Updated: August 18, 2021 06:26 AM GMT
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang ordains nine deacons at the cathedral in Ninh Binh province in March. (Photo courtesy of phatdiem.org)
Future priests from Vietnam's northern diocese are being urged to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a rare opportunity to train themselves as worthy shepherds and good sheep.
Nine deacons in Phat Diem Diocese are expected to be ordained priests on Aug. 25 at a chapel in the Bishop's House in Ninh Binh province.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City, who serves as the diocese's apostolic administrator, announced that he could not come to ordain them due to social distancing measures against Covid-19. He has delegated Bishop Joseph Nguyen Duc Cuong of the neighboring diocese of Thanh Hoa to ordain them.
The ordination will only be joined by some priests and attended by the ordinands' relatives. New priests will not celebrate their thanksgiving Masses until the pandemic is under control.
Archbishop Nang said he has presided at many priestly ordinations and ceremonies of taking vows in a quiet manner with poor attendance in his archdiocese since last year. After the ceremonies, new priests and professed religious recounted their mystical experiences.
He said at first people may have a bit of sadness and regret on account of no formalities and physical joy, but in the end they immensely enjoy such ceremonies. In the wonderfully secluded situation, they have opportunities to concentrate on important things since they are not distracted by guests, parties, photos, decoration and others, but fully turn their hearts to God and deeply experience the transforming grace.
The spirit of the world has taken us too far away from the spirit of God. We just have to go back
He asked the deacons to get rid of the dependencies and retain the essentials. "Covid-19 helps us do it. We may be reluctant to accept such a quiet and simple ceremony, but it is really a blessed opportunity for us to get back to main things. The spirit of the world has taken us too far away from the spirit of God. We just have to go back."
The prelate, who was ordained a priest in 1990, said that during hard times decades ago there were only a bishop, ordinands and holy orders in priestly ordinations, without new chasubles, congratulations, gifts, parties, pictures and solemn thanksgiving Masses.
Being purified to focus on the essentials, he said, they lived out their priesthood with fullness of interior vitality, zeal for service, courage and strength to endure hardships, joy and constancy to keep the ordination pledge.
On the contrary, he said, when people take a lot of external joy, their inner person runs the grave risk of weakening and the quality of their priesthood is badly affected.
"We thank God for allowing Covid-19 to train us," he said in a letter to them on Aug. 15.
The 68-year-old archbishop said that in just a few days they will be transformed by just an act of imposition of hands and prayer of consecration, and they will be called "father." They themselves will be surprised, and everyone will probably be embarrassed when they call them "father" for the first time.
He warned that their psychology and lifestyle have not yet changed to keep pace with the change in their soul, so they will have to learn throughout their lives to be "fathers."
Noting only God is the Father, the Father of Jesus and of all people, he said, like Jesus, they must contemplate and immerse themselves in the love of the Father before they can express the Father’s love.
If you do not know how to be good sheep, you can never be good shepherds
“Only when you know how to be ‘sons’ can you be fathers. If you do not know how to be children, you cannot be fathers, but just men of arrogance,” the prelate said.
“You can only become shepherds following the example of Jesus, the Supreme Shepherd, when you yourself are good sheep. If you do not know how to be good sheep, you can never be good shepherds,” he said, adding that the problems that occur in pastoral relations are mainly caused by authoritarian pastors who themselves forget to be good sheep.
He said priests are only servants of God’s people throughout their lives as they are raised from cinders by God. God lifts them up but they remain dust.
Archbishop Nang said the people of God yearn for high-quality priests, so they should respond to their holy expectations.
“With deep humility and trusting in God's love and grace, you bravely go forth strong,” he told them.
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