Sunday, December 23, 2012

Embracing the Childlike Spirit of Christmas

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

As the clock ticks towards Christmas Eve and Christmas day (and season), our thoughts turn more fully to the Crib of Christ and the Babe that was born in the most unlikely of circumstances and places.  The feelings of anticipation, joy, and excitement in celebrating the birth of Jesus often hearken back to our childhood memories when we would know that something special was going to be taking place as night fell on Christmas Eve. Not only was it the glee over the possibility of Santa Clause visiting our house, but there was also a childlike understanding that the manger scene carefully laid out on our table was about to dramatically change as the Christ Child was finally placed there amidst the animals, the angels, shepherds, and the Holy Family. The amazing thing was that the Baby Jesus was the star of the show! We understood that the entire world looked upon the birth of this helpless child as the freedom and liberation from their woes, as the arrival of their King! We understood that He was like us - a child!

We are now grown adults, yet this sense of childlike joy and pregnant anticipation should not be any less! Yet perhaps we have gotten caught up in our 'adult' responsibilities, concerns, cares, and duties. Perhaps we have even become somewhat cynical or too serious to spend moments allowing our spirits to frolic with Jesus. Indeed, we may have forgotten that little Jesus is waiting to speak to our hearts and that He is calling us to have simple unencumbered child-like hearts that enable us to see and hear Him and His Divine Presence in our lives each and every moment of every day. He has openly shared his promise "that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled." (Jn 15:11) 

What does this joy consist of? It surely is not worldly joy that comes and goes in an instant, and leaves our hearts feeling momentarily satisfied and then quickly empty once again.  No, it is something deeper than that found in the deepest recesses of our hearts. In Proverbs we are told that wisdom "was delighted every day, playing before him all the time, playing in the world. And my delights were to be with the children of the earth" [Prv 8:30-31] Jesus is Divine Wisdom and brings this wisdom to us in order to rediscover and nurture our childhood innocence and dependence upon him. He affirms this in the Gospel of Matthew when He praises His Father, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Mt11:25)  He tells us soon thereafter that "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (MT 18:3-5)  His birth was the first step in showing us how to do this and opening the gates for us to guard our childlike traits for, in and with Him.  

Christmas is a fitting time for us to look at how we are nurturing our child within. God needs that child to be loved, nurtured, and listened to. He needs this little one's capacity to love, to look upon His creation and all people with fresh eyes, and to experience every moment of daily life as a gift and an opportunity for discovery at each moment.  Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (MT 19:14)  The Holy Trinity was so convicted of the importance of Jesus coming to earth in the flesh that salvation history unfolded only upon the fiat of Our Lady, the subsequent Incarnation, Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord.  One did not happen without the other. Furthermore, although scant details are available of Jesus' childhood, we know that he played, ran, explored, studied, and learned his trade as He grew up "and grew in wisdom" as it was foretold that 'a little child shall lead them.' (Is 11:6)

We need to give ourselves permission to play and frolic. We need to be responsible adults and we must embrace our daily duties, but we also need to balance this with complete trust and joy in God. This means recognizing as a child does, that God is watching over us and wants a true relationship with us.  We need to just 'be'. This enables God to tap into our soul and release more graces to us that are then openly received. The result can be as stunning as the art of famous child prodigy Akiane (see link above) or as hidden as one whose soul is immersed in the Divine Child as was the case with Ven. Cyril of the Mother of God. He was born Nicholas Schockwilerg in 1590 at Luxemburg and entered the Carmelite Order at an early age. He was ordained a priest in 1624 and was later elected a prior. In 1628 he left the monastery to join the more austere Discalced Carmelites at Prague. It was he who rescued the statue of Infant Jesus from the rubble of a church, after it had been ransacked by Saxons. The statue had been damaged and the hands broken off. One day when Father Cyril was praying in the oratory he heard the words: "Have pity on Me and I will have pity on you. Give Me back my hands and I will give you peace. The more you honour Me, the more I will bless you." Many subsequent miracles have taken place through this devotion to the Child infant of Prague. See

As Carmelites, we see the rich history of devotion to the Child Jesus. St. Teresa of Avila reportedly always traveled with her statue of the Infant Jesus when she was establishing new convents. Her devotion to the Infant Jesus was forged after she was coming down the steps of her convent when she saw a beautiful young boy. The Child spoke to her and said: "Who are you?" Teresa answered: "I am Teresa of Jesus, who are you?" The Child answered: "I am Jesus of Teresa!"  Her spiritual daughter, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face" was also particularly devoted to the Infant Jesus. Thérèse placed an Infant statue in the novitiate at Lisieux when she had charge of the novices, because she knew how many blessings the Divine Child brought to the Carmelite novices in Prague when it was placed in their midst. The same statue still stands in the cloister at Lisieux. Her entire spirituality was based upon the way of spiritual childhood and consists of deep and childlike dependence upon God in all circumstances and in great confidence. (See

As Christmas arrives, let us become little children who frolic around the crib and dance for joy at the incarnation and birth of Christ as our spiritual Father St. John of the Cross reportedly did. On the day before Christmas he used to organize with the friars a kind of paraliturgical procession to recall how Mary and Joseph went in search of lodging for the divine Infant. At Christmas time above all he felt his heart pulsate with love for the Child Jesus. One Christmas, seeing a statue of the Infant lying on a cushion, he cried out, "Lord, if love is to slay me, the hour has now come. " Another Christmas, taken with love, he took the statue of the Infant in his arms and began to dance with enraptured joy. His countenance, in fact, corresponded with the Church's liturgy. (See

Let us be free as little ones, and pray as Our Lady instructed Ven. Cyril:
Jesus, you decided to become a child, and I'm coming to you full of trust. I believe that your attentive love forestalls all my needs. Even for the intercession of your Holy Mother, you can meet my necessities, spiritual as well as material, if I pray according to your holy will. I love you with all my heart, all my strength.

I beg your pardon, if my weakness makes me sin. I repeat with the Gospel "Lord, if you want you can heal me." I leave you to decide how and when. I am ready to accept suffering, if this is your will, but help me not to become hardened to it, rather to bear fruit. Help me to be a faithful servant and for your sake, holy Child, to love my neighbour as myself. Almighty Child, unceasingly I pray you to support me in my necessities of the present moment.

Grant me the grace to remain in you, to be possessed and possess you entirely, with your parents, Mary and Joseph, in the eternal praise of your heavenly servants. (See Amen.

The Christ Child

Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparing Our Hearts for Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

It is hard to believe that we are celebrating St. Andrew the Apostle's Feast Day, and that Advent begins in just two more days!  The desire always stirs in my heart for  simplicity, quiet, and solitude during this holy season. Yet, I find that I have to fight for this and carve out time for the prayer, preparation and quietude that Advent requires to truly allow a deepening of the Christ Child to snuggle and attach to the womb of my soul.

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a compelling letter on November 29, 1905 to one of her spiritual directors, Abbe Chevignard, about the Carmelite approach towards Advent.  She writes,

The holy time of Advent is here; it seems to me that is is very especially the season of interior souls, those who live unceasingly and through everything wholly 'hidden with Christ in God" at the center of themselves. In expectation of the great mystery, I love to go deeply into that beautiful psalm XVIII, which we often say at Matins, and particularly these verses: "There he has placed his tent in the sun, and this star comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his bed, rejoices like a champion to run its course. At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun; to the furthest end of the sky is its course; nothing is concealed from its burning heat." Let us empty our soul so He can come forth in it and communicate the eternal life that is its own; the Father has given Him "power over the flesh" for that purpose, as we are told in the Gospel. And then, in the silence of prayer, let us listen to Him, for He is the 'Source' who speaks within us and who has said, "He who sent me is true, and I tell all I have heard from Him. " Let us ask Him to make us true in our love, to make us sacrificial beings, for it seems to me that sacrifice is only love put into action: "He loved me, He gave Himself for me." I love this thought, that the life of the priest (and of the Carmelite) is an Advent that prepares for the Incarnation in souls. In one psalm, David sings that "fire goes before the Lord." [Ps 96:3] Isn't fire love? And isn't our mission also to prepare the way of the Lord through our union with Him whom the Apostle calls a "consuming fire"? [Heb12:29] At His touch our soul will become like a flame of love spreading into all the members of the body of Christ, the Church; then we will console the Heart of our Master, who, showing us to the Father, will be able to say: "I am already glorified in them." [Col.1:24]

Help me, Monsieur l'Abbe, I have great need of it, for the more light there is, the more I feel my powerlessness. On Dec. 8th (since you are a high priest), would you consecrate me to the power of His love so I may in truth be "Laudem Gloriae"; I read that in Saint Paul and I understood that it was my vocation, even now in exile while awaiting the eternal Sanctus."  (Letter 250, 11/29/1905 from The Complete Works, Vol Two, Letters from Carmel, Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Like Bl. Elizabeth and St. Andrew, at the outset of Advent we are called to proclaim that "We have found the Messiah." (John 1:40) He is within our hearts if we allow Him room. He is found most especially in His earthly tabernacle, much like the womb of Our Lady who carried Him, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Let us come and Adore Him. Let us be still and follow Him, and then let us bring others to Him, as St. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, and as Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity silently did so as well through the power of her prayers made through His Indwelling within her.  Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Live Christ the King!

