François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân (1928-2002) was arrested in 1975, a few weeks after he had been nominated coadjutor bishop of Saigon. He spent 13 years in prison, 9 of which were in solitary confinement. After he was set free he became president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (http://www.vanthuanobservatory.org/?lang=en)
The following lines were written in 1980 in prison, 15 km from Hanoi. They are a kind of ‘spiritual testament’.
I find I’m at a new stage:
tough, dark, endless.
I meet here others who are also pilgrims;
I look on them as friends,
and on all the things that happen as priceless experiences.
Because everything is grace.
In my night, populated by silence and solitude,
I think of each and every one of you,
offering you all to God.
God has given me the most beautiful moments of my life.
Never were my prayers so heart-felt,
nor mass so fervent,
nor so favourable
the chances to be united with God’s love
and show love in the midst of hate
and sow hope in the midst of despair.
You can lose everything materially
but, if God remains, you still have everything.
God is Love.
Love gives me courage to love as God loves.
I have nothing more.
But every day
I offer the love of God to all
in the heart of Jesus and Mary.
I am by your side,
caring for you and loving very deeply,
because you have a prime place
in my heart.
I have left a few modest experiences
in The Road of Hope.
Read my most intimate thoughts
in the light of the Word of God and of Vatican II.
Meditate, read, work
so that your heart
may be filled with love and wisdom…
Dry tears and cover over the weaknesses
that come from circumstances and all that is lacking.
This is my testament,
following the example of Paul VI.
‘My programme is to fulfil the Second Vatican Council.’
Strive to set alight the flame of hope
in the places that you live.
Like John XXIII
I consecrate the rest of my life
to prayer, to sacrifice, to service.
May Jesus, Mary and Joseph
strengthen your footsteps along the road of hope.
Excerpt: François Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Vivere le virtù [Living Virtues] (Rome: Città Nuova, 2012), 7-8.