WEDNESDAY     April 5, 2000    vol. 11, no. 68    SECTION TWO

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SECTION TWO Contents: Go immediately to the article:
WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:
  • LITURGY for April 4, 5 and 6
  • Daily WORD for April 4
  • SPECIAL ON-LINE LENTEN RETREAT from Rome - Day Five, Six and Seven


       Today's and tomorrow's liturgy are both Lenten Weekdays plus the Optional Feast today of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and tomorrow's additional Optional Feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer, Priest and Religious Founder. For the readings, liturgies, meditations, and profiles on these saints, see DAILY LITURGY
    as well as April 5th LITURGY
    and April 6th LITURGY.

    Tuesday, April 4, 2000

      Tuesday April 4:
      Tuesday in Lent and
      Optional Feast of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

      Purple vestments

        First Reading: Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12
        Responsorial: Psalm 45: 2-3, 4-6, 8-9
        Gospel Reading: John 5: 1-16

    Saint Isidore of Seville

         Not to be confused with the other saint born in the twelfth century who is the patron saint of farmers, this Saint Isidore of Seville was born in 556 most probably through Roman parents. It was a holy family for three others among his immediate family became saints also: Saint Leander, Fulgentius, both brothers, and his sister Florentina. But he is the one most famous from this family. Though he was most interested in the monastic rule and its strict observance to which he composed his own rule that was observed faithfully throughout Spain, he was never a monk. He was, however a bishop and succeeded Leander as Bishop of Seville. There for forty years he governed the diocese, converting the pagan Visigoths who had embraced Arianism to the Catholic faith. He was loved by all and founded a famous seminary in Seville where he also headed the faculty. It was so successful that in 633 the Fourth Council of Toledo made it mandatory that the same curriculum be established in other schools which would become the benchmark and model for famous universities throughout Europe. Isidore was an etremely educated man who was also a great historian, having written the History of the Goths and the Book of Etymologies; the latter dealt with word origins helping all understand languages while the former was a compendium of mankind's journey to that time. He died in 636 at the ripe age of 80 and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Innocent XIII in 1722.

    Wednesday, April 5, 2000

      Wednesday April 5:
      Wednesday in Lent and
      Optional Feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer, Priest

      Purple vestments

        First Reading: Isaiah 49: 8-15
        Responsorial: Psalm 145: 8-9, 13-14, 17-18
        Gospel Reading: John 5: 17-30

    Saint Vincent Ferrer

         On this date in 1419 Saint Vincent Ferrer, who was born on January 23, 1350 in Valencia, Spain, died in Vannes, France after a life of devotion to the Church at the age of 69. This zealous Dominican preacher played a significant role in ending the Great Western Schism through his preaching and healing throughout Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. He was an eloquent preacher who taught Popes as well as royalty, serving as confessor to Queen Yolanda of Aragon. He is often associated with Saint Bernardine who also dedicated his life to God and vowed to be a great preacher of the Holy Name of God. One day in 1408, while St. Vincent was preaching to a group of young Franciscans, he stopped in the middle of his sermon to prophesize that there was among this group one who would go on to become a greater preacher than himself and would bring great honor to Holy Mother Church. Bernardine never dreamed it was him Ferrer was talking about for he had a speech impediment that hindered him from speaking eloquently to the people. Yet, true to St. Vincent's prediction, Bernardine went on to become just that as God cured him through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ferrer had the gift of prophecy and mysticism along with his priestly gifts. He attracted thousands of followers throughout Europe. He was canonized by Pope Calistus III in 1455.

    Thursday, April 6, 2000

        First Reading: Exodus 32: 7-14
        Responsorial: Psalm 106: 19-23
        Gospel Reading: John 5: 31-47

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    For the Gospel of Tuesday, April 4th - John 5: 14-16
    "'Behold, thou art cured. Sin no more, lest something worse befall thee.' The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had had healed him. And this is why the Jews kept persecuting Jesus, because He did such things on the Sabbath."

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    Archbishop Van Thuan shares power of the Eucharist

      We continue today, thanks to ZENIT News Organization, the spiritual exercises that Retreat Master Archbishop Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan preached to the Holy Father and Curia the week just before the Pope's "Jubilee Journey" to the Holy Land. Because of the wonders of the internet, all readers can now share in the inspiration that touched the Vicar of Christ and give all readers the opportunity to make a Lenten On-Line Retreat, so to speak, by contemplating on what the Archbishop presents, then going in silent prayer and meditation as John Paul II and his staff did to gain a greater peace and spirituality. The ideal way is to be able to go before the Blessed Sacrament and attend Daily Mass, but if this is not possible, then quiet time with Our Lord in meditation and prayer is the best scenario. For today's Fifth Spiritual Exercise, The Eucharist,
    as well as LENTEN ON-LINE RETREAT - Day Six
    and LENTEN ON-LINE RETREAT - Day Seven.

