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.

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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.

Prayer becomes habit with Lightworks

Lightworks, the Ignation spiritual program, is a 14-week series focused on praying with the Gospels. You can find out more on Lightworks here.

Men and women of all ages gather together at various parishes across the Diocese of Arlington, and meet in groups that speak Vietnamese, Korean, and English.

Here is what folks had to say about Lightworks this year:

  • “[I] feel more intimate with the Bible.”
  • “Prayer became a habit in every day life.”
  • “Sharing and listening in the group became spiritual and enriched.”

Rob, who attends with his wife , shared:

“My wife Maria is a veteran of Lightworks and asked me to participate with her.  I agreed because I thought it would be something good for us to do together.  I’m glad I did.  I look forward to it every Monday night now.  Liem, our leader is great!  He adds so much wisdom!

Lightworks gets two thumbs up from me.  It has been a real positive experience for my wife as well, as she has participated several times.

The results are in! People who participate in Lightworks have nothing but good words to share!

Check out some photos from this year’s participants:

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Read more on Lightworks:

A Sequel to “My Journey in Finding God”

By: Marierose Hoang, Vietnamese Catholic Community

The summer of 2017 is nothing but extraordinary to me. You can have a plan, but at the end it is God who has the final say.

It began on July 1st, when I had the privilege of being part of the delegation led by Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, VA at The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel, a gathering convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following this conference, with a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be a missionary disciple, I embarked on my 3rd year mission back to a Danang, Vietnam.

Vietnam - Marierose Hoang.jpg

What a surprise: Welcoming banner to the participants of the 2017 Montessori Education training session.

At my first training session, I was met by 75 eager and enthusiastic sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, who are mostly from southern Vietnam. In the first two days, my daily prayers consisted of: “God, please help me in fulfilling what you have planned for me, allow me

Marierose Teaching in Vietnam

First day of training

to completely surrender to your will and let the Holy Spirit dwell in me for the next 8 days.” And yes, He was always by my side and the training was received with much joy and appreciation. And I cannot do this alone. There is a whole community supporting me from behind and they are the hosting sisters of Thanh Tam congregation in Danang (only 8 of them), with the mission of showing “compassion for suffering people – above all to women and the poorest of the poor – by sharing in the teaching and health care mission of the Church”. They have contributed greatly to this success.

I was unknowingly provided with the means to respond to the radical call to missionary discipleship. Vietnam is a communist country of which there is no God. Trying to reinstate the core values of the Catholic faith there on your own, will only bring headache, disappointment and risk of being expelled.

The sisters of St. Paul de Chartres at Thanh Tam are an evangelizing community and truly embody “a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.” An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.

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The Lord sent me to this community and step by step has unveiled his intentions. Many times I have asked myself what is the purpose of my earthly existence. I have learned that the purpose is to collaborate with the sisters in their teaching mission of the Church, a church that goes forth to everyone without exception (E.G. 48). If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go to first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). In Vietnam, the handicapped children, especially from poor families have been on the margins of society. They are considered the outcasts, the parasites of society. And if they were lucky enough to have some care, it is only for the benefits of certain people taking advantage of their situation.

Children playing in Vietnam - Marierose

Hearing impaired children learning about the continent of Asia

Going to the peripheries: E.G. 20

  1. The word of God constantly shows us how the Lord challenges those who believe in him “to go forth.” Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day, Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges of the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new mission of “going forth.”Each Christian and community must discern their own path, but all of us are asked to obey the Lord’s call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all of the “peripheries” in the light of the Gospel. For most of the Vietnamese Americans who have left the country when the war ended, the hope of going back is very remote. It is remote not because they are not allowed to come back, but more due to resentment and mistrust of a government thriving on corruption and in a “throwaway culture.” Sandwiched between a generation of boat people who have risked their lives and vowed  never to come back and a new generation totally American unable to make sense out of this fierce conviction, the call to come back to lend a hand is not an easy answer. Many times my husband and I have been accused of being pro communist.The Lord has led me to the sisters of St. Paul de Chartres. By his Will, I was able to humbly  assist the sisters in providing a new insight to the educational system for these less fortunate children. With constant prayers and guided by the Holy Spirit, we have started slowly re-instituting  the core values of Catholic teaching in their daily school activities. The training of the teacher is far more than learning ideas. It includes the training of character. It is a preparation of the spirit. Just as Saint Pope John XXI said:

“It is possible to see a clear analogy between the Shepherd in the Church and that of the prudent and generous educator in the Montessori method, who with tenderness, with love and with a wise evaluation of gifts, knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.”

