Hello – not from Lough Derg itself, but from the safe social distance that we are all observing and sharing. And Happy Easter to you wherever you may be.
As I pondered what Easter thought I might share with you, the figure of the late Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân has been in my mind.
On the Feast of the Assumption In 1975, only days after Van Thuân had been appointed to serve as an auxiliary bishop in Saigon, the city was captured by the North Vietnamese and he was arrested. He was taken to North Vietnam where he would spend thirteen years in prison, nine of them in solitary confinement. For part of this time he was held in a windowless cell where he had no idea of whether it was day or night.
That puts our experience of the present ‘lock-down’ regime into a new perspective.
Van Thuân’s memory of an experience of grace that he had had when on pilgrimage to Lourdes many years earlier became a source of consolation for him. Perhaps we can find time to revisit our memories of pilgrimage, and of experiences when we knew that God was close to us.
Bishop Van Thuân later wrote that, as the years of confinement went on, the fact that he could still listen to and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope. From 1992 until his death in 2002 he lived in exile in Rome, working in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Pope Benedict XVI says he remembers him from those years as ‘a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane’. How, I wonder, may this experience of ours make a difference for the better in our lives?
In the Upper Room, the disciples of Jesus lived their own fearful experience of self-imposed ‘lock-down’ for three days. Even after the Risen Lord had appeared to them, they remained fearful until the Spirit of Pentecost came upon them.
Dear friends, since our confinement seems likely to continue for some time weeks more, let us ask God to make a blessing of it. Like Francis Van Thuân, may we use at least some of our time ‘to listen to and to speak to God.’ Is this not what we do when we come to Lough Derg?
Perhaps we too might become witnesses to hope, in our own small and humble ways, for whomever we may be in contact with, by whatever means may be open to us in the coming weeks.
Beannachtaí na Cásca leat. A very happy Easter!
Images sourced from the official page of the Beatification and Canonization Cause of François-Xavier Nguyễn Cardinal Văn Thuận (1928-2002).
Prior of Lough Derg