Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MARTYRS OF VIETNAM (19TH CENTURY)

Today we honor St. Andrew Dung-Lac and 116 other martyrs (59 lay people, 50 priests, 8 bishops), native Vietnamese and foreign missionaries, who gave their lives for the faith. In the early Church, during similar persecutions, it was said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the faith. After the blood of these martyrs was shed, the Church grew in Vietnam and bore fruit in the life of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan who died of cancer in 2002. Shortly before his death he spoke at a conference in Los Angeles and told how he was able to survive 13 years in a Communist prison. As we reflect on his words, let us pray that all those who are struggling with addictions may find God who gives the hope of freedom.

Alone in my prison cell, I continued to be tormented by the fact that I was forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, that I had worked for eight years as a bishop and gained so much pastoral experience and there I was isolated, inactive and far from my people. One night, from the depths of my heart I could hear a voice advising me: "Why torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God - everything you have done and desire to continue to do, pastoral visits, training seminarians, sisters and members of religious orders, building schools, evangelizing non-Christians. All of that is excellent work, the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work into his hands, do it and trust him. God will do the work infinitely better than you; he will entrust the work to others who are more able than you. You have only to choose God and not the works of God!"

This light totally changed my way of thinking. When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat, 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.

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