PRAYER VIGIL, CATHEDRAL OF STS. PETER AND PAUL
MAY 17, 2010
Venerable Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan died in 2002. In his lifetime he was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years, nine of which were in solitary confinement. His motto as a bishop was “Gaudium et spes.” “Joy and Hope” amid sacrifice. That is a motto for us too.
Cardinal Van Thuan recalls that many people asked him “Were you able to celebrate the Eucharist in prison?” He said the faithful sent him a little bottle of wine for mass, which they labelled “stomach medicine,” as well as some hosts sealed in a flashlight. He recalls, “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.”
When in the so-called “reeducation” camp, he arranged for five Catholics to sleep next to him. After lights out, he said, “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. Many Christians regained their faith, and Buddhists and other non-Christians converted. The darkness of prison became light; the seed germinated underground during the storm.”
Winston Churchill said after Dunkirk, “The Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war…Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
The devil knows that if we remain steady in our islands of quarantine, he will have lost his battle. So, with or without opened churches celebrating the Eucharist, we cannot let our hunger for the Eucharist be used by the devil who is hungering for our souls. Getting what we want is not the victory. Getting what the Lord wants is victory over the devil.
Churchill gave this speech not knowing, of course, exactly what would happen. In this quarantine, at this peaceful prayer vigil, not knowing what will happen, we nevertheless, make our needs known, as canon law provides, to our shepherds. We will point to the unbelievable classification by the government that churches are considered non-essential while abortion clinics are. We will point to the contradiction between leaving some retail businesses open while the faithful are deprived of the Eucharist. We will make known the creative ways other shepherds have introduced, while respecting government restrictions and the guidelines of the church. We will be as courageous as the health workers who face serious dangers every day.
We are encouraged to know that 58 dioceses have reopened their churches for worship. We pray to be number 59. Face masks and social distancing are needed to protect our physical bodies for physical life. The Eucharist is needed to protect our souls for eternal life.
We pray to St. Charles Borromeo who in his time was that courageous and creative shepherd who kept his faithful safe but provided the Bread of Life. This was his “finest hour.” In imitating him, let us make this our finest “hour.”
By: Fr. H. James Hutchins