What does TNTT mean to me?

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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.