By: Deacon David “Nguyễn” Rozas
How wonderful it is that the Lord God became Man for us! How awe-inspiring that at Pentecost he did not return the world to speaking one tongue but made his followers able to reach people where they were at, with the people’s own language and in their own cultural context! The call for us to go out to all peoples remains even today. Did you know that we as baptized Catholic Christians, and especially once confirmed, have the grace and mission to stretch out to others? No one can assume that the other knows they are welcome to join more closely with the Lord by joining in our own life with Christ.
Today extending of ourself is much easier with such diversity already around us in our daily lives. I have recently come to understand better the need to reach out to those who are already within the Church, who are already striving to allow their hearts and lives to be more open to God. We follow Saint Paul’s call to first tend “especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (RSVCE Gal 6:10) I have noticed that I now have a great appreciation of the unique unity in diversity that is present within the Holy Catholic Church. Following from this, I decided to take my talents of being willing to hear other people’s points of view and my capacity to learn languages and to put them into an effort to stretch out my hand on purpose to others. I extend myself to make God’s loving presence tangible and to sure up our unity through Christ in the Holy Spirit. This unity, I dare say, is even aided by our different backgrounds and ways of understanding and of expressing our Faith in the One, Jesus Christ.
I pray we will no longer allow cultural realities to divide us, including: language, how our faith is expressed in our daily lives, the varied understandings of the laity’s and the clergy’s roles in the life of the Church on Earth, the roles of “regular people” and civic leaders, and political and economic situations. I see these divisions sometimes in local churches; one particular church may have three or four different cultures: one English Speaking, African and or European Americans, one Hispanic (which has a multitude of cultures just right there), and one with Vietnamese. Questions that come to my mind are, “Do these people ever interact?” “Do they ever get together to spend time building up the visible Body of Christ…on purpose?”
I recently gave a conference to youth ministers of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana; it is titled Building the Temple of God: Many Cultures, One Body. In it I use Sacred Scripture, particularly the Shema, Sacred Tradition, Church documents, first-hand experience, and group conversation to lead us to practical ways of forming a more solid Temple. A particular focus is to not leave out any stone the Lord calls whether they be First Nation, Cajun, Ugandan, Vietnamese, etc., nor by leaving out the mortar who is the Holy Spirit.
The rest of this blog will focus on the first two steps the above conference lays out: Self-Knowledge and Reaching Out.
1. Self-Knowledge: Relationship is key to unity. The Holy Trinity gives us the greatest example of this, and we see it visibly in families. This relationship we have with God is expressed and advanced in a particular way due to us as individuals and to our cultural milieu. Comfort and familiarity with our own self allows us to let others be who they are in that moment and to not try to change them from their ways, which are likely very good and simply a different way of expressing one’s relationship with The Truth, Jesus.
2. Reaching out on Purpose: By reaching out, spending time together in person, and praying for each other, our hearts are allowed to open. Furthermore, these acts allow us to grow in unity, in relationship, and in communion with our brothers and sisters. By this God is then seen more fully because we see God through other people. (cf. Gen 2:18; Theology of the Body). Intentionally extending one’s self allows for the Body of Christ to become more united. Casting the net on the other side of the boat, we may even break down hidden prejudices which may be there simply due to our own ignorance of our brother.
Worried about reaching out? Bring someone with you. For Jesus sent “them out two by two.” (Mk 6:7) But you might ask, “How would one even look into this?” How will I work to build the Temple of God?”
Notre Dame Seminary Class of 2017
One option, if you are a seminarian, is to study and engage in life at Notre Dame Seminary. With men from about ten different countries and even more cultures, a seminarian is constantly surrounded by many valid and appropriate ways of approaching the Catholic Christian life. We learn to call all people “My Brother,” and by opening ourselves to our brothers from other places we see their world views. By this we are even able to better understand our own selves and our own relationship with God.
Another way is to actually go out to these different places where you will see for yourself the people’s way of expressing the One Truth in varied ways, such as in how they arrange their nativity set, how they arrange their church buildings and liturgy within the appropriate norms, how they gather their food, and even how they have true recreation, before returning to working for the Kingdom of God in their everyday activities of herding, crawfishing, teaching or studying at seminary, taking care of the children and the home, etc.
Mass for Tết at Mary Queen of Vietnam, NOLA,
with Bishop Dominic Lương Thanh Mai
An example is Holy Mass for Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. You will see the many decorations which are not the same as European. Colors of red and gold are everywhere, and the gifts that are brought up are important to the people, such as incense, small square objects wrapped in banana leaves, and fruit. Don’t know what these are for? Ask someone. My experience is that they will first be elated that you are there and second that you are interested.
Now that you have examples, you ask, “What do we do now? So, I invite you to ask yourself as I do, “How do I relate to God?,” “How do I relate to my brothers and sisters in Christ?,” and “How will I reach out on purpose?”
After gaining more self-knowledge and deliberately reaching out to others, my hope is that rather than staying with our small personal idea of God, which limits the communion between ourself, God, and each other, we will then all see how unique, diverse, and intricate is the Temple of our God.
I composed a short prayer that we may all come to be ever more One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church here on Earth. In this way we will be ready to be assumed into heaven at the end of time, side by side all members of the Body of Christ, seeing God face to face.
O Most Blessed Trinity, One God, we thank you for your great glory and that you do make it to shine throughout the world in various ways. O Holy Spirit ignite our hearts to burn with perfect charity for our brothers and sisters that we may work ever harder to be one as you are one with the Father and the Son. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns as King of the Universe, true God and True Man, through all ages of ages. Amen.
Our Immaculate Lady, pray for us.
About the Author: Deacon David “Nguyễn” Rozas
Deacon David is in Fourth Theology at Notre Dame Seminary studying for the Diocese of Lafayette. He attended Catholic elementary and high school. He enjoys hunting and fishing, especially doing both with his bow and arrow. He studied nursing as well as french and spanish at ULL from 2007-2011. He entered seminary at St. Joseph College Seminary in 2011 and entered NDS in 2013. He is particularly interested in the diverse and yet unified aspect of the Catholic Church.
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