Best Friends Forever?

“What has been the best thing that has happened to you so far in life?”

I always get an initial shock when I first ask people this question, they question my motives, they take like a minute or two to think, and then they finally answer. I am always curious about other people, what they learned in their own lives, and what they could possibly teach me. Were I to answer the question myself, I would say Dutch Brothers Coffee, and then I SUPPOSE my actual brother (love you, bro).

My favorite answer came from a stranger I met in Hawaii and she said “making good friends.” To this day, I think that has to be my favorite answer so far. I think why I liked it so much is because as human beings, we all crave love. That is who we are, beings made to love and to receive love. So being able to find however many people out of the 7 billion in this world who loves who you are, for you to love who they are, to confide within each other your joys and your struggles, and ultimately make each other better, that is one of the coolest things to experience.

I think it is a tough process to go through to find our “good friends.” We meet people in high school, in college, at church, at work, etc. We quickly try to find people to associate ourselves with because we all want to belong and I think that is how friendships originate. “I am friends with this person or these people because they are cool to hang out with.” But I reflected and realized that the motivation for being friends with someone changed from “belonging” to “trust.”

What allows close friendships to happen is ultimately the trust we give that friend and what they do with it. When we want someone to be our close friend, we allow them to get to know who we are, we begin to trust them. Someone who takes that trust and in turn, begins to trust us, allows us to get to know who they are. They are no longer our friends because they are pleasant people to be around with, but they are our friends because we genuinely care for them and they genuinely care for us. These are the friends who we confide in, who are not scared to tell you the truth, but ultimately, these are the friends who love you, who want the best for you, who do things for you not out of obligation but of desire to see you flourish.

It is definitely a process because we all go through something that is called life. Life will pull us in many directions, life will introduce us to many people, and life will lead us away from people. But it is through life that we become more aware of ourselves, who we are, what we are called to do, and why we do it. The hardest part of life is seeing those who were once so close to you be so far away later in time.

Conversely, one of the biggest joys I have experienced so far is making those good friendships. Even as we went throughout life and its struggles, our desires and effort to continue to be in each other’s lives overcame the circumstances and obstacles that came in our way. These friends have seen me at my highest and they have seen me at my lowest. We get into fights, for sure. We may disagree in terms of our political stance, of our religious beliefs, of how we view ourselves and the world, etc., but we are able to overlook that and embrace each other as we are. To be able to call a few people out of many my good and close friends, or to even just one person, my best friend, that is the best thing that has happened to me so far.


Week #1: Where does your heart lie?

Being an adult is fun, they said. You’ll have the time of your life, they said.

So with 2017 in the books, here’s to a great 2018. A new year’s resolution I have this year is to write more. So, consequently, each week I will be writing a blog post about where I am in life or about an idea that has been on my mind. So, let’s get it.

So, where does your heart lie?

I don’t know about you, but from my perspective, my heart lies on the left side of my body. Aha…anatomy.

But I ask the question of where does your heart lie because we do various things for various reasons. But where does your heart lie in all of your decisions? This is mainly geared towards youth ministry or any type of ministry, really. Actually, this applies to everyone. Just keep reading, please.

Where does your heart lie? (You’ll see this question pop up a lot)

I often talk about my experiences as a youth leader with my friends. It is a blessing that I get to work with the future of the Catholic Church and of the whole world in general. Being in a youth group called the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (TNTT), I have always been captivated by the spirituality. TNTT really set the foundation for my faith and through that foundation, I was able to discern God’s call, enter seminary, and the rest is history.

TNTT was where my faith led me and I would say the conversion moment in my faith was a retreat I went on in 2012 to prepare myself to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. That retreat really shifted my plans from leaving religious education to embracing God, the Catholic Church, and the church I went to. I rode the momentum of the retreat and used it to really cultivate a faith that was once nurtured by my parents growing up. For once, I got to see God’s love actualized rather than talked about.

Because the retreat had a profound impact on me, I wanted to bring that same joy to other people so that they may be able to grow up to be amazing Catholics themselves. When the leader applications for 2013’s confirmation retreat came out, I leaped at the opportunity to become a leader. I, however, was assigned to be on the home team taking care of logistics back at the church and not at the retreat site. While it was a great experience, I craved to be at the retreat as a small group leader. So I reapplied again the following year (2014) and unfortunately, did not get a position all together.

For me, it honestly hurt. I did not view myself as a good leader or even as a leader. Even though I realized there were some things I could have done to be a better and capable leader, my self-confidence hit an all time low. I eventually regained it back through leading choir and being a leader for TNTT, but I really thought for the longest time that if you were not a leader for the confirmation retreat, you weren’t anybody. That’s how much the confirmation retreat meant to me.

Years went by and so came my first year of seminary. I was a Huynh Truong, I was a seminarian, and I was chilling for the most part. One day during my second semester in 2016, a notification popped up and one of the core leaders of the confirmation retreat posted that retreat leader applications were now open. At that moment, a flood of memories both joyful and painful rushed through my mind. I opened the application and blasted through the application with, what I hoped to be, meaningful answers.