    Spiritual Exercises preached to the Holy Father and his staff just prior to his historic "Jubilee Journey"
    John Paul II's Spiritual Exercises
    Fifth Day of Reflections - Papal Spiritual Exercises
    conducted by
    Archbishop Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
    President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

    Today's Introduction: Today, continuing with his preaching of the Spiritual Exercises to John Paul II and his collaborators in the Roman Curia, Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân continued today with a consideration of the Eucharist. As on other days, Vietnamese Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân illustrated the points of the retreat with stories from his life, particularly drawing from his 13 years of imprisonment at the hands of the communists.

         The Archbishop recalled, "When they imprisoned me in 1975, an anguished question came to my mind: 'Will I be able to celebrate Mass?' " He explained that that when he was arrested, he was not permitted to take his personal belongings; the following day he was allowed to write his family to request essentials like clothes, toothpaste, etc. "Please send me some wine, as medication for my stomach ache," he wrote. The faithful understood immediately what he wanted and sent him a small bottle labeled "Medicine for Stomach Ache." They also concealed some hosts among his clothes.

         The police asked him: "Do you have a stomach ache?"

         "Yes," the Archbishop of Saigon replied.

         "Here is your medicine."

         "I shall never be able to express my joy: every day I celebrated Mass with three drops of wine and one of water in the palm of my hand. Every day I was able to kneel before the Cross with Jesus, drink with Him His most bitter chalice. Every day, when reciting the consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and with all my soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me, through His Blood mixed with mine. They were the most beautiful Masses of my life," stated Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân.

         Later, when the Archbishop was sent in a re-education camp, he joined a group of 50 prisoners. They slept in a common bunk. Each one had the right to 50 centimeters of space. "We arranged it so that five Catholics were next to me. Lights went out at 21:30 and everyone had to sleep. In bed, I celebrated Mass by heart, and distributed Communion by passing my hand under the mosquito net. We made envelopes with cigar paper to conserve the Most Blessed Sacrament. I always carried the Eucharistic Christ in the pocket of my shirt."

         Since there was an indoctrination session every week in which all the groups of 50 persons who made up the re-education camp participated, the Archbishop took advantage of pauses, and with the help of his Catholic companions passed the Eucharist to the other four groups of prisoners. "They all knew Jesus was among them, and He cures all physical and mental sufferings. At night, the prisoners took turns at Adoration. The Eucharistic Christ helps in an unimaginable way with His silent presence: many Catholics began to believe again enthusiastically. Their testimony of service and love made an ever greater impact on the other prisoners, even some Buddhists and non-Christians embraced the faith. Jesus' force is irresistible. The darkness of the prison became a paschal light."

         For the preacher of the Papal Spiritual Exercises, "Jesus began a revolution on the cross. The revolution of the civilization of love must begin in the Eucharist, and from here it must derive its force."

         "I will end with a dream; in it, the Roman Curia is like a large host, in the heart of the Church, which is like a great Cenacle," the Archbishop told the gathered members of the Curia. "All of us are like grains of wheat that allow themselves to be ground by the exigencies of communion to form only one body, in full solidarity and full dedication, as bread of life for the world, as a sign of hope for humanity. Only one bread and only one body." ZE00031605

    April 5: vol. 11, no. 68: Wednesday: STRENGTH OF CHRISTIANS IN WEAKNESS

    Today's Introduction: Today, continuing with his preaching of the Spiritual Exercises to John Paul II and his collaborators in the Roman Curia, Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân focused the attention of the Pope and members of the Curia on the Catholic Church's condition as a "minority." The week of spritual exercises will end tomorrow with a final meditation.

    Reality of Being a Minority

         Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân pointed out that the Church's minority condition was emphasized by European bishops during their recent Synod. At the time, they expressed that "the Church in traditionally Christian lands finds itself in a minority situation."

         The data cited by the Synod could be described as disheartening: "a decrease in religious and priestly vocations; in religious practice; relegation of religion to realm of private life, with the related difficulty to contribute the Christian message to customs and institutions, and to transmit the faith to new generations."

         Because of this, Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân began his reflection by stating: "A characteristic of the Church in today's world is to be a minority."

         In order to illustrate his point, the Archbishop spoke about his daily experience in his trips around the world using a Vatican passport, as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. "I often have difficulties with the police at airports. In general, the Italians don't cause any problems. In Germany, it is more difficult: 'What is the Holy See?' they ask. In Malaysia, it is much more complicated: 'Where is the Holy See?' they ask me. I reply, 'In Italy, in Rome.' Then they take me to a big globe in which obviously the Vatican does not appear. Then they make me wait half an hour with the illegal immigrants."

