On May 4, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuân and declaring him “Venerable” — a stage toward sainthood.
Born April 17, 1928, in Hue, Vietnam, Thuân was raised in a strong Catholic family with many ancestors who died for the faith during persecutions between 1698 and 1885. He was ordained a priest in 1953, and Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of Nha Trang 14 years later.
Bishop Thuân later became archbishop of Saigon in 1975. In part because his uncle, Ngo Dinh Diem, who was assassinated in 1963, had been the first president of the Republic of South Vietnam, Vietnam’s communist government opposed the appointment. Within months, the archbishop was arrested and sent to a reeducation camp. He was imprisoned for 13 years, including nine years in solitary confinement.
The faithful sent him a small bottle of wine — under the guise of “medicine for stomach aches” — and he was able to celebrate the Eucharist with other prisoners. Archbishop Thuân later recounted that his palm became an altar each day, and “three drops of wine and a drop of water” became “the medicine of immortality.”
He added: “At night, the prisoners would take turns for adoration. With his silent presence, the eucharistic Jesus helped us in unimaginable ways. Many Christians returned to a fervent faith-life…. Even Buddhists and other non-Christians came to the faith. The strength of Jesus’ love was irresistible.”
Archbishop Thuân was released from prison in 1988 and then exiled from Vietnam in 1991. Pope John Paul II named him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1998 and created him a cardinal in 2001. He died of cancer Sept. 16, 2002.
In honor of Venerable Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuân’s indomitable faith, Columbia presents here a never before published account by Mr. Paul Nguyen Hoai Duc, a former high-ranking communist officer who studied French with Cardinal Thuân during his house arrest. The reflection, written around the year 2000, was shared by Elizabeth Wong, the late cardinal’s sister, and is published here with permission.
At the time, Archbishop Thuân was under house arrest. By then, I had been promoted to senior rank. When my boss asked if I had any special request, I told him that I wished to perfect my verbal French with the archbishop. I was allowed to spend two days a week with Thuân. Prior to that first meeting, I was formally cautioned not to let myself be brainwashed by him.
So, early in 1987, I went to see him. The building where he was held was two-storeyed, of French colonial style. The first floor was reserved for the guards assigned to his watch. The second floor had two rooms: one was for him, and the other, larger room was furnished with a table and chairs for high level officials whenever they came for interrogations.
and loved to tell us stories, religious as well as regular ones. Everyone experienced peace around him. Personally, I felt deeply touched.
After a short period of studies with him, I visited my younger brother’s family. My sister-in-law uttered, “Oh, brother Duc looks like a religious man these days.”
I re-examined myself and wondered, could it be that my way of looking at things, my personal attitude, my whole being, have changed for the better? I have become a better person, and for that I would have to thank Archbishop Thuân.
A new phenomenon is sweeping the internet: crowdfunding. The trend may have its roots in groups generating funds for a common cause through a print or news campaign, but modern-day crowdfunding gained traction, allowing anyone to finance a cause through the web or social media.
Nowadays, crowdfunding is increasingly being used to raise funds for grieving families. Chances are you’ve seen this more than once. Someone passes away, and within a day or two a representative from the family opens a crowdfunding page to raise money to pay for funeral expenses and medical bills.
Without question, crowdfunding is a great way to harness the power of the internet for charitable ends, but it is often insufficient.
Recent studies show that the average crowdfunding memorial page raises $2,000-$2,200 — far below the average cost of funeral services.1 Grieving families are left to deal with the shortfall as well as the additional stress of soliciting donations, figuring out how to access the money and calculating platform fees.
September is designated as Life Insurance Awareness Month. It’s a great opportunity for you to evaluate your life insurance coverage and make sure your family’s future will not be left up to a crowdfunding page.
Since life insurance prepares families for one of life’s certainties, it’s a product that nearly everyone needs. The question is not “Do I need life insurance?” but rather “Who should I get it from?"