I was about to turn in my application and there was only one question left to answer: Describe what motivates you to come (back) and help with this retreat?

And with that, I closed the application, closed my laptop, and went on with my day and went on with my life.

Where did my heart lie at that point in time? It was not with God, it was not with the students, it with myself desire to feed my own ego and this is the case to this day concerning the retreat. I don’t think I will ever participate as a leader for the Confirmation retreat is because I would go so that I could prove to myself that I am a capable leader regardless of any body of work, of training, of developing any leadership skills that happened since being rejected a position. I would have, in a sense, used something that was meant to bring people closer to God for my own personal gain. The students don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve a leader whose primary motivation is prideful and selfish. They deserve a leader whose goal is to bring them and God together. They deserve someone not me.

Should I just get over it? Maybe. But I think I have prayerfully decided that the retreat is in better hands with someone else. My heart lies elsewhere, unfortunately.

So…in all that you do, where does YOUR heart lie?

I hope that wherever your heart is and where it leads you IS the place you want to go. But if where your heart is right now, your desires, your motivation, does not lead you where you want to go or most importantly, where God wants you to go, I am not the most qualified person to say this, but you may need to some soul searching.

Stephen Colbert, in a commencement address, said that you will truly serve what you love because service is love made visible. If you love money, you will serve towards that money. If you love others, you will serve others. If you love God, you will serve God. But if you love yourself (which isn’t entirely a bad thing, but in this case, used in a negative connotation), you will serve just yourself and you will only have just yourself.

Where do you want to go? Where does God want you to go? What do you love? And lastly, will your heart, with where its at, lead you there?

What does TNTT mean to me?


If you were to ask me what I love, I would say just one thing: McDonald’s.

Just kidding! God, obviously. But through God, I have found something else. I rave about this group a lot and I feel like they deserve a formal post, so here it is. This allows me to be promoted too, so that’s always a plus! Anyway, what does TNTT mean to me?

I think I should first answer: “What is TNTT?”

TNTT is short for Thiếu Nhi Thấnh Thể, or in English, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement. It is an organization filled with members with ages ranging from 7 years old to 70 years young, all coming together to grow closer to God. There is a specific curriculum for each age group; I would say it is like a mix of boy/girl scouts and Catechism classes, and I love it!

I joined four years ago and the reasons why I am in TNTT have completely evolved over the years, but they always lead back to Christ. When I first joined, I just wanted to join everything that was happening at church. I was that guy who was running around school screaming: “I love Jesus! Yes, I do! I love Jesus! How about you?!” Thank goodness I have calmed myself down over the years, but when I first joined, I just wanted to learn more about God, how I could serve Him, and about the will He has for me.

Being that I joined various groups at my church and also at school, I applied for a leadership position within my church’s Retreat Team. We had a retreat for those who were preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and during that event, I experienced my conversion moment from wanting to leave the church to wanting to EMBRACE the Church. I wanted to come back the following year and bring that same moment to others as well.

Unfortunately, for two years I was not chosen to be a leader for the small groups, and it ultimately brought down my morale and confidence I had in my ability to lead others. Being that I had other leadership positions, I was able to continue on and lead in those groups but as a result of those few months of breakdowns and breakthroughs, I realized that I was not as good as I thought I was. I was not as bad as I thought I was, either. It was a humbling few months to say the least. I knew that I needed to grow as a leader and that is where TNTT became a bigger part in my life.

I think what made TNTT appealing to me when I first joined was the sense of community. Going to Sunday school since Kindergarten to when I was a sophomore, I was a quiet kid. I sat in the corner and kept to myself. When I finally joined TNTT, I felt like I finally “fit in”, and that meant the world to me at the time.

In TNTT, when you become 18, you start assisting in the weekly activities for the kids. So when I became 18, I went through the process of being a Youth Leader (Huynh Trưởng). I attended a training camp, assisted in weekly activities over the course of an academic year, gained leadership and teaching skills, and by March of 2015, I became a certified leader for TNTT. I received the red scarf you see in the header image above, and at the time, proved to myself that I was “good enough”.

In 2015, I attended a Vietnamese youth conference. There was a youth speaker, Hoan Do, that said a line I will never forget: “The biggest breakdowns in life can lead to your biggest breakthroughs.” After reflecting through my four short years in TNTT, becoming a Youth Leader became less about proving to myself that I was a good leader, but more of realizing my faults and weaknesses and wanting to improve as much as I could to better myself and others.

As the years passed, the more and more I… well…fell in love with TNTT. I found joy! TNTT is devoted to the Eucharist at its core, so my own devotion to the Eucharist grew as well. As my faith grew, so did my passion to be in TNTT, and that became the main reason why I stayed in TNTT. The kids are amazing and the leaders are too. TNTT is an international organization, so being able to connect with youth leaders from far and wide has been a part of the many great reasons why I continue to be in TNTT, but it is not the core reason.