         "To live as a minority calls for an effort in discernment of the new situation in order to understand God's plan for the Church in the today of history and, consequently, to know how we must behave. Then we won't feel inferiority complexes but, on the contrary, we will live in great hope," explained the Archbishop.

         In order to explain this concept of a "quantitative minority," Archbishop Van Thuan recalled the story of Gideon, a "judge" of Israel in the 12th century before Christ. Gideon defeated his enemies with only 300 men whose weapons were only horns. He also recalled David's confrontation with Goliath, stating that "Goliath represents evil, in other words, ideologies and values that are against the Gospel. Goliath is hostile, threatening and provoking. This is true for the Church today. Faced with evil, it must confront Goliath, a terrifying giant who seems invincible."

         In the beginning, David made the wrong decision. He dressed in armor of power and force, but his movements were hampered. "I cannot walk with all this; I am not used to it," he said, as the Church could say, when referring to the world's arsenal. However, the "Church has her own weapons to face the battle," the Archbishop said. "And they are the only weapons that really count."

         David said: "Goliath, you oppose me with the sword, the lance and the arrow. I will present myself in the name of the Lord of the armies." For David, a sling and five stones were enough to defeat Goliath.

         "Every giant has his weak spot. Suffice it to pay attention. A well placed stone defeated a giant and his sword was used to cut off his head," recounted Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân.

      God's Strength

         "David is the figure of the Church today. In many situations, we are in a minority as regards numbers, strength, possibilities, and means. But, just like David, we go forward in the name of God. Throughout history, both in its universal as well as its local dimension, the Church was a minority in face of the Roman Empire and the Barbarian invasions. It was weakened by divisions and the French Revolution in the modern period. During the century that is ending, she it suffered the abuses of Nazism, communism, and now consumerism. But in face of the Goliaths of all times, the Lord has sent many defenseless Davids: saints, Popes, and martyrs."

         In order to bring his words up-to-date, the Archbishop used John Paul II's first expression at the beginning of his pontificate: "Do not be afraid!" The Holy Father's emblem has been the Cross, our "only hope," and Mary, "our life, our sweetness and our hope." John Paul II once said: "Communism is only a parenthesis in history."

         The Vietnamese Archbishop recalled that "Many ridiculed him; they thought he wasn't realistic. They said the globe was already red in color. But communism in Eastern Europe fell and the Church is crossing the threshold of the third millennium."

         Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân concluded with an exhortation: "Therefore, brothers, 'Do not be afraid!' Let us go forward in the name of God and the walls of the new Jerico will fall down!" ZE00031704

    Thursday: April 6: vol. 11, no. 69: Conclusion: THE SECRET OF HOPE - "TO RETURN TO JERUSALEM"
    Pope prepares for Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Silence of Prayer

      Today's Introduction: Today, continuing with his preaching of the Spiritual Exercises to John Paul II and his collaborators in the Roman Curia, Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân cast his gaze two days before the Holy Father's "Jubilee Journey" to the Holy Land was to begin on Jerusalem and the places where Jesus preached 2000 years ago. During the meditation, the Archbishop described with striking force the presence of Christ in a Church "that on occasions is tired, sad and disillusioned" in face of today's world, as were the disciples of Emmaus but which, like them, is capable of returning to the Holy City, recognizing the "ineffable certainty" of Jesus' presence by their side. John Paul II could not have prepared better for his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

         The story that took place in those 11 kilometers that separate Jerusalem from Emmaus is the image of the interior road to which every believer is called: from sadness to joy, the "great joy of the art of loving," which united the Church, thanks to Jesus' presence among his own.

         Thus Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân explained how Christians can maintain peace of heart including in the most difficult times: "Every time Jesus appears after the resurrection, he always greets with these words: 'Peace be with you.' Jesus is our peace, our hope. This real peace, which is a joy the world cannot give and which no one can take away from us, is only reached on the penitential road, by a real change of life, as we are asked to do during the Jubilee. To change the human so that it will become divine. This requires a 'metanoia,' a change. As that progressive and later decisive change of the disciples of Emmaus, converted by the Word and by Christ's presence among them, they changed their direction. They were fleeing from Jerusalem, the city of the scandal of their Master's death in whom they had placed their hope. But now, fearless, they return to Jerusalem, the city of the death and resurrection of their Lord."

