Vietnam’s consecrated people mark World Day for Consecrated Life

Some 5,000 consecrated women and men smiled, watching cultural performance at the gathering to celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 2 at the pastoral center in Ho Chi Minh City. (Joachim Pham)

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — Thousands of consecrated women and men were asked to avoid “Martha’s disease” by spending time practicing Lectio Divina to listen to God’s will at a large gathering to celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life.

Some 5,000 nuns, brothers and priests from 150 congregations and institutes based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s southern largest commercial hub, gathered at the Pastoral Center to mark the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2. The event themed Consecration and Mission also aimed to celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life highlighting the gift of consecrated persons for the whole church.

The gathering was held by the Committee for Religious of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, one of the most active archdioceses in Southeast Asian countries.

Abbot Bao Tinh Tran Van Bao of the Cistercian Monastery of Heart of Mary based in My Ca, central Vietnam, gave a talk on “Listening to and Following God” to the gathering.

“I would like superiors to reduce your members’ work and give them more time resting so that they can spend more time being with God. If not, they will get exhausted and broken down,” Bao said, adding that most of nuns and those leading a life of activity lose themselves in doing pastoral, charitable and social work.

People gave him a big round of warm applause.

Martha’s ailing – or the disease of excessive activity – was one of the 15 diseases of the Curia that Pope Francis identified last December.

Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc and some 120 religious priests concelebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2. (Joachim Pham)

“We only know to work for God and forget to be with God as our main duty. Being with God to listen to God’s will is the more important thing than any others to consecrated people,” the abbot said. Mother Mary was informed that she was to be mother of Jesus while she was praying, not going to market or taking water from the well, he added.

Sr. Mary Nguyen Thi Hong of the Lovers of the Holy Cross admitted that she spends all time visiting patients, giving them food, building houses for poor people, offering advice to college students, and doing ministry at a parish on the weekend.

“I miss attending community prayers and even daily Masses. I have no time for myself,” she added.

She said her superior refused to cut off her work as the congregation lacks personnel.

Abbot Bao, 70, also warned that many religious who are already given relaxation time spend it surfing the Internet, chatting or playing games instead of being with God.

The abbot, who teaches practices of Lectio Divina to various congregations, urged the gathering to read sacred texts every day for at least 45 minutes, then meditate on a portion of the reading throughout the day to get close to God.

Lectio Divina, or divine reading, is a method for praying with the Scriptures. As one reads and invites the Word to become a transforming lens that brings the events of daily living into focus, one can come to live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily in the events of each day. The method of Lectio Divina follows four steps -- reading, meditation, contemplation and prayer.

Lovers of the Holy Cross of Thu Thiem sisters performing a dance themed “following Lord every day.” (Joachim Pham)

Answering to the question what young religious should do to pursue their vocations in a fast-changing world raised by one brother, Bao said in his experience, “The main purpose of people in consecrated life is to follow and imitate Jesus in the circumstances. Each of you must have a full copy of the Bible and read it daily. This is the most effective solution to your problems.”

All participants were given copies of booklets on how to practice Lectio Divina and the Vietnamese translation of the Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated People that Pope Francis issued for the Year of Consecrated Life lasting to Feb. 2, 2016.

Wearing strips of white, blue and red cloth to represent their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the participants sang songs and performed a group dance.  

Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese told the gathering, “Today is a good opportunity for me to express my deep gratitude to you who serve the archdiocese wholeheartedly.” He wished all congregations develop into good quality and large quantity.

Doc also encouraged them to always “say the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, be kind to every person you meet and bravely speak to people about God’s love.”

Participants performed a group dance at the gathering. (Joachim Pham)

[Joachim Pham is a Global Sisters Report correspondent based in Vietnam.]