Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (November 30, 2006)

Published November 30, 2006

After more than 33 years in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, I have been fortunate to preside at most of the ministries that the Lord offers to His priests. I have been privileged to experience the great happiness of Catholics at the very peak moments in their lives: weddings, anniversaries, baptisms and blessings of new homes and structures. As a bishop I have been privileged to preside at Confirmations, Ordinations and dedications of new churches and to witness the taking of religious vows and promises. I have also shared in the unfathomable sorrow of our people at moments of tragedy and loss—anointings at the moment of death, heartfelt confessions, funerals and the closing of beloved parishes.

This Saturday, I had a new first-time experience—and one of enormous joy and laughter. I baptized quadruplets for the very first time in my Priesthood—four beautiful little girls entered the Church at our Cathedral parish last Saturday, and I was privileged to have been the minister of their Baptism.

When the family arrived, they began a ritual that I suspect will continue for them for the next 20 or so years—preparing four girls for an event! There was an assembly line of laughter as they organized each little one for the great moment. During the ceremony, the only ones who were sure “who was who” were the proud Mom and Dad, each of whom just beamed at this moment in their daughters’ lives. What joy this moment brought to them—and to me since I realized that for all practical purposes, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for me as it was for these girls!

The grace of being a family with children is always a challenge, and a family with four little ones all the same age brings its own blessings and struggles. Yet the Baptism of these little girls was all joy, and it was apparent on the faces of the parents, grandparents, godparents and relatives. We have entered the season that is perhaps most identified with family life, with the joy of being together at home with our loved ones, with memories of earlier moments in our childhood. What a wonderful way for this particular family to give thanks to God for the abundance of His love in their lives.

Later that same day, I witnessed the renewal of the wedding vows of the parents of Father Francis Tran at Our Lady of Vietnam Church. Fifty years to the day, this couple was united together in Christ in their native land of Vietnam. They were joined by some of their children on the happy day of their Golden Jubilee. They have 11 children, some of whom still reside in Vietnam, but all of their children were certainly in their hearts as they renewed the promises that have given them joy and sustained them in their trials during the past 50 years. May God grant them many more years of health, happiness and good fortune. Again, the focus of the Church’s prayer was for the blessing of family life.

As we enter the season of Advent in preparation for the Christmas mystery, let us recall that God Himself chose to enter humanity as a member of a real human family. The God-Man was a baby with parents, and He chose to grow up into adulthood in the midst of a family. I always have believed that the Christ Child knew every form of human development so that He would truly reflect our needs before His heavenly Father.

There is One who sits in Glory and who remembers what it means to live in and to be a part of an actual human family—and He smiles when he recalls that grace!