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The Eucharistic Heart of the Priest
In this article Fr. Michael A. Caridi givse us a reflection on the primordial bond and intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Shortly after being named Archbishop of Saigon in 1975, Francois-Xavier Nguyen van Thuan was arrested by the Communist authorities and imprisoned for the next thirteen years. In his account, Five Loaves and Two Fish, Cardinal Thuan tells of offering clandestine Masses while in prison, using meager amounts of bread and wine that had been smuggled in. After Mass, he would fashion a tiny container from the paper of cigarette boxes in which to reserve the Blessed Sacrament for later adoration. He would secretly carry the makeshift tabernacle with the consecrated Host within the breast pocket of his shirt, close to his heart. While, over the course of those thirteen years in prison, the Communists time and again relentlessly tried to break the Cardinal and strip him of his emotional, spiritual and moral dignity, they couldn’t. Why? Because his was a priestly dignity, a dignity not based upon comfort, position, or honor, but on the fact that Jesus Christ is always close to the priest’s heart – an intense union stemming primarily from his ability to make Jesus present in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist, a bond that offers the priest the necessary strength to endure all the demands his vocation implies. Simply put, Cardinal Thuan survived his years of imprisonment because he could find a way to offer Mass, thus keeping Jesus near to his heart.