Archdiocesan Pastoral Letter of 2011 Lent
To priests, religious persons, and laity in the Archdiocesan family,
Dearest brothers and sisters,
1. In the long tradition of the Church, Lent is the time for preparing catechumens to be baptized on Easter Vigil. In our Diocese, at 4:00 PM on the upcoming day 02-04-2011, in the Cathedral, I will meet with many catechumens to be baptized on the occasion of this year’s Easter. I ask you to pray for these catechumens, so that when they are baptized, they would really live the true life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
2. Beside preparing catechumens, Lent is also the time for all of us to warm up the grace of Baptism. Although we was baptized and became children of God and brothers and sisters to one another in the Church of Christ, we still are weak people, and therefore still have thoughts, expressions, and actions not appropriate for followers of the Christ. Lent is the time to help us realize our inadequacies to be corrected, and to conciliate with God and our fellow Catholics as well as our fellow men. Therefore, I wish that you would prepare your soul to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation in this Lent season.
3. Catholics do not live their faith abstractly but in a concrete social environment. Speaking of today’s Vietnamese society, the Message of the 2010 Congress of God’s People notes that: “In the past two decades, there were many concerns regarding the future of the people. Abortion, divorce, prostitution, the increasing difference between the rich and the poor, injustice, exploitation, corruption, destruction of the environment… everything tends to increase and are concrete signs of the culture of death.” Those signs exist not only in society in general but also among Catholics, in Catholic families, and in Catholic neighborhoods. That is a sad and worrisome truth that we should pay special attention to in the Lent season.
4. Facing the threat posed by the culture of death, Catholics should be the active factor in building the culture of life and the civilization of love. Let’s begin with our own life by respecting, cultivating and developing the grace of life that God has granted us in all aspects: the body, knowledge, ethics, the sacred. Let’s begin with our own families by building them into cradles of life, homes of love, and protecting children from social evil. Let’s begin with our own diocese by building it into a community united in the love of God, and let’s spread this love to all people around us.
5. To realize this ideal, nothing is better and more necessary than listening to the Word of God and practicing it: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Lc 11,28). On November 11, 2010, His Holiness Benedict XVI has published the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini about the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. The Apostolic Exhortation praises the Virgin Mary as a model for listening to the Word of God, pondering over it and practicing it. The Apostolic Exhortation also praises the lives of saints to show how the Word of God has altered their lives. In this Lent, I wish that priests would pay more attention to the Word of God, especially during Sunday Mass and spiritual retreats, so that we all could listen to the Word of God in a praying spirit, use the Word of God as a guide for our lives, and let the Word of God transform us into true disciples of Jesus Christ.
6. Every year in the Lent season, I propose to you a concrete task so that the whole Diocese could have a common action, and show a common determination. This year, I propose that you, together with other dioceses, participate in the common work of the whole Church in Vietnam. Because the building has deteriorated after more than 50 years of operations and cannot accommodate the growing development needs of the Church, the Catholic Bishop Conference of Vietnam (CBCV) has decided to rebuild the Catholic Center, located at 72/12 Tran Quoc Toan, Ward 8, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. This location shall be the seat of the Office of the General Secretary of the CBCV, and offices of the committees directly under the CBCV. This location shall also house the conferences of the CBCV, committees, and other activities. All of this aims to foster the communion of the Church and serve the mission God has given to the Church.
This is a materially and spiritually big task, that can be achieved only with the contribution of everyone in God’s People. Therefore, in this Lent Season, I ask that everyone of you saves part of your expenditures to contribute to the common work of the Church. Your sacrifice not only shows the communion of the Church but also contributes to the accomplishment of God’s mission of love and service in our country.
7. In closing, I invite you to listen together to the teachings of the Holy Father Benedict XVI: “Mary is blessed because she has faith, because she believed, and in this faith she received the Word of God into her womb in order to give him to the world… May every day of our lives thus be shaped by a renewed encounter with Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh… Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives. In this way, the Church will always be renewed and rejuvenated, thanks to the word of the Lord which remains for ever.” (Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 124). Through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and the Saint Martyrs of Vietnam, may God bless you all!
Archbishopric, Ash Wednesday, beginning of 2011 Lent Season
John the Baptist Pham Minh Man
Cardinal and Archbishop
Peter Nguyen Van Kham
(Translated by Do Viet Quy)