From the start in summer of 2015 at Thanh Tâm Special Education Center to this summer of 2017, it has been quite a journey filled with Joy and Gratitude. The seed of spreading the Montessori Education to the less fortunate children in Vietnam has started to grow. It takes good soil, with good seed that is well tended by an attentive gardener. Without these we cannot expect a crop to grow and produce abundant fruit. (Matthew 13:2)

It is still a continuing journey in which I hope the call to be a missionary disciple will stay in me for the remainder of my life on earth.

Sisters in Vietnam - Marierose

Presenting an original peace ceremony activity: one special component of the Montessori curriculum: Peace Education

Our Lady of Lavang Council 16468 Installation of Officers

By Mr. Phong Tran, Vietnamese Catholic Community

On October 16th, 2016, the Knights of Columbus Virginia State Council performed the installation for the Our Lady of Lavang, VA, Council 16468. In colorful ceremonies with traditional pageantry, Knights of Columbus – Our Lady of  Lavang, VA, Council # 16468 installed its new officers.

The Installation of Officers ceremony took place in St. Veronica Catholic Church, Chantilly, Virginia. A total of 15 Knights were installed and took part in the ceremonies – with family, friends surrounded by other church members in attendance.

The Mass was administered by the new Pastor, Father Liem T. Tran of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church and concelebrated by the Spiritual Director, Father John Son Hoang of Our Lady of Lavang Catholic Community.

District Deputy Philip Bayer presided and administered the oath of office to fifteen of the newly elected officers.

cung-thanh_koc_02

Installed at the church altar were:

  1. Grand Knight: SK Phong Tran
  2. Chaplain: F Gioan Son Hoang, O.P
  3. Deputy Grand Knight: SK Sang Cao
  4. Chancellor: SK Phuong Nguyen
  5. Recorder: Hung Le
  6. Financial Secretary: SK Tuyen Dao
  7. Treasurer: Gia-Hoa Nguyen
  8. Warden: Hoach Nguyen
  9. Inside Guard: Hai Tran
  10. Outside Guard: Thomas Murray
  11. Advocate: SK Kiem Cao
  12. Lecturer: SK Thao Le
  13. Trustee 1 Year: Tien Nguyen
  14. Trustee 2 Years: Tuan Le
  15. Trustee 3 Years: Long Nguyen

The State Council officers and their wives attending included: Mr. & Mrs. Mike Gasper (State Deputy), Mr. Stephen Raschke (Past State Deputy), Mr. & Mrs. Steven J. Kehoe (State Secretary), Mr. & Mrs. Philip Bayer (District Deputy), Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Galvin (District Deputy), Mr. & Mrs. Tom Yehl (District Warden, P.G.K.), Mr. Bill Cinnamond (District Warden, FDD), Mr. & Mrs. Le Nguyen (State Council Director) and Mr. John Chung (Field Agent).

Mrs. Corinne Monogue (Director of Multicultural Ministries) and Mrs. Liz Puglise corrine_liz_installationwere also present at the Mass and Installation from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

Part of the ceremony was the presentation of the jewel of office – often draped on the neck of the new officer by his wife. A stem rose was presented to the wives.

The church hall was beautifully decorated in a patriotic theme including a meaningful table with KofC cake that was set-up by Grand Knight’s wife, Mrs. Oanh-Oanh T. Tran.

The Our Lady of Lavang Community of the Diocese of Arlington, is grateful to be blessed with it’s own Knights of Columbus Council.

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Thank You!

By: Michael Folmar, Seminarian

Seal of Office of Multicultural MinistriesThis past summer was truly a gift, as well as a blessing. To have been given the opportunity to visit and interact with various ethnic communities throughout our rich diocese has been very edifying. I cannot thank our shepherd, Bishop Loverde, and my Vocation Director, Fr. J. D. Jaffe, enough for assigning me to the Office of Multicultural Ministries for my summer 2016 assignment. Being enriched by all the experiences my summer assignment brought me, I now have a better understanding of all the various facets of people that I will, God willing, serve as a priest in our diocese. St. Paul said that we need to “be all things to all men.” Therefore, a solid understanding of the history and traditions of those we serve is valuable to possess. Each one of us originates from a particular cultural background, have had different experiences, and have been fostered by various Catholic upbringings, which have all shaped us uniquely in the image of God.  If we are to meet people where they are and lead them on to greater holiness, closer to God, we need to understand where they are coming from. We all are “beautifully and wonderfully made” in God’s image and likeness. Each one of our lives is a gift that needs to be shared by using our God-given talents for the good of each other. We are on life’s pilgrimage journey to Heaven and we can help each other to get there with a better understanding of where each one of us began. Moreover, we need to never forget to “welcome the stranger among us,” for it is Christ in Whom we are all united.Ghanaian Picnic 2016 - Michael Folmar Making Doughnuts.jpg-large