What really led me to the seminary and to stay in it so far has been TNTT. I had just finished my second year at seminary when I had a conversation with my formation director. He was trying to figure out why I was so attached to TNTT. “So is there a particular girl in there…?” I would laugh and would say no. As the conversation continued, my director made a comment that I described TNTT as if it were my girlfriend. In all seriousness, I agreed, at least in the aspect of love! As a seminarian, you dedicate your time to discern the priesthood. A lot of people have an impression that because I am a seminarian, which also means considering priesthood instead of marriage, that I am to bury my desires of love. That is not the case. I am human just like everyone else here on this planet. We, in our human nature, desire to love and to be loved. The way I showed love, however, changed.

Knowing that I am not exploring the vocation of marriage, I needed to, in a sense, relearn how to love. As we are all called to love and be loved, priests do not have wives so there is something that is naturally missing. Through my two years in seminary, I have come to understand that love is willing the good of the other. TNTT has definitely willed the good out of me and I hope that through my time as a leader so far that I have willed the good out of at least one person in it.

So when people ask me: What does TNTT mean to me?

I say very often that it is the love of my life. TNTT was the breakthrough from the breakdown. TNTT has been one of the gateways in which I am able to preserve my Vietnamese culture, to connect to others across the world, and to find comfort, faith and growth in God.

I talk about vocations a lot, where a vocation is something God calls us towards whether religious, single, married, etc., but if there has to be one thing I know for certain that God has called me towards, it has been the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement.

So what does TNTT mean to me? Everything.

Thiếu Nhi! Hy Sinh!

Lạy Chúa Giêsu Huynh Trưởng tối cao, xin dạy con biết hy sinh cao thượng, Phụng sự Chúa và giúp ích mọi người.

Xin dạy con biết hy sinh không cần báo đáp, luôn xông pha không ngại bão táp. Đẹp ý Cha trên trời trong tình thương yêu hết mọi người.

I want to fall in love.

So here I am… a second year at Mount Angel Abbey & Seminary continuing discernment and education so that I may find out if one day, God willing, I can serve Him as a holy priest.

Coming into this year is obvious excitement; gathering once again with my fellow brother seminarians to see if God has truly called us to become holy priests, serving Him for the rest of our lives. However, as much as I am excited for this upcoming year, I definitely feel “odd” coming in. Over this past summer, I got to participate in numerous events at my parish and with my youth group and the biggest desire that has been at my heart throughout this past summer has been intimacy, being close with another person. For me, this does not mean sex, but rather just being in the company of someone. I discussed this with a close friend of mine and she showed me this quote that has been in my mind ever since:

“Do you ever crave someone’s presence? Like you would literally be happy just sitting next to them. It could be completely silent and it would be magical to be there with them.” 

Being able to bond with another person through love and intimacy are natural human desires, but I feel as if these desires grow immensely stronger as a seminarian where you are “restricted” in your discernment. Maybe this could be a way the devil is tempting me out of a path God has truly meant for me, but I suppose the only way I can know for sure is through discernment. Of course, you can only discern one vocation at a time and being at seminary is a time for discernment for the holy priesthood, but no matter where you go, the desire still remains. Regardless, I still plan on fully participating and discerning this school year being devoted to academics, servitude, and spiritual growth and seeing where that leads me.

This leads me to my goal this year as a second year seminarian who, just like others who have gone before me, is still unsure of his future. I want to fall in love. I want to fall in love with Jesus Christ. I want to surrender myself to what he has in store for me whether that means giving a full and total love to Jesus through the holy priesthood or extending His love by loving another person fully. During a late night McDonald’s trip with some seminarian brothers, one of them asked me a question he was asked when he was struggling with his discernment: Have you fallen in love with Christ?

Damn. That hit me deep.

For the next few days, that question stayed on my mind and I can truthfully say that I have NOT fallen in love with Christ. Prayer is one of the most fundamental ways to build a relationship with Jesus and for my first year at seminary, I neglected it badly. This NEEDS to change because at the heart of the holy priesthood is a well maintained relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer and the Eucharist. Paraphrasing from a homily by Bishop Peter Smith, a priest who leaves the priesthood more often than not has stopped praying at some point in time. Whether I become a priest, a religious member, single or married, I do not want to lose something the holds a relationship together and the change starts HERE…the change starts NOW. Easier said than done, of course, but at this point in time, there is no more contemplating and proclaiming about what I am going to do and how I am going to do it, I just need to do it.

So… THAT is my goal for this year.  I want to fall in love with Jesus Christ because the more we get to know Him, the more we know about ourselves and the plan He has in store for us whether that is the holy priesthood, marriage, or  any other possible vocation. I want to fall in love with Jesus because if I do end up becoming a priest, by being in love with Christ, I am then able to share His love to others. And if being in love with Christ leads me out of seminary, by being in love with Him, I am then able to love someone in the same way, fully and everlasting “until death do us part.” 🙂

Fall in Love by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.