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Gathering the Fragments, Gathering Humanity


"Were you able to celebrate the Eucharist in prison?" is one question that many people have asked me…. 

cardinalthuan32The faithful sent a little bottle of wine for Mass, which they labelled "stomach medicine," as well as some hosts sealed in a flashlight…. I will never be able to express my immense joy: every day, with three drops of wine and one drop of water in the palm of my hand, I celebrated my Mass.

It depended on the situation, however.  On the boat that brought us north, I celebrated at night with the prisoners who received Communion around me….  In the reeducation camp, the prisoners were divided into groups of fifty; we slept on common beds and everyone had the right to fifty centimeters of space.  We arranged it so that there were five Catholics near me.  At 9:30 pm the lights were turned off and everyone had to sleep.  I curled up on the bed to celebrate Mass, from memory….  We made small containers…to reserve the Blessed Sacrament.  Jesus in the Eucharist was always with me….

At night, the prisoners took turns for adoration; Jesus helped us in a tremendous way with his silent presence.  Many Christians regained the fervor of their faith during those days, and Buddhists and other non-Christians converted.  The strength of Jesus' love is irresistible.  The darkness of prison became light; the seed germinated underground during the storm.

Every time I offer Mass I have the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter cup.  Every day, praying and hearing the words of the consecration, I confirm with all my heart and with all my soul a new covenant, an eternal covenant between me and Jesus, through his Blood mixed with mine.

Jesus began a revolution from the cross.  Your revolution must begin from the Eucharistic table and has to be carried forward from there.  In this way you will be able to renew humanity.



cardinal van thuanVenerable Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. "Gathering the Fragments, Gathering Humanity." from Five Loaves & Two Fish (Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media/The Daughters of St. Paul, 1997).

Used with permission.

The Author

tuanVenerable Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (1928-2002) was arrested by the Communist government of Vietnam in 1975 and imprisoned for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement, and then finally exiled from Vietnam in 1991. Always reticent about speaking of himself, Cardinal Nguyen slowly began to realize that his prison experience of suffering and hope could help others in their journey of faith. The reflections he prepared for the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris became the framework for Five Loaves & Two Fish.

Copyright © 1997 Pauline Books & Media/The Daughters of St. Paul
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