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Our Carmelite tradition heralds Jesus as Our King and Majesty in many beautiful writings by our saints. St. Teresa depicts Our Lord dwelling in the center of our souls as a mighty King who seeks to unite us to Himself within the interior castle of our hearts. Our King of Glory tirelessly seeks to draw us ever closer to the center of our hearts in prayer where He resides and beckons us to come and sup with Him.  Unlike earthly royalty, Jesus is the gentlest of kings yet his Almighty power in loving us makes it hard to resist His invitation to give Him our whole heart.  Furthermore, St. Teresa knew that our Heavenly Father is also King of Creation and our majesty, and that His Son enables us to approach His throne as one "under this protection you can approach and petition Him, for then His Majesty takes delight in you."   (Sililoquies #7)
St. Teresa stresses that we must not be afraid to approach Christ the King who calls us to Himself in unfailing love and mercy. We must humbly yet courageously respond to His promptings and move ever close to His throne by dying to ourselves and ridding ourselves of all that keeps us from Him.  In the Book of Her Life she writes, 
O  King of Glory and Lord of all kings! How true that Your kingdom...has no end...There is no need for intermediaries with you! Upon beholding Your person one sees immediately that you alone...merit to be called Lord.
Oh my Lord! O my King! Who now would know how to represent your majesty! It's impossible not to see that You in Yourself are a great Emperor, for to behold Your majesty is startling; and the more one beholds along with this majesty, Lord, the more startling it becomes. Nevertheless, we can converse and speak with You as we like, once the first fright and fear in beholding Your Majesty passes; although the fear of offending You becomes greater. But the fear is not one of punishment, for this punishment is considered nothing in comparison with losing you." (Ch. 37)
Let us heed our Foundress, St. Teresa. Let us approach the Lord, Our King, with praise and thanksgiving and without hesitation.  Let us serve Him as His faithful servants. Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fr. Doug's Homily on Bringing About the Kingdom of God

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Enjoy this homily as a source of meditation and as a means of deepening the sense and realization of the Kingdom of God in your life and with all those around you.

May His Peace be with you. Amen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Celebrating the Indwelling with Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Memorial of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who held a special devotion and understanding of the Most Holy Trinity and His Indwelling within each person's soul. The secret to her sanctity was to let herself be built up into a little house of God, where Christ could dwell within. She wanted her soul to be like a little vase that could be filled up with Him so that she could communicate this living water to her brothers and sister in the Church. In her letters she writes that “In the little sanctuary of my soul, so intimate, I find him at every hour of the day and night; I am never alone: my Christ is there praying in me and I pray with him. My whole practice is to entire within, and lose myself in those who are there! It is so simple. The Divine Adorer is within us, so we have his prayer; let us offer it, commune with it, and pray with his soul. 
This is confirmed when Jesus reveals to us in Holy Scriptures that, "If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me." (Rev. 3:20-21 )

Origen tells us in his notebook on prayer that is read for the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast of Christ the King and known as 'Your Kingdom Come' that, "The Kingdom of God is within us, for the Word of God is very near, in our mouth and in our heart. Thus it is clear that he who prays for the coming of God’s kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it might grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in each of his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present in the perfect soul, and with him Christ reigns, according to the words: We shall come to him and make our home with him.

Thus the kingdom of God within us, as we continue to make progress, will reach its highest point when the Apostle’s words are fulfilled, and Christ, having subjected all his enemies to himself, will hand over his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all. Therefore, let us pray unceasingly with that disposition of soul which the Word may make divine, saying to our Father who is in heaven: Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come.

Note this too about the kingdom of God. It is not a sharing of justice with iniquity, nor a society of light with darkness, nor a meeting of Christ with Belial. The kingdom of God cannot exist alongside the reign of sin.

Therefore, if we wish God to reign in us, in no way should sin reign in our mortal body; rather we should mortify our members which are upon the earth and bear fruit in the Spirit. There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with his Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And he will sit there until all his enemies who are within us become his footstool, and every principality, power and virtue in us is cast out.

All this can happen in each one of us, and the last enemy, death, can be destroyed; then Christ will say in us: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? And so what is corruptible in us must be clothed with holiness and incorruptibility; death will be cast out, and our mortality will be clad with the Father’s immortality, so that, as God reigns in us, we may truly enjoy the blessings of rebirth and resurrection.  (See

Blessed Elizabeth realized the Kingdom of the Three wholly within the little cell of her heart and soul. She understood that we are to cherish our Beloved "whose name is Love" and "dwells within us at every moment of the day and night, and that he asks us to live in company with him." The key is to give our fiat to Our Savior, who is the living water and the source of this unitive love. "Let us be in communion all the time with Jesus who wants to tell us the whole Mystery..He is always at work in our soul; let us be built up by him and may he be the Soul of our soul, the Life of our life, so that we may be able to say with St. Paul, 'For me, to live is Jesus Christ!'  (Your Presence is my Joy, by Conrad de Meester
This all points to the sublime truth that our souls are temples of the Holy Trinity. We must constantly be beckoning Him to come into our abode, in response to His constant invitations to come into His presence in an ever deeper level. We can realize this more readily by by meditating upon Our Lady, who we know became, "a most holy Temple to Our Most High God, who by dwelling in her sanctified the whole creation and made our fallen nature godly." 
In the Akathist prayer we honor Our Blessed Mother by proclaiming, "Extolling your birth-giving, we all praise you as a living temple, O Theotokos. For the Lord whose hand sustains the world, having dwelt in your womb, sanctified and glorified you, and instructed all people to cry to you."
Rejoice, tabernacle of God the Logos;
Rejoice, holy one, holier than the holies.
Rejoice, ark that was gilt by the Spirit;
Rejoice, inexhaustible treasure of life.
Rejoice, precious diadem of godly kings;
Rejoice, honored pride of the pious priests.
Rejoice, the Church's unshakable tower;
Rejoice, the kingdom's unassailable fortress.
Rejoice, through whom trophies of victory are raised;
Rejoice, through whom enemies are defeated.
Rejoice, healing of my body;
Rejoice, my soul's salvation.
Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

People: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.
Because Bl. Elizabeth recognized that Our Lady like no other was drawn within into complete communion with Her Son in a perpetual Incarnation. She sought to enter into the soul of Mary and unite herself so deeply that, "Mary herself would overshadow her and carry her soul into the soul of her Son." Blessed Elizabeth wrote about Blessed Mother that, "She kept herself so little, so recollected in the presence of God, in the secret of the Temple, that she drew forth the good pleasure of the Trinity...the Father, stooping over this creature who was so beautiful, so unaware of her beauty, willed her to be in time the Mother of him of whom he is the Father in eternity."

As we journey towards plumbing the depths of the Indwelling within our souls, we pray that our hearts may be pure and open.  We ask that Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity help us by her stated mission: "In heaven, I believe, my mission will be that of drawing souls into interior recollection, helping them to go out of themselves, to cling to God through a movement which is wholly simple and wholly loving; and to preserve them in that great silence of the within, which allows God to imprint Himself on them and to transform them into Himself."  
Bl. Elizabeth, we ask for your prayers and intercession, along with that of Our Most Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, in moving our hearts deep down into the abyss of the Holy Trinity, where He resides deep within the recesses of our souls. Amen.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

St. Therese's Teaching on Purgatory

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC¹ has written a deep and thought-provoking account of the Little Flower's teaching on purgatory. Although controversial to some, perhaps many, the underpinnings of her beliefs are based on her Little Way of radical trust in the love and mercy of God, and that one must abandon oneself as little children to Him.  That means adopting a radical revolution of love within our own daily lives. By surrendering to God's love and will, we can be burned up by His love while here in our earthly lives.