In addition to pastoral ministry, I also experienced quite a bit of fun of this past summer – I had the opportunity to make doughnuts (Ghanaian sweet rolls, or ‘bofrot’) at the annual Ghana Catholic Picnic! Overall, I thank God for forming me in the various ways He has and pray that all that I have learned carries on into the future. Not to make this a “thank-a-thon,” but I also want to thank all the various leaders of our ethnic communities in our diocese who assisted in all my visits. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my supervisor, Corinne Monogue, Director of the Office of Multicultural Ministries for our Diocese, and Elizabeth Tauke, the Office of Multicultural Ministries’ Program Specialist. Under their wings and guidance, I was able to navigate my way around and through the various ethnic communities of our diocese. I have enjoyed contributing to this blog as it has helped me to reflect more deeply on all of Corinne, Liz, and Michael Folmarmy visits. Please pray for me as I return to Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland on August 18th.  As I have stated before, I am headed into Third Theology. I look forward to learning more and being formed into the man Jesus Christ is calling me to be, so as to better serve all of you in our diocese as, God willing, a priest. May God bless each of you and may Our Lady’s mantel of protection never cease to safeguard you!

The Importance of Mom

Vietnamese - Michael Folmar at Basilica for Vietnamese PilgrimageBy: Michael Folmar, Seminarian

This past Saturday, July 23rd, there was a pilgrimage for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Our Lady of La Vang Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In Vietnamese culture, the mother plays a very prominentphoto5 role. Thus, it is no wonder that they have a deep and rooted devotion to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of La Vang. This devotion started when Our Blessed Mother began to appear to Vietnamese Catholics in 1798 when they were undergoing persecution. A key message from Our Lady of La Vang was to truly live life driven by a deep love for God; to be not only willing, but also ready, to suffer any type of oppression and ill-treatment in honor of Him. In addition, Our Lady of La Vang encouraged them to persevere in faith. Moving forward to 1988, 117 Vietnamese martyrs were canonized by St. John Paul II. Of these martyrs, fourteen of them have relics here, in the Our Lady of La Vang Chapel at the Basilica.

Vietnamese - Michael Folmar with Fr. ChungBack to Saturday’s pilgrimage, this celebration had me traveling with the Vietnamese Choir of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parish in Arlington. To make this day special, children performed two dances in honor of Our Blessed Mother. There was even a Marian procession into the front doors of the Basilica that was accompanied with Vietnamese hymns and a statue of Our Lady. Mass was well attended by Vietnamese people from all over the United States of America. Some even came as far as California, Texas, and Florida. To round off this pilgrimage, at the end of Mass, we all processed down to the Chapel of Our Lady of La Vang and sang more hymns.

Vietnamese - Michael Folmar with Christina TrinhAfter joining the Vietnamese Community for this special celebration, I decided to serve Mass over at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam (www.cttdva.com) the next day. Overall, this past weekend made me once more realize the importance of staying close to Our Blessed Mother. She always leads us closer to her Son, Jesus, and never ceases to aid and assist us on our challenging pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland. If we want to stay on the path to eternal glory, we must remain close to her. She will not let us perish and will always help us through thick and thin. Mom always knows what is best, and how more so is this true with Our Blessed Mother. Our Lady of La Vang, pray for us.

A special thank you to Fr. John Son Hoang, O.P. of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parish, as well as fellow parishioner Christina Trinh, who assisted me in making this weekend possible.

A Journey Traveling into my Heart with Jesus Christ

Introduction
By Reverend Stefan Starzynski, Hospital Chaplain, Fairfax Innova Hospital,
In Residence at Saint Ambrose Parish, Annandale, VA

Patricia asked me to do the opening prayer for a group called ‘Lightworks’.  I fully expected to do the opening prayer, eat a cookie or two, and say “Hi” to a few people and then be on my merry way.

