26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH FR. STEVE NYL, C.SS.R.:

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” These words of T.S. Eliot speak to my experience whenever I arrive to minister in a new place. I have been in Baton Rouge a little less than 3 weeks at this writing, but already have family and friends asking what it’s like here. I usually just tell them that I don’t know because I’m in process of figuring it out.

For me a ministry location isn’t so much defined by the place as much as by the people. And so it takes time for me to come to know all of you and you to get to know me. It is in relationship with one another, and together in relationship with the Lord, that we come to truly know how to answer the question. So let me briefly introduce myself: I am Fr. Steve Nyl, a Redemptorist for 22 years and ordained a priest for 18 years. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up on a dairy farm. Following high school I worked in a factory for four years before furthering my education. Then I taught middle and high school for 12 years. Thinking I had set the course for my life, God stepped in one day out of the blue and changed everything. Following his call (eventually), I entered formation with the Redemptorists. have served in Denver, Colorado, Whittier, California (outside of Los Angeles) and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now I am here in Baton Rouge. Thanks to those I have met who have made me feel so welcome. And I look forward to meeting you all in the upcoming days.

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH FR. TAT:

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:1-32)

When was the last time you felt the love of your own father or mother or your God like the merciful father in the parable this week? The father was waiting and longing to see his youngest son to come back. He might sit outside and imagine the image of the son to return “home.” It seemed that he could not live with out his son. He patiently waited and prayed for his own son to unite with the family.

If you are a parent, when was the last time you longed and prayed for your own child to come home with you? This question touches many hearts of parents. During the discussion of the group “The Word of God”, one person was touched by the question raised: What do wish to do to finish your project of your life here on earth? She thought and shared, “I wish and pray that all my children and grandchildren will be guided by God to stay away from all temptations and to go to church.” She shared in mixed tears of joy and fear.

Our God is the Good God, who always forgives us and loves us no matter what we did. In the parable, the father did not waste a second to ask his youngest son what he did with his money and time. “He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”God is merciful, compassionate and forgiving. It depends on us to stand up, trust and return to our loving God or not.

I wish and pray that the Church also immitates from God to be able to open our hearts to embrace all types of people no matter what they said or did in public polictically and relationally. Let us overcome our own moral, devotional and legal prejudices in order to welcome and reconcile one another in our country, community and family.

– Fr. Tat Hoang, C.Ss.R.

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH FR. TAT:

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33)

One of the comments I’ve received when I moved to St. Gerard’s in Baton Rouge to work for the next four years is “Fr. Tat, you will be close to your family. You can go to New Orleans every week to visit your Mom and your family.” That is true and not true.

It is true because yes, it is much more convinient to drive home to see Mommy in New Orleans. It takes me only one hour and 30 minutes. I will enjoy Mom’s food more easily compared with the last times when I stationed in Chicago and New York City.

But it is not true because I am a Redemptorist missionary. I belong to everyone. Wherever I am sent, I call it home for myself. Every parishioner is part of my family. I cannot go “home” to see my Mom whenever I want to. My Mom has sacrificed me for God and God’s people. She’s offered me to God to serve the Church since I entered into the Redemptorist formation in 1998.

The most difficult cross for those who want to follow Jesus is not about the cross of family but the cross of their own. Mom, Dad and family may pass on. But our own cross never goes away. It stays with us until we die. The late Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan wrote in Road of Hope, “If you do not give up your own self, you will eventually collect everything you gave up back to yourself.”

Who wants to become Jesus’ disciple? To follow Jesus we need to dedicate our whole life and intention. There is no distraction. There is no “maybe” or “50-50” or “one day per week”. It takes daily practices and discipline. We do not need to go to seminary or convent to become Jesus’ disciples. You can be a great disciple of Jesus where you are and with the people you live and work. Be generous and grateful to all. May we all believe in Jesus and follow him.

– Fr. Tat Hoang, C.Ss.R.

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH Fr. TAT

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,  and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. (Sirach 3:17-18)

Happy Labor Day Holiday to all!

Labor day is a holy day. It is a sacred day. And I hope everyone has a chance to rest and to celebrate with your families, loved ones and friends. Working is necessary and essential in our lives. St. Paul said, “Those who do not work should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). However, resting is also important for our health, happiness and holiness. “God rested on the seventh day” (Genesis 2:2).

The book of Sirach taught us about the outcomes of the humility of our activities, works and relationships. If we conduct our affairs with humility and gratitude, we will be loved more than a giver of gifts. A humble person will be great and find favor with God.

Many times we work and work for the sake of survival and temporary security. Some don’t even find joy and meaning in what they are doing. Saint Alphonsus said, “If you can find a right vocation for yourself, you will have eternal happiness.”

I am so glad to “work” at St. Gerard Majella community. I felt at home and happy here when I arrived. I felt a warm welcome like my own sisters and brothers. I do not feel that I am “working”. I feel like I just “live out” my call, my life and God’s mission with the people that God has sent to me everyday. I enjoy it very much.

I pray and wish that God continuously blesses all the workers: Constructors, doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers, janitors, bus drivers, bookkeepers, employers and employees, farmers, first responders, students, mothers and fathers. Because of them, we are here today.

