Saturday, August 12, 2006

Book Log: Five Loaves & Two Fish, by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

The memoir of a bishop who was imprisoned for years in North Vietnam. An amazing, amazing book.

This bishop reveals in very simple language a stunningly powerful faith that survived amidst "reeducation" in the camps. The simplicity of it is remarkable given the sophistication of the mind that produced it.

He had been seeking a way to share Jesus with his guards, when he was approached with a request to help the guards understand ecclesial documents better. (The government was afraid of the Church and wanted to be able to monitor its teaching.) This is what followed:

[Speaking to a guard.] "...I propose writing a dictionary of religious terms, from A to Z. When you have a moment, I will explain it to you. I hope that in this way you can better understand the structure, the activities, the history and the developing of the Church..."

The police gave me paper on which I wrote out my dictionary of 1,500 terms in French, English, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Chinese, with the definitions in Vietnamese. Thus, with these definitions, my responses to their questions about the Church, as well as my acceptance of their criticism, this document gradually became a "practical catechism."
Yet, for all of his tremendous learning, the message of this book is one of simple surrender, filling each moment with the love of Jesus.

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