         "The peace Jesus announces to His disciples is also love. The heart reconciles in love, it is unified, and it reaches that peace for which we have been created and which is our end," the retreat Master said. "The incident of Emmaus reminds all of us of a joyful reality of the Christian experience: the perennial presence of the resurrected Christ in the Church," he continued. "It is a living and real presence in the Word, in the sacraments, in the Mass. But also in persons and among persons, in the Church's ministers, in the poor and in each brother." "For the last 2000 years the Church has lived from this presence. And, looking toward the future, it has the hope of his promise: 'I will be with you always until the end of the world.' We must be witnesses of this presence and this hope." Therefore, Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân invited John Paul II and his collaborators of the Roman Curia to "return to the origins of the Gospel. Let us constantly return to Jerusalem, as the Holy Father is now preparing to do: a return to the sources, to the Church's center, where Jesus taught, suffered His passion, died and was buried. It seemed to be the end. Pilate sent soldiers to guard Jesus' tomb; the Jews saw to it that the stone was rolled and sealed. They wanted to be done with Him forever. To erase Him from everyone's memory, including their own. But Jesus resurrected in Jerusalem and appeared to many persons. The Church exults with joy because Jesus said: 'Have confidence: I have overcome the world.'


         At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, John Paul II addressed Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân very familiarly, to thank him for the meditations. "These have been days of intense and prolonged listening to the Spirit Who spoke to our hearts in the silence and the attentive meditation of the Word of God."

         In commenting on the meditations of the Archbishop, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontiff acknowledged that "he has guided us in deepening our vocation as witnesses of evangelical hope at the beginning of the third millennium. A witness of the Cross, during the long years of imprisonment he lived in Vietnam, he has often told us about events and incidents of his harsh captivity, thus reinforcing us in the consoling certainty that, when everything collapses around us, even in our interior, Christ continues indefatigably to be our support. We thank Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân for his testimony, which is especially significant in this Jubilee year."

         The Holy Father explained that the "crucified and risen Christ is our only real hope. Fortified by His help, His disciples became men and women of hope. But not of fleeting hopes, which would leave them tired and which disappoint the human heart, but of real hope, a gift of God that, supported from on high, tends to obtain the highest Good and is sure of reaching it. Today's world has urgent need of this hope. The Great Jubilee we are celebrating takes us step by step to go profoundly into the reasons for our Christian hope, which demands and fosters increasing trust in God and an ever more generous opening to brothers."

         In his book, "The Road of Hope," Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân writes about his experiences and reflections following 13 years of imprisonment in Vietnam. The book is available at: Federation of Vietnamese Catholics in the U.S.A. 4827 N. Kenmore Ave. Chicago, Illinois 60640 USA ZE00031904


      Pope Asks Archbishop to Prepare Book

         This year was the first time an Asian had preached the Spiritual Exercises to the Pope and his collaborators of the Roman Curia. John Paul II's decision to ask Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân to direct the meditations absolutely hit the mark. The Lenten meditations never inspired so much interest, as this year's, from a man who spent 13 years of his life in Vietnamese prisons.

         Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân's words not only helped the Pope in his reflections, but they have gone across the world. ZENIT's editorial board received congratulatory letters for the Archbishop, thanking him for his depth and simplicity, as early as the second day of the retreat.

         Requests for the re-publication of the meditations have arrived from the most unexpected places. One such place is Oslo. General information secular newspapers in Latin America, the Philippines, and Spain published some of the meditations. No less interesting have been the reactions of the people who heard the Archbishop in person, the majority of whom were Cardinals, Bishops, and collaborators of the Roman Curia, who followed the 22 meditations with utmost concentration. The meditations were especially liked because they were "simple but very profound," combining in a balanced way "the Biblical dimension, with personal testimony and theology," communicating "not only with words, but also with the heart."

         "It was an evangelically simple talk," one of the Cardinals who took part in the retreat said. "Clearly, we must continue on that road." The Archbishop interspersed his preaching with notes of good humor, an element which helped his listeners to "get into" the reflections. In response to one of the Papal collaborators, who acknowledged the originality of the presentation, Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân said: "The content is always the same. But the way of cooking it is Asian. Because of this, in the year 2000, instead of eating with a fork, we ate with chopsticks."

      Pope Requests Book

         At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, the Holy Father asked the Vietnamese Archbishop to publish a book with these reflections, as they could be "very helpful to many persons." Moreover, before leaving for the Holy Land, the Pontiff sent Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân a letter, in which he said: "I hoped that during the Great Jubilee special time would be given to the testimony of persons who have suffered because of the faith, paying with courage interminable years in prison and other privations of every kind. You have shared this testimony with us with warmth and feeling, showing that in the life of every man, the merciful love that surpasses all human logic is measureless, especially at times of great anguish. You have associated us with all those who in different parts of the world continue to pay a heavy price because of their faith in Christ."

         "By basing yourself on Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, as well as on your personal experience, especially during the years you were in prison for Christ and His Church, you have manifested the power of the Word of God which, for disciples, is firmness in faith, food for the soul, and a pure and perennial springtime of the spiritual life," the Holy Father wrote. ZE00032105

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