According to Fr. van Dijk's article, and the saint's own comments as published in "Last Conservations" and "Story of a Soul", one must have complete confidence in the way of God's love.  His article presents the following, "While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:
You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.
She even said that we would offend God if we didn't trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: "Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory. When we love, we can't go there." ..It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who... suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away.7

If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first there is the problem of the
. aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, "Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love"8 (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory.9 St. John Vianney said, "It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must. endure, exceeds our imagination."10St. Therese encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven right away. She wondered "If I fail even in: the smallest things, " may I still hope to get straight to heaven?" St Therese, who knew well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: "Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love."11God is Father rather than Judge.
Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St. Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty offinally responding, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires." 
The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: "O my Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for het:. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now."\

It is understandable that many find this teaching hard to accept. We should not be flippant about purgatory and we should not be presumptuous that any given person is in heaven. We must pray for all souls, and we must start with ourselves. Having said that, we need to let go of the notion that God cannot accomplish all things within us, if we truly approach Him as a Father. We need to lower ourselves and approach Him with empty hands at the end of our journey, so that Jesus can present all of His merits to Him on our behalf, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  As we dedicate this month to praying for the Holy Souls in purgatory, let us ask Our Merciful Lord to show us His ways of love and to teach us how to do so at a deeper more intense level. St. Peter tells us that "love covers a multitude of sins".

St. John of the Cross also tells us in Chapter XII of the Dark Night of the Soul, the following summary about the purgation of the spirit: 
(This horrible night is purgatory, and how in it the Divine
wisdom illumines men on earth with the same illumination
that purges and illumines the angels in Heaven.)

FROM what has been said we shall be able to see how this dark night of loving fire, as it purges in the darkness, so also in the darkness enkindles the soul. We shall likewise be able to see that, even as spirits are purged in the next life with dark material fire, so in this life they are purged and cleansed with the dark spiritual fire of love. The difference is that in the next life they are cleansed with fire, while here below they are cleansed and illumined with love only. It was this love that David entreated, when he said: Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, etc. For cleanness of heart is nothing less than the love and grace of God. For the clean of heart are called by our Saviour 'blessed'; which is as if He had called them 'enkindled with love', since blessedness is given by nothing less than love.

2. And Jeremias well shows how the soul is purged when it is illumined with this fire of loving wisdom (for God never grants mystical wisdom without love, since love itself infuses it), where he says: 'He hath sent fire into my bones, and hath taught me.' And David says that the wisdom of God is silver tried in fire—that is, in purgative fire of love. For this dark contemplation infuses into the soul love and wisdom jointly, to each one according to his capacity and need, enlightening the soul and purging it, in the words of the Wise Man, from its ignorances, as he said was done to himself.

Let us abandon ourselves to Our Triune God's Ways of love, and have confidence that through our spiritual littleness and growth in imitating this Divine Love, that we will be able to do our purgatory here on earth as St. Therese assured us. Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy All Souls Day! Meditations on Purgatory

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Saint Teresa of Ávila Interceding for Souls in Purgatory

This special feast in remembrance of the Holy Souls dovetails perfectly following the Feast of All Saints. We know that one day the souls in purgatory will join their brethren to enjoy the Beatific Vision of our Eternal Lord in perpatual adoration and praise. We should never forget these beloved souls of our Lord.

The painting above is a reduced workshop version of a large altarpiece painted by Rubens about 1630 to 1633 for the Church of the Discalced Carmelites in Antwerp. The inscription on an engraving by Schelte a Bolswert after Rubens's altarpiece relates the scene to the story of Bernardino de Mendoza, a young Spaniard who had given Saint Teresa land on which to build a convent. Bernardino died before it could be built, and Christ appeared to Saint Teresa informing her that his soul could not be released from Purgatory until the convent was completed. Bernardino appears in Purgatory at the left of the painting. (See

St. Teresa of Avila had a vision of Purgatory once when she was praying her Rosary. She saw that at each Hail Mary those souls received a spray of cool water that relieved them in their burning torments. The holy Rosary is particularly effective as an appeal for them. Our prayers, then, sustain the Poor Souls as they make their way through Purgatory. We should never forget them and pay attention when the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray for someone who has died - even someone we do not know directly or personally. There are many souls in purgatory who have noone to pray for them.

May we keep this in mind and dedicate ourselves more fervantly to prayers for them and they will pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy All Saint's Day!

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones -

Happy All Saint's Day! What a tremendous opportunity to thank God for raising up such wonderful exemplars for us to follow on our journey up Mount of Carmel. As we ascend, we must stay focused on Our Lord Jesus as our beloved saints and blesseds did during their lifetime. All of them were rooted and anchored in love and humility, along with following the Ten Commandments and living a prayerful sense of God's abiding presence. Otherwise, each had his or her own unique spiritual journey that defined his or her soul's interactions with Our Triune God. As Fr. Doug so wisely counseled us in last weekend's homily, let's make sure that our shoes fit! In other words, let's not adopt a certain brand of prayer or spirituality within our Carmelite order that does not fit who God created us to be. Instead, we must ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we are to become great saints! Let's do it according to His plans and the way that fits our individual souls.

Enjoy this beautiful homily on how one cooperates with this grace.

Blessings and love this special feast day!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fr. Doug's Sept. Homily on Our Lady's Sorrows

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Enjoy this thoughtful meditative homily on Our Lady of Sorrows by our Carmelite spiritual assistant and father, our dear Fr. Doug Lorig. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

St. Therese's Little Brother


JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Our Little Sister's Feast Day is upon us. We celebrate St. Therese's death and new life in Christ today (the date she died) and tomorrow (her official Feast Day in the Church). I am posting a beautiful account of how St. Therese spiritually adopted a young man named Brother Marcel Van, C.Ss.R. from North Vietnam.  I cannot provide a better overview of how St. Therese's Little Way of love has influenced and helped so many other souls reach the heights of sanctity. Let us pray that we will be open to her intercession to realize her way of love in giving each present moment in joy to Our Lord.  Happy reading!

Brother Marcel Van -Spirtual Brother of St Therese of Lisieux (This entire post is taken from

The Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van C.Ss.R. (Redemptorist)-The little spiritual brother of Saint Therese of Lisieux

Brother Marcel Van was born Joachim Nguyên Tan Van on March 15, 1928, in a village in North Vietnam (Tonkin). He lived with his older sister Le and was later joined by a younger sister, Te. His father was a tailor and his mother was a housewife who sometimes worked in the rice paddies. His mother was a very devout Catholic, and was meek, kind and charitable towards everyone. Sadly however, as Van’s childhood years progressed, his father took to gambling and alcohol, causing the family much suffering. As a child, Van was a kind and sensitive boy, full of love and tenderness and did not like to be separated from his mother.

From a tender age, Van showed a remarkable early piety and devotion, and as a child he organized processions in honor of the Blessed Virgin with his younger sister Te, along with his cousins and playmates. From an early age he loved to pray with his mother, and they would often say a rosary together. At age six, he joyfully received First Holy Communion. He would later write of this blessed day:
“The hour has come, the moment so greatly desired has arrived... I gently draw out my tongue to receive the Bread of Love. My heart is overcome by an extraordinary joy... In an instant, I have become like a 'drop of water' lost in the vast ocean. Now there remains only Jesus, and I am Jesus' little nothing.”

From this day on, Van would receive Communion most every day. Shortly thereafter, he received the sacrament of Confirmation. A future prospect took shape in his heart as he later wrote: “I longed to become a priest, so as to bring the Good News to non-Christians.” He discovered later in life that to be a priest was not the will of God for him.

He began school at age seven, however his first teacher was excessively severe with the students, beating them with a cane at every turn. Van's health began to fail: "I became thinner and more pale by the day," he later wrote in his autobiography, “and it is because of the very strict educational system that I have came to such a state of exhaustion.”

Van is called to sufferVan's mother then entrusted him to Father Joseph Nha, the parish priest in Huu-Bang. This priest ran a “House of God” which was an institution where young boys started more in-depth schooling in religion, while continuing their studies and helping the priest. The most capable among them could be admitted to the Minor Seminary, a goal which Van aspired to since he was hoping to become a priest. For Van, everything started well. He was very fond of his new life, and became a star student. But one of his teachers (called “masters”) named Vinh, would take Van into a private room and beat him repeatedly with a cane, stating that he was training him in what he called “the perfect life”. He threatened him and made him submit to the beatings in secret. After two weeks, the priest's laundrywoman noticed traces of blood on Van's clothes, and Father Nha, made aware of the situation, had the child see a doctor and strictly forbade Vinh from any contact with Van.

