Faith and Frozen Yogurt

By Luke Poczatek

This past week, I had a great time getting to know the Filipino Catholic community. The leader

of Filipino Catholic events, Ed, gathered a good number of Filipino parents and their middle schoolers and high schoolers for a frozen yogurt outing followed by confession and adoration at St. Theresa’s in Ashburn. Getting to know the parents, I got a sense that they were good, hard working parents that were very involved in their children’s lives. They were all surprised to hear that I come from a large family of ten children. They were also surprised when they heard of the Spiritual Year that I will be going to at the seminary, which consists of a technology fast five to six days a week. After our yogurt outing, we all went to St Theresa’s for confession and adoration. It was a good evening. To me, Jesus, friends and food make any evening good!

Reflecting on my time with the families, there were a couple of things that stood out. One is the presence of strong Catholic family identity, which was shown by the fact that all the youth where accompanied by their parents. That is something you don’t see in our American society today as often. Second, Christ plants seeds in even the smallest of openings that we give him, and the fact that the youth gave this time with their parents and for confession, shows that they are receptive to what their faith offers and provides. I was personally touched by their attention when I spoke about what a holy hour is, and how even seminarians still struggle with staying attentive during their devotional adoration time in the seminary. From all this, I hope that the Lord will continue to bless their lives, and all those of the Filipino Catholic community, as they strive stay connected with their faith and family.

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Lightworks: How Christ Fulfills Ancient Customs

By Luke Poczatek

This past Sunday evening, I was able to attend and serve at our Diocese’s annual Lightworks Mass of Thanksgiving. I had no idea what Lightworks, before attending the Mass, but I knew it consisted mostly of our diocesan Vietnamese and Korean Catholic communities. The Mass was a regular English Mass, with the exception of the responsorial psalm and some of the intercessions said in Vietnamese. Still unsure what Lightworks was, we made it close to the end of Mass when before the final blessing, we all sat to listen to testimonies from some of the Lightworks members. They were all talking about how Lightworks helped them grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ, and really stressed that reading Scripture is one way of praying to God. With the reading of Scripture, they spoke of the practice of Lectio Divina, which is an Ignation method of prayer where one prays with Scripture. One enters into the scenes of the Gospels, or other passages of the Bible, in order to have a unique and beautiful encounter with Christ. Each testimony was powerfully moving, and by each sharing of their experience of prayer, one caught glimpse into their spiritual lives. I saw from them that God is not someone far off and distant, but close and personal.

The next day, I spoke with the Director of the Multicultural Office, Corinne Monogue, about how I was moved by the insight the members of Lightworks had, and how they communicated their relationship with Christ through this type of prayer. Corinne told me that the Lectio Divina method of prayer is positively accepted by these cultures, because it complements well with the ancient methods of Asian meditation, speaking of Confucianism and Buddhism background.  This was awesome to see, and to know how Christ comes to fulfill, here by taking ancient Asian customs and completing them with His blessing and transforming Grace.

Cultural Communities Come Together in the Eucharist

By Luke Poczatek

On Friday, June 22nd, I had the privilege of serving my first Mass for Multicultural Communities, which took place at St. John Neumann Parish in Reston. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Burbidge, and concelebrated by the Archbishop of Asmara Eritrea, with 25 other concelebrating priests. The Mass was accompanied by a beautiful choir, which consisted of much cultural diversity. It was incredible to see, that while each community brings its own identity to the Mass, all are united in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Following the Mass, was an awesome reception with all the different cultures presenting different foods and items from their community. There were also some entertaining performances from the Tamil Indian community, Hispanic community, and a member of the Native American Penobscot Nation. These performances showed the beauty that each of their cultures uniquely possess. The Mass and reception was also blessed to have a strong presence from the Albanian community, which included the President of Albania’s wife and his daughter, the First Lady. They gave an incredible gift to the Albanian Catholic community of our Diocese: a cross containing ten first class relicts of Albanian martyrs!

Overall, I had a great time getting to meet with many of the different communities, and they graciously welcomed me to their table. I was able to officially meet some of the members from the different cultural parishes, which is a good introduction before I start visiting their parishes individually. All of this is bringing excitement to me as I get more involved in the communities at the Multicultural Office this summer, and I look forward to getting to know the different cultures even more.

 Check out photos from the Mass and reception!

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Rediscovering God Through the Bible

By Anonymous Lightworks Attendee

Lightworks 2018I want to start off by sharing one of my childhood memories. I grew up under a mother who was a hardcore Catholic who demanded me and my brother to spare at least 30 minutes a day praying the rosary. I remember her dragging us into the house from the playground every day, making sure we complete our daily prayers. At such young age, I honestly dreaded those moments, and even wished that she would skip a few days so we could play without interruptions. At one point, my brother and I got clever and started rounding the “Hail Mary’s” to end the prayer quicker. And it went something like this: within a second into me saying “Hail Mary full of grace”, he would jump start his response of “Holy Mary, Mother of God” shortly after, almost sounding like the rounds of “row, row, row your boat”, and we were basically overlapping each other’s prayer parts… you get the picture. Oddly enough, our mother never scolded us or stopped us from speeding up the rosary, which, by the way, we conquered in less than ten minutes, depending on how competitive we wanted to be as to who can say their parts faster. And I used to think it was because the Virgin Mary was on our side, feeling sorry for us, and put some hypnosis on our mother, allowing us to finish the prayer in such speedy mode without her noticing.  Just kidding… I have no idea why she let us do it, but thinking back, I think our Mother was just happy that we sat through the whole seven minutes of rosary.

