Tag Archives: Holy Communion

Brother Marcel (Nguyen Tan) Van had a spiritual sister who actually visited him; Her name was St.Therese of Lisieux

 

Photo Credit: wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG/220px-Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG

By Larry Peterson

Marcel Van was born in 1928 in a small village in Northern Vietnam. It was a predominantly Catholic village, and Marcel’s mom was not only an extremely faithful woman she was also well versed in the tenets of the faith. When Marcel was barely three years old, his growing faith was already obvious. He began to tell his mom that he wanted to become a saint and she made sure that she taught him all that she could.

Marcel loved to pray and practice his religion. He quickly developed a love for the Rosary and a growing attachment to the Blessed Mother. The boy’s love of Jesus filled him with the desire to make his First Holy Communion. His mom asked the pastor about this, and the priest agreed to let him begin studying for it. When he was six years old, he made his First Communion.

There was a developing desire within Marcel to join the religious life. His pastor and his mom saw to it that Marcel was sent to Huu-Bang to become part of the small monastery there. Father Joseph Nha admitted Marcel  into the pre-junior seminary. He became one of the “aspirants” to the priesthood.  These boys received their instruction from the older youths at the monastery who were called catechists.

In the beginning, Marcel was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new life. He was preparing to become a priest, and what could be more wonderful. But the evil demon, Jealousy, was rearing its ugly head and was about to attack young Marcel.

Marcel was a good student, worked hard, performed all his duties, and was kind and generous. The parish priest was constantly holding him up as an example for the other boys to follow. Young Marcel’s good behavior started to expose the lax and disrespectful and even bawdy behavior of the older boys. The student catechists did not like it and became intensely jealous of Marcel.

One of the catechists, Master Vinh, was the ringleader. He began demanding that Marcel allow him to beat him before he could receive Communion. He deprived him of his food, took away his Rosary and committed all sorts of diabolical attacks upon the saintly youngster. Van actually ran away several times seeking a better environment. Master Vinh was found out and expelled from the monastery. Marcel Van left during Christmas season, 1941.

Complicating Van’s life were two cyclones that destroyed his family’s village and brought them to poverty. His father, in a state of despair, took to drinking and gambling. Then his older brother, Liet, became blind. Van’s family turned against him for leaving the monastery. His sister even blamed the family’s misfortune on Vans’ “failure.” Marcel Van left his home and for a time was homeless, actually begging for his food. He returned home, and his mom made him go back to the monastery. He returned but left after two months.

Things changed around for Marcel in 1942. A friend helped him get admitted to a seminary in Lang-Son. Six months later the seminary closed down, and Van was accepted into the parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyen. It was run by two  Dominican priests.

And so it was that one day Marcel Van was next to a table covered with books. He asked God to help him find a suitable book to read. Closing his eyes, he reached into the pile and pulled out a copy of  “Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese. He had never heard of her, but his life was about to change forever.

Marcel Nguyen Tan Van began to read the “Story of Soul.” He began to cry. The simplicity of Therese’s love for Jesus overwhelmed him, and his devotion to St. Therese became intense.   The “Little Flower” appeared to Marcel many times. She  became his teacher, constant companion, and even called him “little brother.” She told him that he would never be a priest but that he was to become a “hidden apostle of Love” which was a key source of spiritual support for missionary priests. He would become the “heart of priests.”

After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu,  Brother Marcel Van volunteered to go to now communist, North Vietnam. He was arrested on July 7, 1955, and died in prison on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old and rest assured his “Big Sister,” Therese, was waiting for him with open arms. He was declared a Servant of God in 1997, and his beatification process continues.

Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van, please pray for us.

 

For Valentine’s Day–A Love Story Embraced by God (This is a true story)

 

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By Larry Peterson

It was the spring of 2014. Ed and Cathy Carmello (not their real last name) had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year I think.   They had met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40. They fell in love and, never having been married, happily “tied the knot.”  They had just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary and were simply enjoying retired life together.

There was a problem. Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly. Cathy was in her final battle with  Stage IV melanoma. Since I was a prostate cancer survivor and my first wife had died of melanoma, I was able to discuss their cancers openly with them. They knew I understood.

It was a Thursday afternoon around 4 .p.m. when I left to take my daily walk. I headed down the street, and there was Cathy standing on her front lawn supported by her walker.  I could see she was fighting to hold herself up. A bit anxious, I hurried over and said, “Hey, Cathy, what’s going on? Is everything all right?”

“I was waiting for you, Larry.  I need to talk to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day, and you say you were waiting for me?”

“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”

A bit unnerved, I leaned against her SUV as she leaned heavily on her walker. “You know Ed is dying, right?”

“Yeah, Cathy, I know.  We talked about it.  He’s an amazing guy. What about your prognosis? Any change?”

She smiled and looked me right in the eye saying, “They told me I only have a few weeks left.”

I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “What can I do?”

They knew that I was Catholic and an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  Cathy asked me if I could bring a priest over. She told me that they had been non-practicing Catholics and had not been to church in years. It was time for them to “make things right with God.”  I said, “I will put a call into Father as soon as I get back to the house.”

“Thank you so much.  That is why I was out here waiting for you.”

I simply nodded. She smiled and thanked me and I walked her back to the house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  Then she mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.

We went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  I took in a deep breath. (You know, when God is present sometimes it is hard to breathe).

I called our newly ordained priest, Father Scott. He came over the next day and spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though the two of them were separated by more than 50 years, it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.

Father heard their confessions, anointed both of them and gave them Holy Communion. He told them he would come back the first chance he could.  Sunday was Palm Sunday. It was the beginning of Holy Week, and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye. On Palm Sunday I had the honor of bringing them Holy Communion.

Easter Sunday I was again privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. In so doing, an unexpected sight was forever etched in my mind.  They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”

He turned and looked at his wife who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet, happy eyes. They kept looking into each other’s eyes, and I thought they were maybe looking into each other’s souls. It was a moment that was filled with a shared spirituality I had never seen before. I could actually feel it. I have no doubt that at that moment Jesus was there with them holding their hands in His.

As for me, I thank God for their friendship and for being a part of their final journey. Sometimes I like to think that I took two people in love to the airport and watched them get on a plane for a a true flight to paradise.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2014