Right from the start, I felt in my spirit that this was something for me.  This began a “14” week journey with my fellow pilgrims.  I was learning Christian contemplation using the exercises of Saint Ignatius.  Many saints have said that every renewal of the church began with a renewed love for the Holy Word of God.  I believe that is the Truth!

 

Reflections on my Lightworks Experience
3 Years Contemplating the Words of Jesus

Written by: Patricia Butler, St. Ambrose Parishioner

Four years ago, I would have been the most unlikely person to share my Catholic Faith with anyone- let alone write an article reflecting on the Fire in my Heart for Jesus Christ!  And explaining how that Fire was ignited, is the first of many small and wonderful ever-unfolding miracles put in my life by Jesus…

You see, I left the Catholic Church in the 1980’s and I went on an ardent journey searching for God.  Who is God?  What is God?  Where is God?  I read just about every Holy Book of every world religion, trying to find the answers to these questions.  .  .

Then one day in August, 2013, I realized that the Catholic Church was right.  Every thought in our mind, every word spoken and every deed  can either bring us closer to God or push us further away from God.  At that moment of realization – Confession, examination of conscience made sense. I had received Jesus back in my life. What I was soon to discover however, was Jesus had always been with me on my Journey looking for Him!  It was time to discover what Jesus wanted to teach me, when I was born into a Catholic family in 1950.

Relying on Faith and the inspiration I received from the Holy Spirit, I regist
ered as a member of St. Ambrose parish in Annandale, VA.  I went to confession, began attending Sunday Mass regularly and joined the group Jesus, Mary and a Cup of Joe to participate in the parish community life.

One Sunday, I saw a notice in the St. Ambrose Bulletin for Lightworks, by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ.  The notice jumped off the page at me.  I was very interested in learning about Christian Contemplation (the exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola) with the hope it would deepen my rediscovered Catholic Faith. So, I signed up for the 14 week personal retreat that started in January 2014.  The first 2 weeks, I had a schedule conflict and could not attend the group sessions.  Liem Le, the former President of the Christian Life Community in the USA, scheduled phone calls with me, to go over the materials each week, so I would not miss Sessions 1 and 2.  From the start, I knew in my heart that the spiritual exercises were for me.  The Lightworks journey began with reflections on our lives as gifts from God.  Affirmations that God loves each one of us in an intimate and unique way.  The sessions included scripture passages (words of God’s Love) to pray over and consider, using the techniques of St. Ignatius, taught weekly.  At the group meetings, we would share the Graces that God had given us during week of contemplation, and learn the next lesson – God’s Divine Presence through the scriptures.

All the blessings and graces happened very unexpectedly for me.  While reading the assigned scriptures, listening and talking about the scriptures, I began to feel this wonderful Presence. (A presence you feel when you go to Eucharistic Adoration or receive Holy Communion).  My heart was filled with warmth and love.  God’s Words had become alive for me in my heart.

With this gift from God being given to me, I started to long for more and more of His Presence.  So I began attending Daily Mass, so that I could contemplate the scripture verses of the day (using the Lightworks methods of St. Ignatius) and listen to each of the Father’s talks about the daily readings.

I want to share with you my “Lightworks Session 3 experience” with you.  We were praying to know the Spirit of Life working in the world and in each of us.  While contemplating our assignment,  Isaiah 40: 1-11 in Lightworks manual & various translations in the online Bible Gateway, I realized that the 1599 Geneva Bible translation, was the libretto for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1,which had been part of my musical studies in my youth.  I went online & found the musical version of the Messiah. As I listened to the musical version of our Lightworks assignment, my heart began to open up in a way, I find hard to explain.  The awesome beauty of the music coupled with God’s Words was so amazing!  I got totally lost in the music and in God’s Words.  I found myself playing The Messiah constantly during the entire week, when the music wasn’t playing; the songs were playing in my head, day and night, at home, at work and in the car!  I started to realize that Jesus was teaching me in a personal way the words of Isaiah 40: “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed to me and to all peoples. All people including myself shall see God’s Love & Glory.  The mouth of God, speaks God’s Words!” God’s Love & Glory is in His Words.

My contemplative prayer experience began to shift from my head to my heart.  I began to discover that God’s love is ever present in my heart. And God’s love is ever present in all hearts and in all creation!  God’s love is all around me. God’s love is in everything.