During our teen years, my brother served as an altar boy, and I was dragged into being an organist for our small Korean Catholic church we attended. My mother glowed with pride and joy. She cried in every mass! And we never skipped Sunday masses! She used to tell me that it is our duty as Christians to serve and take parts in a Catholic community we belong in. So I did, to satisfy her expectation.

Despite my young adult Christian life style, and a religious mother, I have not always been faithful in terms of living by the Catholic rules. I have defied my own religion, doubted God, hated myself and others, and to sum it all, I just stopped going to church all together. I had my reasons and life events that led me to that stage of life during those difficult days. I wandered around, seeking for answers myself, thinking I didn’t have to be in church to be happy…  Among many other thoughts in my head, I basically excused myself from going to church for many years.

Now, fast forwarding to two years ago, my family of five, including three kids, moved to VA from GA. Two months prior to moving, my husband was in a horrific accident with couple of deep lacerations on both sides of his legs, and one that cut through his tendons by his front ankle, which resulted in an emergency operation. This happened while he was packing his office to get ready to move when one of the mirrors broke in half and landed on him. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life. I remember being so scared as I witnessed the entire ordeal, as it happened right in front of my eyes. We were also in the middle of renovating our house to sell when this happened. I felt a strong sense of hopelessness and fear that shaded my conscious. I had nowhere to turn, and no one to turn to. So, I turned to God.  I remember crying hysterically for hours on end.  I prayed and prayed. I prayed every day for his fast recovery so we could get on with our lives. Unfortunately, we had to fix up our house ourselves with no contractors because we had no savings left.  He had to find a way to work around his crutches and casted legs, with a little bit of my help. Lo and behold, after two months of hard work, it finally paid off when our house was sold on the first day it was listed on the market. We even had three solid offers who asked to pay more than the listed price. We made some nifty profit, which helped with moving and living cost of being in a new state. However, I started to worry again when my husband wasn’t finding a job quick enough.

When I started to feel hopeless, God showed his grace and saved us again from this worrisome and gave us a business that my husband was able to run!  I thank God every day for His blessings and so I decided to give back to Him and started going to church more often, as I haven’t been religiously going to mass for many years until we moved here. Life was just hard, but I realized now that God was always with me, and He always answered my prayers. I wanted to give back and started volunteering more at church and joined some prayer groups and actively attended some retreats as well. In the midst of my journey to serving God and giving back, I have met some great friends, who I believe God sent to me. I am very grateful for them because they are the ones who encouraged me to find God again and helped me see through His grace. And that’s how I was introduced to this Lightworks program.

Before the 14-week program, in fact, all my life up to that point, I probably picked up a Bible less than what I can count with my two hands.  I’ve always been intimidated by Bible and didn’t really know how to interpret scriptures where it meant something to me.  Funny thing is, I always had this notion that I must start reading from Genesis in the Old Testament first before I can even explore other chapters.  But the thickness of the Bible and the size of the small fonts really discouraged me to even challenge myself in reading the entire Bible.  It just overwhelmed me more than anything. And coming from an avid reader myself, who can read 500-page novels in just a few days with no-sweat, I should really be ashamed of not being able to complete one entire Bible!  This program made me realize that my approach to the Bible was completely off.  I don’t know why but it never occurred to me that reading the Bible was one of the ways to talk to God and being closer to God, until now.

This program focuses on using “Lectio Divina” method of meditation.  It’s one of the ways to communicate with God and to increase the knowledge of His words by using four stages of rules and guidelines when reading Bible verses: read; meditate; pray; and contemplate. This ultimately leads to another stage of “action” where we try to imitate Jesus’ life.

The Bible scriptures we studied and prayed together in this program were from various excerpts ranging from the Old Testament to the New Testament. It was recommended that we read assigned passages daily before the following week. At first, I found it to be a bit challenging because I just didn’t know what to say and share during our weekly meetings. But as I listened to other members in our group sharing their experiences with such candidness and openness, I started to express myself more as time went by. Forming a habit to open the Bible every day, and practicing Lectio Divina, has helped me remind myself that God’s words are truly amazing and that His love is so divinely infinite. I know I still have a lot to learn and that 14 weeks isn’t enough to fully understand His divine nature, but now that I know this program exists, I will be actively seeking to join more sessions in the future. I am so grateful for God’s blessings all my life, even if I realized it late, through this program, I learned how much He loved and protected me all along, how He stood by me in every obstacle of my life. I humbly offer myself to Him today and praise Him for all the grace He bestowed upon me and my family. Thank you God, my Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior! I give all myself to you! Amen.