At times, Father Nha would present Van as an example to the lukewarm catechist students, which of course drew unfriendly attention to him. The catechists, now jealous of Van, organized a sort of tribunal to “try” him. After several humiliating scenes, they criticized him for receiving Communion every day. This reproach brought about a spiritual crisis: “I was disturbed and I suffered terribly to think that, without being worthy like the saints, I had had the boldness to receive Communion every day... I then saw the faults from my early childhood return.” In this difficult trial, Van turned to Mary and recited his Rosary with a deep devotion.

Each night after evening prayers, the catechists would open the “tribunal” and would question and accuse Van, and for punishment would beat him with a cane, or strip him of his clothing. Along with the “master” (teacher), some of these same student catechists often took to drinking alcohol, and would invite girls of the neighborhood to join them in the Presbytery when Father Nha was absent. Father Nha himself seemed to forget his one time favorite catechist student, and more and more removed Van from his studies and made him his servant.

During this same period tragedy struck at home. Floods had destroyed some of his family's property and possessions, and making matters worse his father squandered what little left that they had on gambling and drinking, leaving his mother, brother and sisters in utter poverty. His mother could no longer send money or clothes, which left him in poverty and under the complete care of Father Nha, who now looked at Van as a servant, instead of a student.

Eventually, Van left the “House of God” with several other catechists, in hopes of entering a seminary and becoming a priest, however unable to find any seminary or work that would accept him, he was obligated to return. The atmosphere at the house did not change much—alcohol, gambling, foul language, the presence of shameless girls. Van had to devote the majority of his time to manual labor. When he reached the age of twelve, he received his certificate of studies” , but he was not allowed to advance to the next level of his schooling, and all his time was spent working.

Eventually, he ran away to return to his parents' home, but because of their poverty they sent him back to Huu-Bang. Two months later, Van ran away again and began living as a beggar on the streets. “My profession,” he wrote, “consisted from then on of holding my hand out to passers-by... After a week of this life, I was unrecognizable. My hands and feet were thin, my skin was tanned by the sun and my cheeks were hollow... And yet I found this life of a poor vagabond not at all difficult. On the contrary, I felt a peaceful joy in suffering for God. I knew that by escaping, I had avoided sin, I had avoided what grieves the Heart of God.”

A terrible temptationConcerning this period he wrote: “I came to consider myself a despicable creature. The devil made this thought develop in me—if people could no longer endure me, how could God still endure me? I'm going to die soon and I will have to go to Hell.”
As always, Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary remained his hope, and he continually gained comfort and peace through praying the rosary. One day, he opened his heart to a priest who comforted him with these words: “Willingly accept all these trials and offer them to the Lord. If God has sent you the cross, it is a sign that He has chosen you.”

A calling from the LordThanks to a friend, Van was admitted to the Minor Seminary in Lang-Son in 1942. Six months later, for lack of funds, the institution had to close its doors, but Van was able to continue his studies in the parish of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyên, under the direction of two Dominican fathers. He strongly desired to become a saint, but was frightened at the austere sacrifices that he thought were necessary: “In spite of my great desire to attain holiness, I was certain that I would never achieve it, because to be a saint, you have to fast, lash yourself with a whip, wear a rock around your neck and little chains covered with spikes, a coarse horsehair shirt, endure the cold, the scabies, etc...My God, if it is like this, I give up... All that is way too much for me.”
The appearance of St Therese of Lisieux –The Story of a SoulOne day, Van spread out on a table books on the lives of many Saints. He said a prayer, asking God to guide him, promising that he would read whatever book his hand fell upon. Then, with his eyes closed, he put his hand down at random. “I opened my eyes. My hand was resting on a book I had never read before—“The Story of a Soul “ by Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.”

Marcel Van quickly looked over the book—one that he had never read before, but dismissed it as containing nothing unusual. But he soon reproached himself saying “Ah, by acting like this, you have broken your promise!” I then took the book again with my head full of muddled questions—‘What is this “Story of a Soul”??? Who is this St. Therese of the Child Jesus??? Where did she come from???’ What is certain is that is that she resembles many thousands of other saints.’
“Then I summarized her life in an amusing manner in these terms---'Since her birth until her last breath she had many ecstasies, and performed a number of miracles. She fasted on bread and water only taking one meal a day. She spent the night in prayer and gave herself to discipline until she bled. After her holy death her body emitted a very pleasant fragrance and many extraordinary things happened at her tomb. Finally she was canonized by the holy Church...etc...’
“Today I see clearly how rash these statements were without knowing anything about St. Therese. I had dared to sketch out her life in such a summary manner. Oh my dear sister, you must necessarily be a Saint of great courage to put up with the erroneous judgments that I have held on your life!”

As promised, Van then began to read the book. He states:
“I had scarcely read a few pages when two floods of tears were flowing down my cheeks...What moved me so deeply was little Therese's reasoning:
'If God only stooped to the level of the most beautiful flowers, the symbol of the Holy Doctors, His love wouldn't be quite absolute, because it is Love's nature to stoop to the farthest limit... Just as the sun shines at the same time on the cedars and on every little flower as if it were the only one on earth, so does Our Lord take care of every soul as if there were no other soul like it'

“I understood then that God is Love... Like St Therese, I can sanctify myself through all my little acts... A smile, a word or a look, provided that everything is done in love. What happiness!....From now on, sanctity will no longer frighten tears were flowing like an inexhaustible spring.”

“I had received therefore, that afternoon, a source of grace and happiness. “The Story of a Soul” had become my dearest friend, and followed me everywhere and I did not cease reading or rereading it, without ever getting weary of it. There was nothing in this volume which did not conform to my thoughts, and what pleased me even more in the course of my reading was to see clearly the spiritual life of Therese was identical to mine. Her thoughts, even her yes or no were in harmony with my own thoughts, and the little events of my life. Truly, never in my life have I met a book which was so well adapted to my thinking and feelings as is “The Story of a Soul”. I can confess that the story of Therese's soul is the story of my soul....”

The next morning, Van woke up and kneeled before the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary and prayed: “... Blessed Virgin, my Mother: Today is truly the first day that I have been given to taste such a sweet happiness; the day which introduces me to a new way.... From now on, my Mother, guide me in my new way to teach me to love God perfectly, and to offer myself to Him in total confidence. I dare to express a wish to you: That I may be wrapped in your love, as was formerly Therese, the Little Flower. I even wish you to give me this Saint as my guide in her “Little Way”. Oh what happiness there would then be for me since I feel that my life cannot free itself from the feelings of childhood that God has engraved in my soul as an innate gift”

Then turning to Jesus, he prayed: “Oh Jesus, my only and beloved master, you know that I love you and look only to respond to your wishes. You have aroused in my mind the desire to become a saint. Then, you made me find, in a very simple manner, the “Little Way” by which you guided St. Therese of the Child Jesus. You have used the hand of this little Saint to write for the use of souls, the sweet councils to which you have led her on her little way. Today, I know that you love me, and that in your immense love you behave towards me as with a little child. Oh, how you deserve to be loved in return! From now on I have decided to follow in your footsteps as you wish, and so that each of my steps conforms to your Will, I wish, oh my God, that you grant me this favor: Give me St. Therese of the infant Jesus is my guide, so that she can teach me to love you as I ought, since I am very ignorant. Grant me also the grace to persevere in your love right to the end, so as to love you afterwards eternally, in the homeland of love reserved for those who love you.”
Van becomes the little spiritual brother of St ThereseSoon afterwarsa, Van went on foot to a nearby hill. Suddenly, in the silence, he was startled by a voice that was calling him. “Van, Van, my dear little brother!” But, no one was around him! The voice spoke again: “Van, my dear little brother!” ‘I was stunned into little troubled, but I remained calm and guessed immediately that this voice which called me was a supernatural voice—I then let out or hurried cry of joy—“Oh, it's my sister Therese!”— “Yes, it is indeed your sister, Therese... From now on, you will personally be my little brother, just as you have chosen me to be your big sister... From this day on, our two souls will be just one soul, in God's one love... from this moment I will let you know all my beautiful thoughts on love that which has occurred in my life, and has transformed me in the infinite love of God.... it is God himself, who has arranged this meeting. God wants the lessons of love that He taught me before in the secret of my soul to live on in this world, and He has deigned to choose you as a little secretary to carry out His work, which He wishes to entrust to you.... ”

“...God our Father watches over the slightest details of our lives... God is Father and this Father is Love. His goodness and kindness are infinite... But ever since the day that our first parents sinned, fear has overcome the heart of man and has taken away from him the thought of a God who is our infinitely good Father... So God sent his Son... Jesus came to tell His brothers on earth that the Father's love is an inexhaustible source... We are immensely fortunate to be the children of God. Let us be thankful of this and never give in to excessive fear... Never be afraid of God. He is all loving Father. He knows only how to love, and He wishes to be loved in return.. Do not be afraid to speak familiarly with God as with a friend. Tell Him about everything that comes to your mind—your marble games, a mountain climb, the teasing of your friends, your outbursts, your tears, or the little fleeting pleasures'...”—But little sister, God already knows all these things"...'That's true, little brother... However, to give and to receive love, He must stoop and He does this as if He has forgotten that He knows everything, in the hope of hearing an intimate word burst forth from your heart.'

