Yesterday was a joyful moment in the life of this local Church. The Vietnamese community, along with other friends gathered at Vietnamese Martyrs parish in Tukwila to celebrate with the Sisters from the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross their 350th year. As with so many other things, we were prevented from having the celebration last year due to COVID, but had a lovely Mass and celebration yesterday.

We are so very grateful to the many sisters from this community who share the Gospel in so many ways with the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Please join me in praying for them as they celebrate this anniversary.

The homily for the occasion is below:

Homily On Occasion of 350th Anniversary of Founding Congregation of Lovers Of The Holy Cross
Vietnamese Martyrs Church
+ October 16, 2021
Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, Archbishop of Seattle

1670 – Founded in Vietnam by Bishop Lambert de la Motte
“a long, challenging journey of faith, sacrifice and dedication.”

“It was during the 271 years of religious turmoil and deep pain that the congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross was founded.”

Today we wish to congratulate the sisters of the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross and thank them for their consecrated life and service of God’s people.

Context of History:

Today we also celebrate another feast – of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who was born in 1647 in France. Through her holy life around the same time as the founding of the Congregation of Lovers of the Holy Cross, arose the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is from the cross that the merciful and unconditional love of God is perfectly manifested.

From her writings we learn “the Sacred Heart is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure.”

It seems that a religious community founded during a time and place where the faith was persecuted is aptly named Lovers of the Holy Cross. For it is only through the Holy Cross that the world is saved. Only through the Holy Cross that Christ was able to establish the Church whose members are sent into the world in his name to continue his saving mission. It is only by means of participating in that Holy Cross that true disciples credibly give witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As our second reading today proclaims, true disciples of Jesus know the joy of heart and abiding peace that come from belonging to him and participating in his mission. As the Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross will tell us, even while bearing Christ’s cross, it is possible to know this joy of heart and abiding peace.

As the Gospel today teaches us, from the very moment of Christ’s death and resurrection, the disciples were ‘troubled.’ But once the disciples truly believed that Christ rose from the dead, that death could not contain Him, did they learn not to be troubled by the shadow of the Holy Cross, but to know the power of this Cross was where their own strength would reside.

It is only natural for us to be ‘troubled’ when the cross falls across our path. These are precisely the moments we are to entrust ourselves to the Power of the Holy Cross, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Once again, as the Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross will tell us, this requires abandoning one’s own will to the divine will of God. It is not by our own strength that the fruits of the Gospel are born, but only by the power of the Holy Cross and the Love of Christ that flows from this Holy Cross. Such self-abandonment is far easier said than done, but is precisely what every Christian life entails.

When Jesus told his disciples about the difficulties of the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God, they found that hard to understand. He told them that it is only possible by God’s doing. Salvation is a gift of grace, won for us by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Shear grace!

In response to this, Peter asked Jesus, what lied in store for them who had already given up everything to follow Jesus? And once again we hear the reality of the Holy Cross in Jesus answer:
Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. (Mark 10: 29-30)

… with persecutions … we see that the Holy Cross is part and parcel of the Christian life. The Holy Cross is our bridge to eternal life.

One final reference to the Holy Cross comes from perhaps the greatest teaching of Jesus – the Beatitudes. In this teaching Jesus lays out for us the model of the Christian life, and in living according to these virtues, we will know what it is to be blessed by God, to find ‘joy of heart and abiding peace.’

Recall that the beatitudes end with the seasoning of discipleship which is persecution, the requirement to take up our cross and follow Jesus. 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of eveil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5: 10-12)

To conclude, let us call to mind the final words of Jesus in today’s Gospel as a reminder to all of us:
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24: 46-48)

We give thanks to God for the gift of his Son, Jesus. We give thanks to Christ for his gift of self on the Holy Cross which won for us our salvation. We give thanks this day for the many Sisters who have served God’s people through the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross.

Now is our time to follow Jesus. This is the moment in which he calls each of us to follow him and sends us to preach his name to all nations, bearing witness to his resurrection, with joyful hearts and abiding peace.