The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Strength in Weakness

A busy schedule has prevented me from posting anything recently; and although my busyness hasn't really abated, I've decided to try to set aside at least a little time every few days for the blog. We'll see how faithful I turn out to be.

What caught my attention this morning was news out of Vietnam. I'd been loosely following the plight of the Church in Vietnam as it strives to do God's work of evangelization in this Communist-led nation. I've been particularly struck by the efforts of Redemptorist Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung and Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, as they wage what can only be described as a spiritual battle with the government. The current confrontation is related to an ongoing dispute over Church property
, including a Redemptorist monastery and former papal nunciature, confiscated by the government years ago. The dispute has been marked by violence perpetrated by so-called street gangs (obviously encouraged by the government). These mobs have attacked the monastery, along with several churches, destroying statues, books, and whatever else they came across. Government complicity has been evident since all of these attacks were carried under the watchful eyes of the police who did nothing to stop them.

The Church's response to this ongoing government intimidation has consisted of peaceful protests and marches by thousands of Catholics, courageous statements and letters by the archbishop, and public prayer.

And then, on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the government staged a show trial of Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung and seven other activists in which they were "convicted" of destroying public property in connection with one of their protests at the monastery. (Notice how those who destroyed Church property were not prosecuted. Totalitarian governments always value the state's property more than they value the property of their citizens.)

The wonderful thing about this trial was that the convictions resulted only in suspended sentences, an outcome the eight defendants attribute to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Father Pierre Nguyen Van Khai, the only priest allowed to attend the 7-hour trial, reported that "judges, lawyers, defendants and all those attending the trial could hear very clearly thousands of Catholics protesting outside the courthouse, who kept yelling ‘Innocent, Innocent!'" The above photo shows Father Matthew rejoicing in what can only be called a victory despite the verdict.

The Church continues to be persecuted throughout the world, particularly in totalitarian states that cannot abide their citizens expressing loyalty to any power other than the state itself. Pray that the subtle persecution we have of late sometimes encountered in this country does not evolve into anything more sinister and pervasive.

For an interesting look at what's in store for the Church in Vietnam, click here.

God bless the courageous Catholics of Vietnam who, through their witness, have shown us the strength that comes from weakness.

1 comment:

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