'When you feel joy, offer him this joy which swells your heart, and by doing so you will transmit your joy to Him. Can there be a greater happiness than a couple loving one another and exchanging all that they possess? To act in this way with God is to say ‘thank you’ to Him, which pleases Him more than thousands of touching canticles. If on the other hand, you are invaded by sadness say to Him again with an honest heart: ‘Oh my God, I am really unhappy’ and ask Him to help you to accept this sadness with patience. Believe this: Nothing gives as much pleasure to the good God than to see on this earth a heart which loves Him, and who is sincere with Him with each step, and with each smile; as well with tears as with as with little momentary pleasures.”

This first appearance of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus went on for quite sometime, and one should read "The Autobiography of Marcel Van" to read it in its entirety.

Before leaving Van on this first occasion, St. Therese says in closing: ‘I love you because you are a soul who is a member of my friends of Love. As for you my little brother, my only wish is to see accomplished the works that the divine Love desires so ardently for you. So, little brother, listen to me: from now in your relations with our heavenly Father, do not fail to follow my advice. Now, it is getting late, so allow me to end our conversation here, since it is already mealtime. Tam and Hien are waiting for you, and Tam is getting impatient..... I am giving you a kiss.....We will have plenty of opportunities to talk together again. And we can do it no matter where, without fear that anyone might know.’
“Therese stopped talking, and I was like someone coming out of a dream; half anxious and half happy, and when she said ‘ I am giving you a kiss’ , I immediately felt as if a gentle breeze was likely touching my face. And I was overcome by such a joy that I momentarily lost consciousness. Some of this sweet joy stays with me today, but I do not know what to compare it with exactly.”

A call to religious lifeFrom then on, St Therese became Van’s close companion and spiritual director, intimately guiding him in his spiritual life and his ascent towards God. As stated earlier, Van had always wanted to become a priest. “For that” he wrote, “I had sacrificed everything by imposing many spiritual and physical labors upon myself.”
But one day Therese told him, “Van, my little brother, I have something important to tell you... But it will make you very sad... God has made it known to me that you will not be a priest.” Upon hearing this, Van began to cry and said “I will never be able to live if I am not a priest...”

“Van”, Therese resumed, “if God wants your apostolate to be carried out in another field, what do you think of that?... What remains most perfect is doing the will of our Father in Heaven... You will be above all an apostle through prayer and sacrifice, as I myself was before.” Therese then guided Van's gaze to this very important passage from the Story of a Soul: “I understood that Love alone put the members of the Church in motion... I understood that Love contains all vocations, that Love was all, that it embraced all time and all places... in a word, that it is Eternal.”
Van was wondering what all this meant-- “Therese, my sister, what does this hidden vocation involve, if I am not to become a priest?”—“You will enter a monastery where you will devote yourself to God.”
One night during the winter of 1942-1943, Van had a mysterious dream. "I saw someone coming towards the head of my bed... This person dressed completely in black was rather tall, and his face reflected great kindness... He asked me the question-- 'My child, do you want to...?' But before he could finish I spontaneously answered, 'Yes.' “ Several days later, Van discovered a statue in the house that bore a strange resemblance to his dream.

It was a statue of Saint Alphonsus of Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists. Soon afterwards, St. Therese confirmed his vocation to be a Redemptorist Brother, then gave him notice of new trials. “Little dear brother, you will encounter thorns on the way, and the sky that is now calm will be covered with dark clouds...You will shed tears, you will lose your joy and you will be like a man reduced to despair... But remind yourself that the world treated Jesus like this and that a Redemptorist resembles his Savior... Nevertheless, do not be afraid. During this storm, Jesus will continue to live in the boat of your soul... Little brother, you will no longer hear me talk so familiarly with you as I do now. Do not think that I am abandoning you. On the contrary, I constantly remain close to you like a big sister should... In this world, suffering is the proof of your love, and suffering gives your love all its meaning and value.”

Thereafter, he asked to be admitted to the Redemptorists in Hanoi. Van was received at the Redemptorists in Hanoi first as a household helper and, on October 17, 1944 he was finally admitted as a postulant and received the name Brother Marcel. The day after his religious profession, Brother Marcel Van had heard Jesus tell him: “My child, for the love of mankind, offer yourself with Me so that they might be saved.”Thus assured of the value of suffering united to that of Christ, he wrote: “Jesus wanted to use my body to endure suffering, shame, and exhaustion, so that the flame of Love that consumes His divine Heart might spread in the hearts of all men on earth.”
After an initial period of joy, crosses appeared, especially in the form of his confreres' ridicule. Starting in his novitiate, at his spiritual director's request, he wrote his autobiography. For two years, Jesus, Mary, and Therese favored him with intimate conversations. But on September 9, 1946, the day after his first profession, Jesus told him, "My child, your portion now is to sacrifice the moments of sweet intimacy with me, to allow me to go in search of sinners... Then, my little Van, know that you will have to suffer because of your Superiors and Brothers. But these trials will be the sign that you are pleasing to My Heart. I am begging for all these sufferings to unite you to Me in the work of sanctification of priests.”
Like his spiritual sister St. Therese, his vocation, in part, was to suffer for Priests. And soon came the “night of the soul” for Brother Marcel. For the most part, most of the mystical graces and consolations disappeared and only the monotony of sacrifice in pure faith remained. In 1950, the young Brother was sent to Saigon, Vietnam, then to Dalat. In July 1954, North Vietnam was handed over to the Communists. Many Catholics fled for the South. Several Redemptorists remained in the house in Hanoi to take care of the Christians who stayed. Brother Marcel understood that Jesus was asking him to join them. “I am going there,” (to Hanoi) he wrote, “so that there might be someone who loves God in the midst of the Communists.” After several weeks, he wrote to his sister Anne-Marie: “Quite often I am overcome with sadness, and I only think, 'Oh, if only I hadn't come to Hanoi... But there was so much insistence in Jesus' voice!”

On Saturday, May 7, 1955, as he was going to the market, he was arrested and taken to the criminal investigation office, then jailed. Five months later, he was transferred to the central prison in Hanoi, where he met many Catholics and priests. He wrote to his Superior: “If I wanted to live, it would be easy for me. I would only have to accuse you. But don't worry, I will never agree to it.” Then, to his confessor: “In the last months, I have had to struggle as hard as I can and endure all the torture of brain-washing. The enemy has used many tricks to make me capitulate, but I have not allowed any weakness.” And to his sister: “Nothing can take the weapon of love from me. No affliction is capable of removing the kind smile that I let appear on my thin face. And who is the caress of my smile for, if not for Jesus, the Beloved?... I am the victim of Love and Love is all my happiness, an indestructible happiness.”

One year after his arrest, calm and self-controlled, he appeared before the court in Hanoi. Upon his refusal to confess that he had electioneered for the president of South Vietnam, he was condemned to 15 years of imprisonment in a “re-education” camp. He was taken to Camp No. 1, where he came across many Catholics. He wrote: “I am very busy, like a little parish priest. Apart from the hours of forced labor, I must constantly welcome the people who come one after the other looking for comfort from me... God Himself has made known to me I am doing His will here. Many times, I have asked of Him the favor of dying in this camp, but every time, He has answered me: “I am ready to follow your will as you always follow Mine, but there are souls that still need you...” Each time Brother Van would submit to God's will.