I personally thank all parishioners of St. Gerard’s, especially ushers, altar servers, lectors, parish and finance councils, secretary, bookkeeper, groundskeeper, our cook and cleaners, for working very hard to sustain our community. May we all find joy, meaning and blessing in all things we do.

Fr. Tat Hoang, C.Ss.R.

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH BR. CLEMENT

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Gerard’s Parish,

Your pastor has asked me to write the reflection this week. Not sure my words, like Fr. Tat will be “A Half Cup of Inspiration” maybe more, maybe less. A chance I take. This I know. My 23 years in the parish was somewhat surprising. Arrived in Baton Rouge from the Crescent City in August 1996 from the then viceprovincial residence, which moved from New Orleans to the “Red Stick”. Came with the community of four other members, two priests and two brothers.

My first year was difficult. I knew no one, so there was no connection. Not until I was asked to become involved in the high school retreat program. I then found myself visiting the students of Redemptorist Diocesan High School, as well as the children at St Gerard Elementary during religion classes. Working with the principals at both sites was a joy. And for the students you know what is said about them, “working with the young keeps one young“. This wasn’t the reason for staying with them. But found out it works. LOL.

Ministering over the years as an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister brought me closer to the sick, the elderly and the dying in their homes, as well as in nursing homes.

But it’s time to move on I found our from my Redemptorist superior. I will move on to Houston. But with my new assignment the happy memories of what so many have done over the years come along. These will be packed and taken as well. The nice things like baking brownies, sewing a rip shirt, being invited to their home, never forgetting my birthday, preparing a plate of red beans and rice (only in Louisiana), driving to someone’s home to bring Holy Communion, inviting to have lunch at their favorite restaurant (only in Tigerland). And so many more. What others offer as acts of kindness. God bless those whose path I have crossed, and those who have crossed my path.

A wise person once said, “You don’t have to go far to find the best things in life”. May I add, all the best people. We find them where God places us at each stage of life. I found them right here in South Louisiana, in North Baton Rouge, in St. Gerard’s Parish, and not too far from Plank Road.

May our dear Mother of Perpetual Help cover you with her holy mantle.

– Br. Clement

Quotes for Life: Prayer for Good Humor

Every day after his morning prayers, Pope Francis recites Saint Thomas More’s “Prayer for Good Humor.” Here’s how it goes:

“Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest. Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humor to maintain it. Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil, but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments, nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.” Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humor.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others.”

20th Sunday of the Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH FR. TAT:

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”  (Luke 12:49-53)

Everyone always wishes for peace. No one wants war, conflict and division.

Jesus announced, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” What did Jesus mean? Did Jesus bless us with all the bad and difficult things in life? – No.

Jesus always wants the best for us. Maybe he wants us a different kind of peace, the real true peace within, not the false peace of empty noises. He wants us the peace of joy, justice and inclusiveness.

Some of us appear to be very peaceful from outside, look very nice and friendly, talk very politely, but they already picked and chose the fixed way of judging other groups of people. They are so discriminated. They are so exclusive. They are so rigid and close-minded. There is no “gray” part, only “black or white”. There is no “both-and” argument, only “either-or” statement. This type of peace is only the peace of a subgroup.

Catholicism, the Church of Jesus Christ, is the religion of inclusiveness, forgiveness and everyone. Jesus invites everyone to come to his Father, especially the sinners, the poor, and the marginalized. If we keep our own definition of exclusive peace, we will divide among ourselves again and again. We never find unity, healing and true peace.

What a blessing for us to be able to worship and work together in diversity here. May we, the St. Gerard Majella Community, live up to Jesus’ command and spirit so that we can truly promote the peace of joy, justice and inclusiveness here and now.

– Fr. Tat Hoang, C.Ss.R.

19 Sunday of Ordinary Time

A HALF CUP OF INSPIRATION WITH FR. TAT:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32-48)

These days, Jesus reminds his disciples about their daily life as well as eternal life. “Do not be afraid any longer.” What are we worring the most these days in our lives?

The tragedy is that we are worrying about our short temporary needs while God “is pleased to give us the kingdom.” The whole kingdom God will give us. We constantly run and work, compete and compare, control and play politics to gain some power and benefit from one another. Some even are willing to attack or kill others to get what they desire for. The question here is: “Are we still believing that God gives us the kingdom?” Our fears will influence and control our thinking, actions and future destiny.

If we allow God to decide and plan for our lives, we will be free from all anxieties and unnecessary fears. We will be free for expressing our strength, friendship, love, joy, and need. We will be free to give, to serve, to pray and to live everyday.

I wish and pray that each one of us will develop a faith with Jesus, through Jesus and in Jesus so that we, as a whole community of St. Gerard, freely live, work and pray together everyday.

Let’s pray for all students as they prepare to go back to school with good health, happiness and enthusiasm. May all teachers be blessed with wisdom, courage and generosity to serve young people to discern God’s gifts in their lives. And may God bless us eternal joy now and forever.

Prayerfully,

Fr. Tat Hoang, C.Ss.R.

5354 Plank Road Baton Rouge, LA 70805