December Reflection

About that Song

Christmas is almost here.  You have seen the decorations.  You have bought some gifts.  You are hoping for some gifts.  And perhaps you have heard that familiar song, O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel….and your heart kind of pauses a bit.  I hope it does.  Because this song has imagery that sounds like Christmas:  lonely exile, gloomy clouds of night, sad divisions.  Or does it?

Who associates Christmas with “path to misery and death’s dark shadows”?   God does.  Because he promises to free us all from these troubles through the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ.  And this IS what we celebrate on Christmas Eve – the birth of our Victor, who will one day triumph over the powers of death and sin.

The verses in this song address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, each based on an Old Testament prophecy.  Beginning on December 17th, these titles are found in the Church’s liturgy and are known as the “O” Antiphons.

December 17: O Wisdom or O Sapienta
December 18: O Lord and Ruler or O Adonai
December 19: O Root of Jesse or O Radix Jesse
December 20: O Key of David or O Clavis David
December 21: O Rising Dawn or Morning Star or O Oriens
December 22: O King of the Nations or O Rex Gentium
December 23: O Emmanuel (God-is-With-Us)

If you take the first letter of each of the Messianic titles, from ending to beginning:  Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia — they spell out the Latin words ERO CRAS, which means:  “Tomorrow, I will come.”

Tomorrow Christ will come.
Do you want him in your life?

Keep each other in prayer!

Sr. Janine Trần Ngọc Vân, CMR
Dòng Đức Mẹ Trinh Vương
FB@SrJanine Van

* Check out the lyrics to this beautiful Advent hymn:
* The sisters and I are having a virtual discernment retreat Thurs, Jan 07 – Sat, Jan 09 (7pm – 9pm CST). Join us! To register, email

November Reflection

Purgatory and Praying for Faithful Departed Souls

Hello there!

I want to start out this month’s reflection with a question. Why do people wash their hands? Parents tell their kids to wash their hands before a meal or after playing outside. Hospitals have hand sanitizers everywhereso people can constantly wash their hands. Restaurants have signs that tell you to wash your hands. During this time of the pandemic, it is especially critical that you wash your hands. The practice of handwashing has health benefits. When you wash your hands, you wash away germs and bacteria that may cause illnesses. It not only keeps you healthy but also helps prevent illnesses from spreading.

In the spiritual life, we also need washing because we want to be clean in God’s presence. The Sacrament of Confession is one form of washing that cleans us from spiritual dirt, a.k.a., sins. But the Sacrament of Confession is only available to those who are living. What about those who have died? Is there still a chance for them to be washed? Yes, there is, and it’s called Purgatory. “Purgatory” is from the Latin word “purgare”, which means “to make clean” or “to purify.” Thus, we can call it a spiritual washing. Purgatory is a place (though not physical) where faithful souls can go to be washed clean after they have died if they still have some minor faults or some repayment they need to do for their sins. In other words, they go there to be washed because they still have some small dirt attached to them. The bad news is Purgatory cannot cleanse mortal sins. The good news is Purgatory is temporary. After time in Purgatory, the Holy Souls can go to Heaven to enjoy the eternal blessedness of God.

According to saints whom God allowed to see Purgatory, souls in there do suffer. Yet I think it is a good form of suffering because through the suffering souls are cleansed and can enjoy the presence of God. It is like a saying we have in English, “No pain, no gain.” No pain of being purified, no gain of God’s Heaven.

Can we help them? We certainly can. That is the wonder of the mystery of the Communion of Saints. It is a big phrase, but don’t worry. “Communion of Saints” simply means that the saints in Heaven, the faithful souls in Purgatory, and us here on Earth are connected and can share with one another our spiritual goods. Imagine that you are standing in the checkout line in a grocery store. The person in front of you is paying for their grocery, but unfortunately, they are a few dollars short of the total payment. You step up and help the person by offering those few dollars so that they can make the purchase. We can help the souls in Purgatory in a similar manner. We can offer our prayers and sacrifices to God to implore God’s mercy on them. With God’s mercy, they can exit Purgatory sooner to enjoy the eternal happiness with God. It is a huge act of charity toward them, and it is a spiritual work of mercy: praying for the living and the dead.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  

There are many souls in Purgatory who still need that little bit of help from us to reach Heaven. The Church has designated the month of November for us to do just that. So, let us use the time of this month to pray and sacrifice for these souls, so that they can quickly be in Heaven with God.

Các hoạt động của Dòng trong 3 tháng tới:
1. November 7th, 2020: Priestly Ordination of Br. Anthony Viet Nguyen, CSsR, and Br. Joakim Loc Nguyen, CSsR
2. December 31, 2020: Diaconate Ordination of Brs. Vincent Quan Nguyen, CSsR, John the Baptist Hai Dang Khong, CSsR, Joseph Truong Nguyen, CSsR, Francis Xavier Loi Nguyen, CSsR

Please keep these men in your prayers. 

Bao Tran, CSsR


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Thứ Sáu ngày 30-10-2020: Tại Giáo Xứ Đức Mẹ Lộ Đức – Houston, Texas.

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August Reflection

Real Presence: Jesus Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely presence in the Eucharist. (Cf CCC 1374)

Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

Dear friends,

I have some old news to share with you: two-third of U.S. Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This data is according to the Pew Research Center, released on August 5, 2019. If you, as a member of the VEYM, pause and ask what Real Presence is, then you need to read on. The belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is so fundamental and unique to our faith that without it, we cannot call ourselves Catholics anymore, just like we cannot call ourselves a basketball fan if we’ve never heard of Steph Curry or the Los Angeles Lakers. So, I would like to take this opportunity to review with you the Catholic doctrine on Real Presence.

Imagine that you must go on a long trip far from home. On the second week of your trip you start to miss your loved ones. You pull out your phone and make a video call with them, you tell them how much you miss them and how you wish they were there with you. At the end of the call you didn’t forget to tell them, “See you soon!”

For our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, the belief in the Eucharist is like making a video call or looking at a picture of Jesus. The bread is a symbol of Jesus, but it is not really him. Paintings, mosaics, stain glass, or other depictions of Jesus also belong to this category. We Catholics believe in a different thing. We believe that the consecrated bread is really Jesus. When we look at the consecrated bread, we really look at a person. In the Eucharist, we can say to him, “I see you.” This “you” is a real person we see who is physically present in front of us. This is a higher form of presence, just like a physical person is a higher form of presence than a picture of the person.

Isn’t it hard to believe that a piece of bread is a person? Normally I would totally agree that it is even nonsense to call bread a person and treat it as such. The Real Presence, however, is not a normal phenomenon because it is motivated by love, and love makes people do crazy things. Jesus loves us so much that he leaves us his body and blood to stay with us in this world. By his own loving power, he changed bread into his flesh and grape wine into his blood. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood.” With these very same words the priest, acting in the person of Jesus, turns bread and grape wine into Jesus’ flesh and blood in Mass. Thus, Catholics believe that when we see the consecrated host and wine, we see the real Jesus. When we receive communion, we receive the person Jesus. Jesus said, “This is,” not “this represents” or “this symbolizes.” So, we believe the bread is him, and the wine is him, not symbolizing him. With this belief, we are called to show our deepest love and respect toward this Most Holy Sacrament. However we would act in front of God, the same is expected of us when we are in front of the Eucharist.

This is our faith, the holy faith that has been preserved and handed on for over two thousand years. Let us embrace it in the spirit of freedom and of love, and in turn hand it on to our brothers and sisters who have not yet believed in it.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, a heart so pure and pleasing to God, pray for us.

Bao Tran, CSsR