Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver tells us this story of the love of a man for the Holy Mass:
During Pope John Paul II’s Spiritual Exercises in March 2000, Vietnamese Archbishop Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuân preached on the Eucharist with stories from his 13 years in prison at the hands of the communists.
He said: “When they imprisoned me in 1975, a terrible question came to my mind: `Will I be able to celebrate Mass?'”
The former archbishop of Saigon explained that when he was arrested, he was not permitted to take any of his personal belongings. But the following day he was allowed to write his family to request essentials like clothes and toothpaste.
He wrote, “Please send me some wine as medication for my stomach problems.” His family understood immediately what he wanted, and they 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 problem?” He replied that he did. “Then here is your medicine.”
He said, “I shall never be able to express my joy. Every day I celebrated Mass with three drops of wine and one drop 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.”
Later, the archbishop was assigned to a group of 50 prisoners. They slept in a common bunk. Each one had the right to 50 centimeters of space. He said, “We arranged it so that five Catholics were next to me. Lights went out at 21:30 and everyone had to go 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.”
With the help of his Catholic companions, the archbishop gradually passed the Eucharist to dozens of other prisoners. “They all knew Jesus was among them, and that He cures all physical and mental sufferings.”
“At night, the prisoners took turns at Adoration. The Eucharistic Christ helped 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, and even some Buddhists and non-Christians embraced the faith. Jesus’ force is irresistible. The darkness of the prison became a paschal light.”