We Stand Strong on Ethical Ground
Some people believe that ethics in business is a contradiction in terms. They think that in order to be profitable, a company and its leaders must abandon morality and embrace the dark, greedy side that they see so often in the news and in movies. At the Knights of Columbus, we know this isn’t true. A business can be both ethical and successful. We are! As a Catholic organization, we understand the value and importance of our core beliefs and the original mission of our founder Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. In fact, much of the strength and the financial security we provide to members and their families can be attributed to our ethical, moral standards. More than 96 percent of Knights who buy our life insurance keep it, year in and year out. The Order takes this commitment to our members very seriously. This means carefully planning when it comes time to invest. Our professional staff researches all transactions to insure that they fall in line with Catholic values. If any of the transactions makes them uncomfortable, they don’t make it. “We exclude any company engaged in activity that conflicts with Catholic moral teaching: companies directly involved in abortion, contraception, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, for-profit health care that pays for any of these, or pornography,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “There are many companies in the pharmaceutical and communications industries that would undoubtedly provide excellent returns for us, but which are not in our portfolio because they engage in research and development or programming in ways that violate the sanctity or dignity of human life.” In the end, the Knights of Columbus investment strategy is motivated by morality—not money. Yet, each year we remain profitable, increase our assets and stay dedicated to this vision that will keep the Order financially sound for generations to come. “Faithful Catholics have choices when buying life insurance,” said the Supreme Knight. “But they know that at the Knights of Columbus their policy is supplied by an insurer that shares their moral and ethical values and is guided in all of its investment and sales practices by those values.”
IT’S BEEN MORE than 10 years now since the day I had the good fortune to meet Archbishop F.X. Nguyen Van Thuân.
A philosopher once wrote, “A rock, if placed at the right spot, could change the course of the river.”
Archbishop Thuân was the rock that changed the course of my life, from mundane to one with faith in God. More to the point, I continue to regard my encounter with Archbishop Thuân as the most momentous event in my life.
He was the most loving, intelligent, disciplined person that I have ever met. He was in my life the potent grain of yeast that gave rise to a deep faith. To this day, I am still struggling with many challenges ahead of me, but I no longer doubt: God is my great strength.
As a student graduating in 1979, I specialized in counterinsurgency, a division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Vietnam. At the beginning, I was assigned to the Citizens Department, and from there, I was transferred to Religious Affairs.
Once I landed my new post, I read and heard many good things about Archbishop Thuân, namely that he was very talented and spoke eight languages. He was loving to everyone around, and despite being in captivity, he always displayed hope and serenity. I examined his file and learned that he was the founder of the lay movement HOPE and that Ngo Dinh Diem was his uncle.
From the very first moment we met, I immediately felt a special closeness with him, and for his part, he seemed happy to have someone to chat with.
To combat loneliness during all that time, he wrote many books, including a lexicon in eight languages.
One day, after studying with him for a while, I said, “Mr. Thuân, I read the Catholic Bible, along with many other books on Buddhism. I notice that Buddha speaks in philosophical language, but Jesus, on the other hand, uses very simple words.”
Calmly and slowly he replied, “Buddha is a philosopher. Jesus uses simple language because he is the Creator of the universe. He wants to use simple language for everyone to understand him. He created the universe and has complete understanding of his creation, while Buddha is searching for answers and an understanding of the universe.”
My eyes were opened from that day on, and I no longer needed to ask further.
Archbishop Thuân always exuded sincerity, perseverance and optimism. Most of the time, he sang. He sang while carrying water to his room or working in the garden. He sang the psalms
Don’t Crowdfund Your Family’s Future
Catholic Values. Charitable Giving. Ethical Practices.
Who Should I Get It From?
Hundreds of life insurance companies in North America offer you products that may seem to meet your need, without much difference in service. But there’s only one life insurance company that belongs to you.
The Knights of Columbus has upheld the Catholic commitment that has animated our Order since its founding by Father Michael J. McGivney, protecting families in the event of the death of the breadwinner and offering insurance by brother Knights for brother Knights.
Today, our insurance program protects hundreds of thousands of families, with more than $105 billion in force. In 2016, the Order paid more than $900 million in total benefits (death claims, maturities and annuities) and dividends to policyholders
Being your insurance company also means that we have to be ethical, responsible, Catholic and charitable — just as you would expect.
Recently, the Knights of Columbus has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as a 2017 World’s Most Ethical Company for the fourth consecutive year.
Over the past decade, the insurance business and the local Knights of Columbus councils served as two of the primary sources for the Order’s charitable donations amounting to more than $1.55 billion.
Not every life insurance company can say that.
How Much Do I Need?
As a Knight, you have a full-time, professional brother Knight field agent to call your own. His job — his mission — is to help you and your family evaluate your situation and determine how much coverage is needed to help meet your needs within your budget.
It’s a proven fraternal system that has helped countless families when they need it most.
So, as we observe Life Insurance Awareness Month, don’t leave your family’s future to chance charity. Protect your family with the safety and guarantees of life insurance from the Knights of Columbus.