In August 1957, Brother Marcel Van was transferred to Camp No. 2. After an escape attempt to go look for consecrated Hosts, he was recaptured, beaten, and locked up in an unhealthy cell. Everything became harder for him—no more visits, no more mail, and, at the beginning of 1958, he spent three months in irons, alone, without support and without light, except for that which shone in his heart. Consumed by tuberculosis and beriberi, he flew to God at midday on July 10, 1959, at the age of 31 years, 4 months.

The Cause for the Beatification of Brother Marcel Van as a confessor of the faith opened on March 26, 1997, in the diocese of Belley-Ars, France. Click here for more info on the proposed Beatification of Marcel Van.
Primary sources for this article:
-“The Autobiography of Brother Marcel Van” Gracewing Publishing, 2006.


For more information on Brother Marcel Van, contact: Les Amis de Van, 15, Rue de l’ Orangerie, 78000 Versailles, France
Les Amis de Van French website:

~Brother Marcel Van, pray for us!

"I am the victim of Love, and Love is all my happiness--an indestructible happiness..." -Servant of God, Br. Marcel Van

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuán Shows us How to Love

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

It is one week after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, and about ten days before the feast day of perhaps the most beloved saint of our times, St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus.  The science of the Cross shows us that the greatest love can be accomplished in our darkest hours. So many saints have shown us the way.  Edith Stein spoke of the Science of the Cross, and first explained St. John of the Cross' dark night of the soul and spirit, and then lived it. St. Therese offered herself to it in her Oblation of Merciful Love, and St. Teresa of Avila knew that all was passing away and only one thing remained.

I saw in the Zenit News that the Vatican honored the 10 year anniversary of the death of Servant of God Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuán. I wanted to share with you a little bit about what was said last week, and then post Cardinal's Ten Rules of Life. For any Carmelite Christian these can be a source of deep meditation and a well of great wisdom.  Our Holy Father points out that there is also a profound link between the new evangelization and upcoming year of faith that we are entering into, and the Cross.  Although a bit lengthy, it is profound and well worth the read. I hope you enjoy it!
Vatican Official Remembers Cardinal Van Thuán on 10th Anniversary of His Death
ROME, SEPT. 17, 2012 ( Here is a translation of a homily given by Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, last Friday, to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuán
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 10th anniversary of the death of the beloved Servant of God Cardinal Van Thuán -- we still have the vivid memory of his burial a few months ago in this church of Santa Maria della Scala – is being observed with this Eucharist on the day of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Now very close are the Synod of the month of October, dedicated to the New Evangelization, and the opening of the Year of Faith.
Hence, we cannot fail to realize that this year the memory of Cardinal Van Thuán is characterized by ecclesial and pastoral references that are particularly dense with meaning.

In particular, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross enables us to recall Cardinal Van Thuán as an heroic witness of the love of Jesus Christ, of that total and faithful love that led him to suffer the torture reserved for slaves.
The Cross is the place where Jesus Christ showed the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of his love for the Father and for humanity.
Thanks to such a measureless love, which surpasses all knowledge, He fulfilled the will of God and redeemed humanity, enriching it with the capacity to love proper to God.

During the years of harsh imprisonment, the Servant of God Van Thuán drew strength from the love of the crucified Christ. He immersed himself in it celebrating the Eucharist in its greatest essence, moved by an ardent faith. He wished to represent such a suffering love to himself by making, piece by piece, the pectoral cross that, when he was released, he carried hanging from his neck, showing it to everyone, especially his refugee and emigrant fellow countrymen, as a sign of hope.

In his preaching he often quoted the liturgical prayer: O Crux ave, spes unica: Hail O Cross, our only hope.

The Cross, or better, the supreme love of Jesus Christ manifested on it, is the hope of the world. Only such a love redeems and transfigures persons, brings full prosperity to peoples. Only the total love of Christ for the Father and for humanity, received and lived, can make it possible to be reborn from the moral point of view and to found the life of the city-state on love of the other, rather than on hatred and on fear of one’s fellow men.
While he worked at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Servant of God Cardinal Van Thuán continued to look at the love of Christ crucified as the outstanding source of the humanizing and liberating renewal of culture, of politics, of the economy, of finance, of the family of peoples, of the mass media.
We all know that the New Evangelization is carried out only thanks to community or to Christian laity that live an intense faith. Such a faith is able to become a new culture and new practice if it is fully received, wholly thought-out, faithfully lived and celebrated with a passionate love of Jesus Christ.
A New Evangelization introduces and supports believers in the new life of love that Jesus Christ shows and carries out in a supreme way on the Cross, so that they become heralds and witnesses.

Hence, there is a close nexus between the New Evangelization and the Cross of Christ. The New Evangelization seeks to have us encounter Jesus Christ, to live with Him, to live his crucified love, a faithful love of God and of man.

Today’s world, especially the European, which shows signs of de-Christianization and an enfeebled faith, is in need of a New Evangelization, of looking at the Cross of Christ to be healed, as the Israelites did who, mortally bitten by “fiery serpents,” we healed by looking at the bronze serpent, placed on Moses’ staff (cf. Numbers 21:4-9).
Drawing from the love of Christ dead on the Cross, it is possible to overcome the evil poison of those “fiery serpents” that, on the plane of the interior and spiritual life are: the desire to be absolute owners of truth, the desire to dominate others, the lack of fraternity, and hatred and that, on the plane of the new ideologies, are: materialistic consumerism, mercantilism, technocracy.

Thanks to the holy gift of love of the crucified Christ that, as Benedict XVI teaches in Caritas in veritate, is love full of truth, Christianity will show the fullness of its brilliance, of its inspirational force of a new ethos and civilization, and will not be held as a simple reserve of good sentiments (cf. Caritas in veritate, n. 4).

Taking part in today’s Eucharist, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us allow ourselves to be drawn into the transcendent dynamism of the love of Christ who in a certain way makes himself a “slave” of God and of humanity, making a total gift of his life, so that no one is lost. Let us look at the example of Cardinal Van Thuan who became an eminent witness of it.

May the Cross on which Jesus stretched his arms, gathering Jews and pagans into one people, help us to be, as the Servant of God Van Thuan, heralds of unity and peace.
O Crux ave, spes unica!
+ Mario Toso

This next section is taken directly from Servant of God Van Thuan's website for his cause:

My dear friends,
I do not wish to speak about the negative aspects of captivity. I offered all that up to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What will interest you most is sincere, fraternal sharing of my experience - understanding God’s liberating power in my day to day existence.
During those thirteen years I became aware of all my weaknesses, physical as well as mental. There were moments when I could not concentrate at all, when I could not even pray. Jesus then sent me light. "I must live the testament of Christ" - In his testament, just before dying, Jesus left me his word, his body, his mother, his Church, his priesthood, his new commandment, his mission, the duty to make all things one. Several times a day, I repeated to myself, "I must live the testament of Christ" - It’s simple, it’s inexhaustible. I will try to explain how I received the strength of God’s liberating power by citing 10 rules.
Ten rules of life

