The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prisonby Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
Archbishop Van Thuan's notes from prison are extraordinary. For thirteen years, his writings were smuggled out of the building and circulated among Christians and non-Christians alike. People shared these handwritten messages of hope in response to Van Thuan's challenge that the Vietnamese people bring the Church into the world by their love for one another. He
Archbishop Van Thuan's notes from prison are extraordinary. For thirteen years, his writings were smuggled out of the building and circulated among Christians and non-Christians alike. People shared these handwritten messages of hope in response to Van Thuan's challenge that the Vietnamese people bring the Church into the world by their love for one another. He wrote, "It would be so wonderful if God required us only to love him. However, he has chosen also to require the difficult obligation to love our neighbor." Van Thuan calls for a deep examination of conscience: "You proclaim that all you do is for God and for the Church. Very well. But can you stand in his presence and honestly say that you are working completely for him?" And his directives are practical: "Your time of prayer is your period of intimacy with God, who is your Father. It is a time for the heart, not the head. Do not rack your brains or scratch your head as to how you should appear before God." These 1,001 reflections are pearls of great price. If lived out, they will change your life.
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Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (1928-2002) was born in Phu Cam parish, a suburb of Hue, Vietnam, the eldest of 8 children. He was ordained a priest in 1953 and became a bishop in 1967. He was imprisoned by the Communist government from 1975 - 1988 and was expelled from Vietnam in 1991. He served on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1994-2002 and was president from 1998-2002.
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Extraordinary The Road of Hope is a collection of teachings written by an imprisoned Vietnamese archbishop to his people. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (1928-2002) was ordained a priest in 1953. Subsequently he served as a pastor, studied canon law in Rome, served as a seminary professor in the archdiocese of Hue, and was consecrated as bishop of Nha Trang in 1967. During the following eight years he took on additional duties that included traveling widely to support peaceful solutions to the Vietnamese conflict and solicit aid for reconstruction. In 1975, after the communist takeover, he was arrested as he journeyed to Saigon for a new assignment as an archbishop. In the introduction to The Road of Hope Translator John Peter Pham describes the communist persecution of priests and religious who were deported to “re-education camps,” as Church property was seized. In March of 1976, Pham writes, the Archbishop was deported to North Vietnam along with 2000 other prisoners. For the next 13 years he was confined to prisons and camps, spending the bulk of that time in isolation. For a period in 1975, Van Thuan was placed under house arrest. “Realizing that this ‘respite’ would be brief and that the Church, bereft of its shepherds, was facing a period of possibly years of persecution, the Archbishop took up his pen,” writes Pham. The plan was to write a few messages to encourage and offer spiritual counsel to his flock. Over time, the messages formed a manuscript, and pages were smuggled to the outside and assembled as 1001 reflections, which were printed clandestinely and disseminated widely despite government efforts to interfere. Van Thuan was eventually able to edit the manuscript himself following his expulsion from Vietnam. As for the content of this book, the 1001 messages are grouped under headings such as duty, interior life, the apostle, ordinary work, and a life of hope. Most of us are familiar with the themes here, but the way this priest from this background presents them is extraordinary, yet simple and specific.