6th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014
My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
In my recent years on a trip to Houston Texas for my annual continuing education, I was invited to visit a Vietnamese parish that had just finished a brand new church building. Normally, for us Vietnamese who reside and choose the United States of America as second homeland, and of course it is the land permanent for our earthly life, and from this we are rebuilding our community and faith life that is very important to us. Many worship spaces have been built by the Vietnamese refugees throughout the United States and are dedicated to Vietnamese Martyrs and Saints or to the Vietnamese Our Lady of Lavang. However, this is not the case at this Vietnamese community. They chose the title Our Lady of Lourdes as their patroness for their faith community and they just finished a magnificent worship space to honor our Blessed Mother who appeared in Lourdes, France in 1858.
Last Tuesday the universal Church celebrated Our Lady of Lourdes, that on 11 February 1858, Bernadette Soubirous went with her sisters Toinette and Jeanne Abadie to collect some firewood and bones in order to buy some bread. After taking off her shoes and stockings to wade through the water near the Grotto of Massabielle, she said she heard the sound of two gusts of wind, but the trees and bushes nearby did not move. A wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto, however, did move. From the niche, or rather the dark alcove behind it, “came a dazzling light, and a white figure.” She was dressed all in white, apart from the blue belt fastened around her waist and the golden yellow roses, one on each foot, the color of her rosary. Bernadette tried to keep this a secret, but Toinette told her mother. After parental cross-examination, she and her sister received punishment for their story.
Three days later, Bernadette returned to the Grotto. She had brought holy water as a test that the apparition was not of evil provenance, and demanded that if she were from God, she must stay, but if she were evil, she must go away; however, she said the vision only inclined her head gratefully when the water was cast and she made her demands.
Our Lady of Lourdes is recognized internationally by Catholics even the veracity of the apparitions of Lourdes is not an article of faith for Catholics. Nevertheless, all recent Popes visited the Marian shrine. Benedict XV, Pius XI, and John XXIII went there as bishops, Pius XII as papal delegate. Working with Le Pelerinage de Lourdes he also issued, an encyclical on the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions in 1958. John Paul II visited Lourdes three times during his papacy.
I have not had a chance to visit Our Lady of Lourdes yet, but wherever I visit our Lady she is continuing to be honored by the faithful.
Beginning Monday 17 until Tuesday 25 of February, 2014, I will make my pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the first time, which I have been longing for all my life. It will be the time of recharge for me to learn the place where Jesus had lived His earthly life. It is part of the priestly formation program that we would have a semester in Jerusalem for scripture study but during the time I was in formation, Jerusalem was unsafe and we did not have a chance to go due to insurance liability. I will use this time to learn more about the actual place where the Gospels I serve daily are rooted. Please keep me in your prayer and I will remember you at each place I will visit.
Rev. Joseph-Quoc Vuong