thank God by following his footsteps closely. I want to become a priest,” he said.
* This article was translated by Duc Trung Vu, CSsR, from a Vietnamese article published on tgpsaigon.net here