Saturday 18 August 2018

Five Loaves and Two Fish Meditations on the Eucharist - Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

Five Loaves and Two Fish:
Meditations on the Eucharist
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825903
CTS Booklet B722

I read a biography of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, and was amazed. Before I had even finished reading the biography I had ordered this book and waited for its arrival eagerly. It did not disappoint. Actually, I had to stop reading a few times and process, this book is so moving and when you consider the life circumstances of cardinal Van Thaun it is even more incredibly. A tag line for this book is:
"Inspiring meditations on the Eucharist by Vietnamese Cardinal persecuted by the Communists."
But that barely begins to do justice to his story. And the story behind many of the meditations in this book. The description of the book is:
"In 1975, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was arrested by the Communist government of Vietnam and imprisoned for thirteen years, nine of them in solitary confinement, and then finally exiled from Vietnam in 1991. 
Always reticent about speaking of himself, Cardinal Nguyen slowly began to realise that his prison experience of suffering and hope could help others in their journey of faith. The reflections he prepared for the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris became the framework for Five Loaves & Two Fish; the content is his personal Magnificat for the wonders God had worked in and through the small offering of his life - like the fish and loaves in the Gospel, which fed thousands."
But what the description does not show is the joy that he lived. The joy he lived and wrote about in those horrendous conditions will stun you. For a few years now, I have been praying to learn to live more joy. Compared to what he lived through I have absolutely no excuse. The example he gives is incredible. The chapters in this book are:

The First Loaf: Living the Present Moment
The Second Loaf: Discerning between God and Go's Work
The Third Loaf: Prayer: a Fixed Point of Reference
The Fourth Loaf: The Eucharist: My Only Strength
The Fifth Loaf: Love and Unity: The Testimony of Jesus
The First Fish: My First Love: The Immaculate Virgin Mary
The Second Fish: I Have Chosen

The last chapter is mostly contained of an excerpt from his book The Road of Hope. He states:

"At the beginning of the last chapter of The Road of Hope, there are twenty-four paragraphs; I wanted them to correspond to the hours in a day. In each of these twenty-four paragraphs, I repeated the word "one"; one revolution, one campaign, one message, one strength … They are very practical points. If we live the twenty-four hours of our day radically for Jesus, we will be saints."
The book itself is incredible, but even if we only read these 24 paragraphs we will be challenged to live our life more fully. I have read through these several times now over the past week. I can think of numerous people I would love to hand this book. It is an exceptional read and I give it top marks! Read it if you dare.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Five Loaves & Two Fish
The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison
Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage
Prières d'espérance
J'ai suivi Jésus: un évêque témoigne

Books about Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky

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