Books: Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan excerpt: The Road of Hope
A Gospel From Prison

By Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

In 1975, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was traveling to Saigon, Vietnam, to become its new Coadjutor Bishop. On the way, he was arrested and imprisoned – an incarceration that lasted thirteen years.

Despite tremendous risk, Van Thuan refused to remain passive. During his nights in prison, he wrote encouraging messages to the Vietnamese people. These brief reflections, scribbled on scraps of paper, were smuggled out of prison, coped by hand and circulated within the community. Bishop Van Thuan was thus able to remain connected to the people in a hidden yet powerful way.

The Road of Hope is the collection of these 1,001 messages, a true “gospel from prison,” written to console and strengthen a weary people in a war-torn land. They remain the heartfelt, personal words of a father who sustained and nourished his children’s desire for freedom. Today, they speak to us - an invitation to begin our own journey on the Road of Hope, leading us into our future.

Here is an excerpt from his speech:
Faith: Cardinal Francis Nguyen Van Thuan How faith survived in a Communist prison

"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, and 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 be great joy.

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. I was in prison for 13 years, nine of which were 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 of 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 curiousity 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.

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 teacher was a former cathechist. 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 seven every morning on his way to the gymnastics yard for physical exercises, singing the Veni Creator.

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 - St. Louis de Montfort, Don Bosco, Maximilian 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 21 November 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!” “When?” “Today!”

The Minister feigned suprise, 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 suprise, “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, Brezhnev, ANdropov, Cherneko and Gorbachev.”

His eyes opened wide. “Yes”, that’s right. All right. Your request is granted. You are free."

So my question is: :o Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan has written several books:
**The Road of Hope: A Gospel From Prison ** - by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
** Five Loaves & Two Fish ** by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
** Testimony of Hope: The Spiritual Exercises of Pope John Paul II ** - by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
** Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage ** - by Francis Xavier Van Thuan Nguyen

Which ones ought to be read? And in what order? :eek: :o :heart: :stuck_out_tongue:

maybe off topic, but I have the Testimony of Hope, and it seems to be quite a good book. I haven’t started reading it yet.

I’ll read that after finishing “Man Searching for Meaning” by Victor Frankl.


Thank you for reminding me about the book Man Searching for Meaning. This book also needs to be on my reading list. :stuck_out_tongue:

Selected (and revised :o ) excerpts from: A Pope’s Answer to the Problem of Pain (puts Victor Frankl’s book Man Searching for Meaning in perspective

In fact, our most recent His Holiness Pope John Paul II "was in third grade when his mother died; his only sibling, an older brother, died three years later; he discovered his father dead on the floor in their apartment. Karol Wojityla was an orphan at twenty. Nor where his troubles were not limited to loss of his whole family. The Nazis overran his country, and he did hard labor in a stone quarry. During the Nazi rule, many of his friends were killed, some in concentration camps, others shot by the Gestapo for the crime of studying for the priesthood. He was run down by a German truck and nearly died. When the Nazis finally let his beloved Poland, he and his countrymen again came under the rule of a dictator when the iron boot of Joseph Stalin replaced that of Adolf Hitler. Later in life, his beloved Church was torn apart by the storm that followed the Second Vatican Council. At sixty, an Islamic assassin shot him in his own front yard, and he nearly died again. As an old man, he suffered from debilitating Parkinson’s disease that rendered him immobile, distored his physical apearance, and finally took his ability to speak. Pope John Paul II knew about human suffering.

Yet, as was evident to all who saw him, he was a man overflowing with joy. He experienced the mystery of suffering and the affliction endured by every single human person, but he also discovered the meaning of suffering. He had found an “answer” to the problem of pain.

Fulbright scholar Christopher Kaczor analyzes Victor Franke’s book Man’s Search for Meaning that describes his horrifying experiences in Nazi concentration camps. He notes that although the prisoners were in the same material circumstances–the most horrible imaginable–they did not all react in the same way. Some prisoners killed themselves by walking into electrified fences; others clung to life and even found joy despite the atrocities occurring around them daily. What made the difference? One way to put it is that man can endure anything if he has a reson (logos) to live. Conversely, man can endure nothing if he does not.

A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person “completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”, the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. (SD 27)

Christ gives us a reason to live, however much we suffer.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II
On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering

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