Br. Peter Nguyen, FSC, and his La Salle Academy NYC community Brothers.
As I recall the recent Feast of All Saints, it makes me wonder what it takes for one to get into the Catholic Church’s official Hall of Fame. Leaving the politics behind the canonization process aside, I wonder also if any young person growing up ever aspires to become a saint, and if any sane parents would en-courage their children towards a path of “sainthood.” To the first . . . most definitely. But to the second, I’m not so sure. We’re often too responsible-minded a people; young children, it seems, have much to learn about the ways of the world.
Br. Peter at play with Brothers and students in the Philippines during the International Young Brothers Assembly.
But young children growing up do nothing but play. Their work is play. And during play, they dream up fantastic adventures and nearly impossible feats. Barely being able to add two simple numbers or to script a word on the page, and yet they see themselves traversing across the galaxy as astronauts, helping to fund a cure for cancer by selling lemonades, and saving the lives of another through their own heroism. Oh how naïve these little children of God are. If only they knew how the real world operates, they’d be quick to give up on their dreams. For that’d be what a sane adult would most likely do. Dreams don’t pay the bills; they don’t feed hungry mouths. And most dreams are bound to fail as history shows.
Br. Peter Nguyen, FSC
Reflecting on the Gospel of Luke, I wonder if the boy Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple 2000 years ago thought much about paying the bills when he grows up. Thanks to this kid for not giving up on his dream of building his Father’s Kingdom, we now have a glimmer of hope, of what could be. Foolish were his actions from the beginning to end, only to die humiliatingly on a cross, while trying to hang on to dream of a world beyond. Foolish too were the actions a young Paul of Tarsus, for having endured countless imprisonments and violence done unto him for sake of another boy whom he saw in a vision of a dream, a boy whom even till his old age he never met. Dreams are the catalysts for transformations of reality, it seems. It’s non-rational, and it’s certainly not easy to hold onto—at least . . . not unless it remains as a child’s play, a fantastic adventure to behold by all who dare to dream, foolish and courageous enough to keep the dream alive. For any who has but a faith the size of a mustard seed, he can eventually moves even the tallest of mountains. And unless we can turn to become like children, it is said that we shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of what could be. If we adults are foolish enough to believe as the children do in their trust for others [and God], then I wholly believe . . . we would find the strength to endure and do rightly, to perform miracles by transforming hearts of stones back into the living embodiment of Christ. (Now, if that were to be the teaching on transubstantiation, I can see myself resonate with it. The stuffs of dreams and fairytales.)
Prayers while on retreat with Brothers in Initial Formation.
November 21st is a momentous occasion for our Brothers. We recall a moment of foolishness and Heroism when our Founder, a young De La Salle recommitted himself along with two of his Brothers to stay faithful to a dream that God had entrusted to them, to teach the children of the poor and to let them know that God has always loved them so.
Foolishness, it certainly is. But so is God for sending his only Son to his death, only so he might share with us the extent of his love for us. And only in dreams would a humble mother finds the strength to endure the seven swords pierced through her heart as she watched her beloved son poured out his heart to all of humanity. Dreams—the stuff that inspires. Love—that which gives meaning to life.
Br. Peter professed final vows this summer, surrounded and encouraged by fellow young Brothers and Brother Jubilarians.
I joined the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 2003 back when I was but a child looking for a dream. You know, it’s one thing to learn about things through the books and hearsay. It’s another to live it out concretely with all the challenges that present themselves along the way. If things were to come easily, I’m not so sure how much appreciated they would be, a lesson that could only be learned in hindsight. I can share with you that religious life is not easy, but neither is it impossibly difficult. Moments of difficulties are not indications of a life mismatched, but occasions for growth. We as reasonable adults sometimes assume too much and think that we know what’s best for us, and in the process hinder the work of the Spirit from within us. Live first, and we might just begin to see what God has in stored for us. Let worries take care of themselves.
Br. Peter with his goofy La Salle Academy students at the Lasallian Youth Assembly.
At this moment in time, I stay as a Brother because I like the Noble Dream once entrusted to De La Salle, our Founder. As a fraternity of men devoted to education for the betterment of the lost children . . . I suppose that even Peter Pan eventually has to grow up, though with the hope that his heart remains like that of a child, forever looking to the next challenge, the next fantastic adventure.