We have just celebrated Our Lady's birthday yesterday and today I would like to focus on the words and witness of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan and how Our Lady and Jesus helped him through his suffering while imprisoned for so many years. We also ask for Cardinal's intercession for all our Cardinals, Bishops and Priests and for those who are suffering for their faith throughout the world at this time.
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan writes;
On 15 August 1975, on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, I was invited to the
Palace of Independence, the President's Palace in Saigon, only to be arrested. The motive was that Pope
Paul VI had transferred me from my diocese in Nha Trang where I had been bishop
for eight years, between 1967 and 1975, to Saigon, to become Archbishop
For the Communist Government this transfer, made one week before their arrival in Saigon, on 30 April 1975, was proof of a conspiracy between the Vatican and the "Imperialists".
From the very first moment of my arrest, the words of Bishop John Walsh, who had been imprisoned for 12 years in Communist China, came to my mind. On the day of his liberation Bishop Walsh said, "I have spent half my life waiting."
It is true. All prisoners, myself included, constantly wait to be let go. I decided then and there that my captivity would not be merely a time of resignation but a turning point in my life. I decided I would not wait. I would live the present moment and fill it with love. For if I wait, the things I wait for will never happen. The only thing that I can be sure of is that I am going to die.
No, I will not spend time waiting. I will live the present moment and fill it with love.
A straight line consists of millions of little points. Likewise, a lifetime consists of millions of seconds and minutes joined together. If every single point along the line is rightly set, the line will be straight. If every minute of a life is good, that life will be holy.
Alone in my prison cell, I continued to be tormented by the fact that I was forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, that I had worked for eight years as a bishop and gained so much pastoral experience and there I was isolated, inactive and far from my people.
One night, from the depths of my heart I could hear a voice advising me: "Why torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God - everything you have done and desire to continue to do, pastoral visits, training seminarians, sisters and members of religious orders, building schools, evangelising non-Christians. All of that is excellent work, the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work into his hands, do it and trust him. God will do the work infinitely better than you; he will entrust the work to others who are more able than you. You have only to choose God and not the works of God!"
This light totally changed my way of thinking. When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat, theHai-Phong, along with 1500 other prisoners and moved us to the North, I said to myself, "Here is my cathedral, here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God's will that I am here. I accept his will". And from that minute onwards, a new peace filled my heart and stayed with me for thirteen years.
"Were you able to say Mass in prison?" is a question I have been asked many, many times. And when I say "Yes", I can foretell the next question, "How did you get the bread and wine?"
I was taken to prison empty-handed. Later on, I was allowed to request the strict necessities like clothing, toothpaste, etc. I wrote home saying "Send me some wine as medication for stomach pains". On the outside, the faithful understood what I meant.
They sent me a little bottle of Mass wine, with a label reading "medication for stomach pains", as well as some hosts broken into small pieces.
I will never be able to express the joy that was mine: each day, with three drops of wine, a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I celebrated my Mass.
The six Catholics in my group of 50 prisoners tried to stay together. We lined up the boards we were given as beds; they were about 20 inches wide. We slept close together in order to be able to pray during the night.
At 9.30 every evening when lights out rang everyone had to be lying down. I bent over my wooden board and celebrated Mass, by heart of course, and distributed Communion to my neighbours under their mosquito nets. We made tiny bags from cigarette paper to protect the Blessed Sacrament.
At night, the prisoners took turns and spent time in adoration. The Blessed Sacrament helped tremendously. Even Buddhists and other non-Christians were converted. The strength of the love of Jesus is irresistible. The darkness of the prison turned into light, the seed germinated silently in the storm.
Above from and continued here: AD2000 -Articles