Happy Lunar New Year 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This year, by a wonderful coincidence, the Lunar New Year and the Lenten season started on the same night. I thought it was very special because, at the beginning of the New Year, people hope everything will be new again. In the Lenten season, we are invited to be renewed by giving ourselves to God, letting God draw us closer to Him, and leaving behind our past sins.
This year we are having unusual weather, but it is nice to see the grass is getting greener and the trees are blooming with flowers. I really enjoy this weather because this is only my second winter in this part of the country. I spent the last 16 years in New Orleans, LA where the weather seems more like spring than winter. So maybe I brought that type of weather up here with me!
Truly, I am very happy this year. I had the chance to celebrate the Lunar New Year at Saint Michael’s last Sunday. There was a very big turn out. We had more than 300 Vietnamese Catholics from Olympia attend the mass. The weather was so nice that people were able to dress in their own traditional dress (like in the picture above) and come to Mass to pray to God. After mass, they attended a reception where they could sing, talk, and eat many traditional foods.
In addition, I would like to tell you a little more about Tết. Tết, or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Tết is celebrated on the same day as the Chinese New Year in many other countries. Tết is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. It is just like when we celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday. We Americans have a long weekend and visit our family and friends. In the same way, Vietnamese people visit their relatives and temples and forget about the troubles of the past year and hope for a better year to come. The Vietnamese consider Tết to be the first day of spring and the festival is often called Hội xuân (spring festival). It takes place on the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar (around late January or early February) when it is really like spring in that part of the world. It is a good reason to celebrate that special day.
At the beginning of the Lenten season, Pope Francis encourages us to have strong hearts, like that of Christ. Strong hearts model a faith which works through love. We are called to renew our baptismal vow; to leave our sins behind and to turn towards God for a fresh start. The power of God’s love and mercy will lift us up to heaven, just like an airplane has a pilot to guide it. The airplane carries a heavy load, but it can fly very high when it is designed with the right engine and wings. We are destined to be with God through his grace and sacraments. It is up to us to accept God’s grace in our lives.
I pray that in this new Lenten season, we will take the opportunity to grow in hope and turn toward God. It may be our last lent on this earth. We need to try our best to practice the three fruitful observances: Pray, Fast, and Give. We know that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. Since our soul is immortal, we need to prepare for what is eternal first and above all else.