1. I will live the present moment to the fullest.
2. I will discern between God and God’s works.
3. I will hold firmly to one secret: prayer.
4. I will see in the Holy Eucharist my only power.
5. I will have only one wisdom: the science of the Cross.
6. I will remain faithful to my mission in the Church and for the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.
7. I will seek the peace the world cannot give.
8. I will carry out a revolution by renewal in the Holy Spirit.
9. I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity.
10. I will have one very special love: The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Explanation of the Ten Rules of life
1. I will live the present moment to the fullest
On August 15th 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 Nhatrang where I had been bishop for 8 years, between 1967 and 1975, to Saigon, to become Archbishop Coadjutor. For the Communist government this transfer, made one week before their arrival in Saigon, on April 30, 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.
I was removed far from my diocese and was taken to the village of Cay-Vang, 400 km from Saigon. Day and night I was obsessed with the thought of my people. How was I going to stay in touch with my people? Just at the time when they needed their pastor most. The separation was heart-breaking.
One night, light came: "It’s simple, imitate the example of Saint Paul when he was in prison. He wrote letters to the various communities. The very next morning, I called to Quang, a little boy who was coming home from Mass. "Go and tell your mother to buy some old calendars". When evening came, Quang brought me the calendars and every night during the months of October and November 1975, I wrote down my message from captivity for my people. Every morning the boy took the torn-off pages home and his brothers and sisters recopied the message. That is how the book "The Road of Hope" came to be written, and it has been published into six languages: Vietnamese, English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. God’s liberating power gives energy to work to accomplish even in the most desperate moments.
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. The Road of Hope is paved with small acts of hope along life’s way. A life of hope is born of every minute of hope in that lifetime." (RH978).
In 1980, in obligatory residence in Giang xa’ village in North Vietnam, I continued to write other books always during the night and in secret: "The Pilgrims on the Road of Hope" and "The Road of Hope in the Light of God’s Word and the Vatican Council"..
2. I will discern between God and God’s works
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... (1700km)
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, evangelizing non-Christians. All of that is excellent work, the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give I 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 Communist put me in the hold of the boat, the HAI-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.
3. I will hold firmly to one secret: prayer
When I was let out of prison, several people remarked that at least I had had lot of time to pray! It’s not as simple as you may think. God allowed me to see all my weaknesses, both physical and mental. Time passes so slowly in prison, particularly during solitary confinement. A week, a month, two months are exceedingly long but as they turn into years, it becomes an eternity! There were days when I was not able to recite a single prayer.
A story came to my mind, the story of old Jim. Every day at twelve o’clock, Jim went into church and after not more than two minutes, he left. The sacristan was intrigued. One day, he grabbed Jim and asked, "What do you come in here for every day?"
"I come in say prayer"
"That’s impossible. What kind of a prayer can you say in 2 minutes?"
"Me ignorant old man; pray to God my own pray."
"But what do you say?"
"I say, "Jesus, here Jim" and I go out"
Years go by. Jim grows old becomes ill and enters the hospital, in the ward for poor people. After a time, they see that Jim is going to die and the priest and a nurse are with him at his beside.
"Tell us, Jim, why is it that since your arrival in the ward everything has changed for the better? The men are happier and friendlier."
"Dun no. When I could walk, I went around and visit everybody, say hello, talk a bit. When I’m laid up. I call to everybody from my bed, laugh a lot, make everybody happy. Jim always happy."
"But why are you always happy?"
"When you get a visit every day, you happy, right?
"That’s right. But who comes to see you? We’ve never seen anyone."
"Jesus. He come every day at twelve o’clock."
"And what does he day to you?"
"He says, Jim, here Jesus!"
As Jim was dying, he gestured and smiled broadly and pointed to the chair beside his bed, inviting someone to sit down. After a short time, he smiled again, closed his eyes and died.
At times, when my strength failed and I could not even recite my prayers, I repeated, "Jesus, here Francis". Consolation came and I knew that Jesus was replying, "Francis, here Jesus".
Praying is being with someone, with Jesus.
You ask, "what prayers were you able say?"
I prayed with the word of God, the Psalms. I said the prayers I had recited in the family chapel every evening when I was a child. The liturgical songs came back to me. I often sang the Veni Creator, the hymns of the martyrs, the Sanctorum Meritis, the Credo... To truly appreciate those beautiful prayers, it is necessary to have experienced the darkness of incarceration, conscious of the fact that your suffering is offered for faithfulness to the Church. In particular I call two prayers my prayers of liberation.
The Litany of the Saints:
From all evil, Lord save your people.
From every sin, Lord, save your people.
From everlasting death, Lord, save your people.
By your death and rising to new life, Lord, save your people.
By your gift of the Holy Spirit, Lord, save your people.
The Beatitudes
On one hand, I share the misery of the poor, of those who shed tears those who are persecuted for justice’ sake. On the other, I contemplate God’s mercy and strength which frees them. The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
"Why are there crises in the Church?"
"Simply because people do not take prayer seriously anymore" (RH 134)
4. I will see in the Holy Eucharist my only power
"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. The police asked me: "Do you have pains in your stomach?" "Yes" "Here is some medicine for you!" I will never be able to express the joy that was mine: each day, 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 fifty 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 nine-thirty 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 neighbors under their mosquito nets. We made tiny bags from cigarette paper to protect the Blessed Sacrament.
Every week there was an indoctrination session which all 250 prisoners attended. At the break we could smoke a cigarette or chat. My Catholic companions took advantage of the break to pass around the Blessed Sacrament to other groups. Jesus Christ was at work, curing physical and mental suffering. Many of the others who had lost their faith came back during those days.
At night, he 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.
I spent nine years in solitary confinement and during that time I said Mass every day at three o’clock, the hour of Jesus death on the cross. I was all alone and could sing and chant whatever I wished, in Latin, in French and Vietnamese. I always carried with me the same tiny bag containing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, "You in me and me in you".
They were the most beautiful Masses of my life. From 9 to 10 PM during the hour of adoration, I sang Lauda Sion, Miserere, Te Deum. In spite of the fact that the loudspeakers continued to bark from 5 AM to 11:30PM, every single day, I felt a singular peace of mind and heart and joy in the company of Jesus and Mary. I sang the Salve Regina and the Salve Mater and became one with the universal Church. I could see from my cell the entire Church, without boundaries, and in the rage of criticism and accusation against the Church, I sang "Tu es Petrus - You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church" The presence of Jesus in the Eucharist consoles and unites us, vivifies and transforms us like the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus.
You believe in one power: the Blessed Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord which make you live. "I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). As the manna fed the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land, so will the Blessed Eucharist nourish you as you travel on the Road of Hope.
5. I will have only one wisdom: the science of the Cross
When I look back on my past, it’s hard to understand the meandering of the path I traveled. I walked on nettles and rocks, I sang with joy as I moved ahead, groping my way in the darkness. Yet Jesus was there, walking with me, guiding me, carrying me when I could no longer move, when I was inches from death. It was at those moments that I would turn my thoughts to Jesus crucified and abandoned. He could no longer teach or cure the sick or raise his friend from the dead. He was in absolute immobility. In the eyes of the world he had lost, he was useless and frustrated. But in God’s eyes, Jesus, on the Cross, had accomplished the greatest act of all; he had shed his blood to save humanity.
I was liberated by the thought of Jesus crucified. When I was crushed by pain, disdain, unjust accusations, ingratitude and incomprehension, I prayed to unite myself to Jesus on the Cross and I knew that this was the most important act of my life. I often sang "O crux ave, spes unica mundi salus et gloria!" . Jesus, save the World!
You have one wisdom: the science of the Cross. (1 Cor 2:2). Look to the Cross and there you will find the solution to all the problems which are worrying you. If the Cross is the standard by which you make all your choices and decisions, your soul will be at peace (RH 989).
What is foolishness in the eyes of men is wisdom in the eyes of God. 1 Cor 3:19 and 1 Cor 1:27 (RH 106).
The Church was born on the Cross. The Church grows by continuing the passion of Jesus until the end of time. If you put your trust in money, in diplomacy, in power and influence, or in campaigns of any kind, you will be very sadly misled (RH 258).
6. I will remain faithful to my mission in the Church and for the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.
In his testament, Jesus left me his Church but at the same time he entrusted me with a mission. "Be my witness unto the ends of the earth." (Act 1:8). I cannot be faithful to the testament of Jesus unless I carry out my mission within the Church and for the Church: "Love the Church. Obey the Church. Be loyal to the Church. Pray for the Church (RH 253). There are various kinds of Catholics, the Catholic who makes use of the Church, the Catholic in name only; there is the opportunist and the honorary Catholic looking for status. But Our Lord accepts only those who are one hundred percent Catholic, those who accept him unconditionally. "They left all and followed him" (Lk. 5:11).
I was accused of being involved in the conspiracy between the Vatican and the Imperialist against the Communists merely because Pope Paul had transferred me to Saigon one week before the arrival of the Communist troops. I was imprisoned without trial, without sentence.
I repeated often, as did Paul VI, "For the Church, for the Church".