As we were learning and practicing the wonderful techniques of St. Ignatius, my love experience of Jesus in my heart was deepening.  The contemplations opened my heart’s awareness of Jesus’s love in each moment.  I could hardly wait for the group meetings to share God’s graces.   I looked forward to the group’s sharing and the prayer insights of each participant.

As the weeks progressed, the group’s sharing took on a totally new dimension.  It was as though God’s love in my heart was being amplified through God’s love in everyone else’s heart. Their sharing’s made my heart burn with God’s love. It is hard to describe my group experience. Everything was alive with the fire of God’s love during our group prayer sessions.  My heart, my eyes, my ears and my breath were alive with God’s loving presence.

Following the 2014 Lightworks retreat, I reaped many, many graces: Discovering that Jesus is alive in His Word, that it is Jesus who lives in my heart, discovering how to rest in my heart with the words of Jesus AND experience His Divine Presence during contemplation practices.

After the 2014 Lightworks Retreat, I continued participating in Lightworks 2015, and 2016.  The love experience of Jesus in my heart became stronger and more profound.   Each year, while the material in the manual remained the same, my gifts from Jesus were different.  Like peeling back the layers of an onion, my heart “saw” and “heard” His Words on a new and deeper level.  I found myself falling deeper and deeper in Love with Jesus and falling deeply in Love with my Catholic Faith.

The recognition that it is truly possible to (Philippians 2:5) “let the same mind is in you, that was in Christ Jesus” is incredibly healing.  We do not have to know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit prays within us. (Romans 8:26). We just have to sit with His Word, pray on His Word. Treasuring the presence of His Holy Spirit in our heart.  Sitting in the silence of my heart, praying on His Words, I can go into the depths of my heart. And in my Heart, I find this incredible Peace and Healing Love of Jesus Christ. Jesus share with me your love and blessings- breathing in your Grace, Breathing out your Grace…

In closing, I want to share another wonderful healing which I received as a result of the Lightworks retreat in 2014.  This healing was truly a gift from Jesus to me. I woke up one morning right after the first year.  I realized how happy I was to have come back Home to the Catholic Church. All the burdensome years of doubts & inner conflicts had dissolved into Jesus Christ’s fire of love!  Now, every day, I wonder, how did I ever live this life without my Catholic Faith nourishing me? Strengthening me? And guiding me with the Joy of Jesus?

Today, I am filled with so much gratefulness. I have seen so many participants transform themselves and their lives as a result of the Lightworks Journey. A group Journey learning to Love with Jesus. A Journey where the group realizes, God’s love has always been present.  Jesus is always waiting for us to open up our hearts and take the Journey with HIM.  A personal and group Journey traveling with Jesus who is filling our hearts with the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love.  With gratefulness, I invite you to come on the Lightworks Retreat 2017.  Come and discover the wonderful surprises that Jesus has in store for you contemplating His Word. Share in this incredible opportunity to be with God in the silence of your heart, in the presence of Jesus and His Word.  Come on a journey from your head to your heart in prayer, using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.  God Bless you. Hope to see you all next year!

Thanks to all the wonderful people who made this Lightworks program possible: Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish, Corinne Monogue of the Office of Multicultural Ministries of the Diocese of Arlington, Father Joseph Tetlow, S.J., Liem T. Le of the Lightworks Ministry of the Christian Life Community in the USA, and Father Stefan StarzynskI who joined the Lightworks Journey 2016 as a participant in St Ambrose.

 

Welcome Michael Folmar!!!

            Michael FolmarHello! I’m Michael Folmar and I am a seminarian for our great Diocese of Arlington. I will be headed into Third Theology at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD this coming August. This summer I am helping out in the Office of Multicultural Ministries for the diocese here. So, I have been given countless opportunities to visit all the various ethnic and cultural Catholic ministries (Hispanic, Filipino, African-American, Korean, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Ghanaian, Eritrean, Cameroon, and Asian and Pacific Islander) that make our diocese vibrantly shine. Ultimately, the office that I am in serves and unites these several ministries by evangelization, as well as by going out to them.

