…You have one homeland,
the bell rings, grave, deep,
The bell rings still, sharp, charged with emotion,
The bell rings again, vibrant pathetic,
The bell tolls, crystalline
You have one homeland, Vietnam;
a country so beloved, through the centuries.
It is your pride, your joy.
Love her mountains and her rivers,
her brocade and satin landscapes,
her glorious history,
her hard-working people,
her heroic defenders.
The raging rivers run
as does the blood of her people.
Her mountains are high,
but higher still the bones that are piled there.
The land is narrow, but her ambition vast,
O little country much renowned!
Help your homeland with your whole self,
be faithful to her;
defend her with your body and blood,
build her up with your heart and mind,
share the joy of your brothers and sisters,
and the sadness of your people.
Catholics of Vietnam,
love a thousand times your homeland!
The Lord teaches you, the Church asks you –
may the love of your country be fully one
with the blood that runs through your veins.
(Cardinal Van Thuan, Five Loaves and Two Fish, poem written during house arrest on December 8, 1975)
What is amazing is that these words were written by a man under arrest by the very government of the country he loves. For thirteen years he will be imprisoned and eventually exiled from his beloved homeland. But his heart does not succumb to bitterness; instead it turns to hope.
In speaking of the Twenty-four Paragraphs which we have been meditating upon these past few weeks, Cardinal Van Thuan remarks, “They are very practical points. If we live the twenty-four hours of our day radically for Jesus, we will be saints. They are the twenty-four stars that light up our road of hope … Reread these thoughts once a week. You will find that grace will shine forth, transforming your lives.”