How can I be a witness of Christ? One day I told a Communist cadre who was criticizing the Church: "We have two different meanings for the same words. If you sincerely wish to understand the Church, to dialogue with Catholics, I propose to write an index of religious vocabulary in Latin, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Chinese with Vietnamese definitions. If you accept my offer, please give me some paper and a pen. He agreed and I began, from "About to Zizania".
When the cadre returned, I explained a few words of the index to him, the meanings, the history and development of the Church, for instance, - what is an abbot - an abbey - life in an abbey - silence, poverty, obedience, chastity, fasting, manual work, pastoral and intellectual work, etc... His curiosity was aroused. Very slowly, I continued to explain the index, a kind of intensive catechism for Communist cadres! It was a way to dialogue in truth and love instead of debate and criticism.
I did the same with my guards who asked me to teach them foreign languages. They brought me French books. While teaching them French history, civilization, literature and culture, I was able to explain the impact of the gospel on France and on European history and its culture.
The role of the apostle in our times is to be in the midst of the world, not of the world, but for the world making use of the facilities of the world (RH 340).
7. I will seek the peace the world cannot give
When I began to discern between God and God’s works, when I chose God and his will and left everything else in his hands when I learned to love others, especially my enemies as Jesus loved me, I felt great peace in my heart. Deprived of freedom, of absolutely everything and living in extreme poverty in my dark cell, I was at peace because I could say, "My God and my all".
The peace that the world cannot give brought me great joy. "Holiness consists in being continuously joyful because we possess God" (RH 532).
"Why are you unhappy? It must be that something disturbs your relations with God" (RH 534). "You forget that you have the gift of happiness to present to others, the gift of peace which this world cannot give, your treasure of joy which knows no bounds" (RH 540). In the light of these thoughts, I laughed at myself and at the world. The things that seemed so important ten years ago appeared foolish. Why did I let those things disturb my interior peace? They were all vain, infantile, ambitious, anxious yearnings that separated me from God.
I will say with Mother Teresa: "My message is smile" The by-pass that can cure my heart is called "everything passes". On my Episcopal ring, two words are inscribed: "Todo pasa". Saint Teresa of Avila wrote that, "Todo pasa, solo Dios basta".
8. I will carry out a revolution by renewal in the Holy Spirit
Jesus Christ came into the world to bring fire to burn all waste, a sword to cut all the bonds that hold us in slavery. He brought Truth because Truth alone can set us free. He died to free us from death. He rose from the dead to give us life in abundance.
How do we carry out this revolution? "You desire to carry out a revolution, namely the reform of the world. You will carry out this precious and noble mission which God has entrusted to you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Every day, prepare a new Pentecost around you" (RH 979).
I have lived in a country which suffered through 40 years of war, which experienced the failure of Communist ideology and the frustrations of consumerism. The lyrics of the song "Empty Chairs, Empty Tables" from Les Miserables echo in my mind, after a frustrated and failed revolution:
"Here they spoke of revolution,
Here it was they lit the flame!
Here they sang about tomorrow
And tomorrow never came!"
Where are we going? - Church, Quo vadis?
Where do we find a new way of being the Church?
In Asia? In the USA?
Pope Paul VI clearly expressed this challenge to follow the Spirit in his encyclical Populorum Progressio n.13:
"...As far as experience in human affair is concerned, the Church, without attempting in any way to interfere in the politics of states... seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit" (GS n.3).
What is the new path shown to us by Pope John Paul II? It is the idea of New Evangelization.
"Every day, re-evangelize your mind and heart with reading and meditation; immerse yourself in the everlasting Word so that the gospel will gradually permeate and take deep root in every cell and every fiber of your body. That is renewal: the most enduring revolution." (RH646) "The most solid barrier is not a fortress; it is not a fence. It is indifference" (RH 652).
When Jesus saw the fear of the apostles and the trembling of his disciples as they received the mission he entrusted to them, "Be my witness unto the ends of the earth", Jesus simply said, "Do not be afraid! (Mt 17:7) "You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you and then, you will be my witnesses" (Act 1:8).
9. I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity
Prisoners held captive for very long periods, without trial and in oppressive conditions retain bitter memories and sentiments of hate and vengeance. That’s a normal reaction everywhere.
I was in prison for 13 years, 9 of which in solitary confinement.
Two guards watched me but never spoke to me; just yes and no.
But I knew that after all, they were my brothers and I had to be kind to them. I had no gift to offer as a prisoner I had nothing at all, nothing to please them. What to do? One night, a thought came. "You are still very rich. You have the love of Christ in your heart. Love them as Jesus loves you". The next day I set to work, first, by showing gladness and by smiling. I began to tell stories about my journeys in countries where people live in freedom and enjoy their culture and great technical progress. That stimulated their curiosity and they asked many, many questions. Slowly, very slowly, we became friends. They wanted to learn foreign languages. My guards became my disciples! The atmosphere of the prison changed considerably. The quality of our relationship changed for the better.
At that time, in another part of the area, a group of twenty people were learning Latin to be able to read Church documents. Their teachers was a former catechist. One of my guards was in the Latin class and one day he asked me if I could teach him songs in Latin.
"There are so many ", I replied, "And they are all so beautiful".
"You sing and I’ll choose " he retorted.
And so I sang Salve Regina, Salve Mater, Lauda Sion, Veni Creator, Ave Maris Stella - You’ll never guess the song he chose. The Veni Creator!
I can’t begin to tell you how moving it is to be in a Communist prison and hear your guard, coming down the stairs at 7 AM every morning on his way to the gymnastics yard for physical exercises, singing the Veni Creator.
I will speak one language: Charity.
While at prison in Vinh-Quang in the mountains of North Vietnam, I was sawing wood one afternoon. I asked my ever-present guard, who had become my friend, if I could ask him for a favor.
"What is it? I’ll help you"
"I want to saw off a small piece of wood in the form of a cross."
"Don’t you know that’s strictly forbidden to have any sign of religion whatsoever?"
"I promise to keep it hidden."
"But it would be extremely dangerous for the both of us." "Close your eyes, I’ll do it right now and I’ll be very careful"
He turned his back and left me alone. I sawed a small cross which I later hid in a piece of melted down soap. I have kept it always and had it mounted in a piece of metal and it has become my pectoral cross.
In another prison in Hanoi, I became friends with my guard and was able to request a piece of metal wire. He was terrified. "I studied in the University of Police that when someone wants electric wire he want is to kill himself!" he cried. I explained the Christians, and most of all priests, do not commit suicide.
"And so what are you going to do with electric wire?" he asked."
"I need a chain to wear my cross."
"But how can you make a chain from wire?"
"If you bring me two little pincers, I’ll show you."
"Much too dangerous!"
"But we’re friends!"
He hesitated and finally said, "It’s too hard to refuse. Tonight at 7 PM we’ll do it. But we have to finish before 11. I’ll have my companion take the evening off. If he knew, he’d denounce the both of us.
That evening, with the tools he brought, we cut and shaped and worked together to make my chain and we finished it before 11 PM!
This cross and chain are not only my souvenir of captivity, as precious as that may seem. They are a constant reminder that only Christian charity can bring about a change of heart. Not arms, not threats, not the media. It was very hard for my guards to understand when I spoke about loving our enemies, reconciliation and forgiveness.
"Do you really love us?"
"Yes, I really love you."
"Even when we cause you pain? When you suffer because you’re in prison without trial?"
"Look at all the years we’ve spent together. Of course, I love you!" "And when you get out, will you tell your people to find us and beat us and hurt our families?"
"I’ll continue to love you even if you wish to kill me" "But why?"
"Because Jesus taught us to love always; if we don’t, we are no longer worthy to be called Christians."
There is not enough time to tell you all the other moving stories which are proof of the liberating power of the love of Jesus.
"You wear one uniform and speak one language - Charity. "Charity is the sign by which you will be recognized as one of our Lord’s disciples. (John 10:10). It is a badge which costs little but is most difficult to find. Charity is the most important language. Saint Paul regarded it as far more important than being able "to speak the languages of men and even of angels" (1 Cor 13:1) (RH 984).
10. I will have one special love: the Blessed Virgin Mary
The harsh years in prison pass very slowly. While suffering humiliation and abandonment, my only support and hope was the love of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. The wonderful servants of Mary, Grignon de Montfort, Don Bosco, Maximilien Kolbe were my companions on the road of hope. They inspired me and gave me unwavering trust in the love of Mary, the Queen of the Apostles and Martyrs.
I said this prayer to Mary. "Mary, my Mother, if you know that I cannot be of any more use to the Church, grant me the grace to die here in prison and consummate my sacrifice. If you know that I can still be of use to the church, grant me the grace of freedom on one of your feast days. In fact, on November 21, 1988, I was cooking my meal when I heard my guard being called to the phone.
I had an idea it might be because of me. A few minutes after, the guard called to me. "Mr. Thuan, have you finished eating?" "No, not yet."
"Right after your meal, go and see the chief... and good luck!"
I was taken to meet the Minister of Police and after a brief conversation, he asked, "Do you wish to express any request?"
"Yes, Mr. Minister, I wish to be let free!"
The Minister feigned surprise but I knew the day had come. It was the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple and she was answering my prayer.
To counter the Minister’s surprise I replied, "You see, Mr. Minister, I have been in prison for three pontificates: Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II. I have been here during the offices of four Secretary Generals of the Communist Party, Bhreznev, Andropov, Tchernenko and Gorbachev."
His eyes opened wide. "Yes" that’s right. All right. Your request is granted. You are free.