            This past weekend, I was blessed to be at St. Anthony’s in Falls Church (www.stanthonyparish.org). This parish has a very active Hispanic ministry that has captivated several people to come from all over the area – including Maryland. I cannot tell you how hospitable and welcoming everyone was to me. I am also learning Spanish this summer at St. Anthony’s and so have countless opportunities here to learn, as well as practice, it. I started off my endeavor with the Hispanic ministry here by going to Legion of Mary in Spanish on Saturday. It is always nice to see how much devotion and love people have for Our Lady and Jesus – and it sure was not lacking here. Afterwards, there was a Mass in Spanish, followed by two more Spanish Masses the following day. The most heavily attended Mass that filled up the Church was on Sunday at 1 pm. It was very edifying to see various families come here and make it a day at the Church. Many came well before Mass and stayed long after. It was a family event centered around Christ. La Iglesia de San Antonio (its name in Spanish) is a place of refuge and renewal in Christ for many families. Moreover, there is a true sense of community and belonging here.

           Multicultural Office Well, I will be blogging from time to time throughout the summer about other ethnic and Catholic cultural ministries throughout the diocese. So check back here soon. Who knows, you might find out about a ministry that could catapult you closer to Christ. Keep in mind – ALL of the various places that I will be visiting are open to everyone. The more we understand one another, the more solidarity can take root and so bring about more intercultural communication to further build up Christ’s one universal Church. Until next time – ¡Adiós!

With God by My Side

Written by: Marierose Hoang

“With God by my side, I do not need to worry about the long winding road ahead” this refrain of Lê Quốc’s song Tình Chúa Yêu Con kept resonating in my mind during my entire summer journey to Danang, Vietnam.  There was no better way to celebrate my 60th birthday than being blessed with the opportunity to breathe the same air for 20 days with the nuns of St Paul de Chartres Congregation at Thanh Tam Center of Special Education, a treatment and education school for 250+ special needs children.

After spending 2 months (Fall 2014) learning about Montessori Education at my school, Children’s House Montessori School in Reston, VA, Sister Anna Tuyet Lan, Director of the Center had become passionate about it and invited me to come to Danang to share my experiences as a Montessori teacher to her staff.

The Montessori education is a philosophy, a way of living and not just a mere educational method.  It is parallel with my faith.  Other than teaching the children to be independent, orderly, coordinated and concentrated, along with the emphasis on peace education, the focus is how to become a helpful person to the world, to worship truth and compassion rather than material success.

With God by my side Marierose 1However, God had a bigger plan for me.  A charitable organization, Companions in Grace based in California, upon learning about my endeavor, provided sponsorship for a few nuns from 7 other congregations all around Vietnam to come and attend.  Is it His intention to gather us all in unity to share in an education ideology based on virtues, peace and respect for the future children of Vietnam?   Apprehension and worry started seeping in.  I, a mere Montessori teacher from a small school, would now have to deliver a Montessori training program to 30 nuns and teachers:   Educating myself about a year long program in only 10 days of training!

I realized that it was God’s guidance to me: “Don’t worry much, just go and start planting the seeds.”  The 10 days of training were filled with God’s grace, joy, love and companionship.  I started each day with a prayer filled of delighted anticipation to share my passion about Montessori education and I looked forward to what would unfold during the day. I had a training schedule to abide to, but I did not worry much about what to say or deliver because I was surely guided by the Holy Spirit throughout the entire time.  I ended each day with a prayer filled of gratitude.  I felt God’s presence in each person, whether she is a nun or a teacher.  Love shone on everyone’s face.  Happiness was all around and above all, God was really with us.

With God by my side Marierose 2
I ended my journey spending time in the classroom with 20+ hearing impaired children and their teachers.  I can’t help but

be proud of this very first Montessori class at Thanh Tam Center of Special Education.  The result was far more than expected.  The classroom was so peaceful: each child was in total concentration with his/her work, and so involved to the point of even forgetting their snack time.  They did not want to go home and wanted to come to school earlier the next day.  “This did not happen before, they were often distracted and out of control but today, it was less stressful for me and I was able to observe, be more in tune with the children and enjoy my job,” said one of the teachers.

Yes, like the eyes of a servantWith God by my side Marierose 4
on the hand of his master,
Like the eyes of a maid
on the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes are on the LORD our God. (Psalm 123:2)

Through many positive feedbacks, I am assured that I have planted the seed as God has intended.   I am now waiting for it to grow so that I can ask God to help me to tend to it.

Thank you, God, for showing the way and guiding me because I am a “nobody servant,”
Thank you, Sister Anna Tuyết Lan, your staff, and Companions In Grace for sharing my passion, believing and trusting me,
Thank you Children’s House Montessori School families for providing the Math materials’corner,
Thank you all participants for your enthusiasm and love of learning,
Thank you family and friends for all your prayers.

With God by my side Marierose 3