“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Ps. 84:10) Sometimes I can think that I can only be happy if my situation changes and my trials are eliminated. Unless this situation changes I just can’t be happy. In truth, regardless of the outward circumstances, the Lord can make any situation a place of grace and joy.
The late Cardinal Francis-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận spent 13 years in a Vietnamese Prison Camp. He relates a major change in his heart that enabled him to be happy.
“When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat, the Hai-Phong, along with 1500 other prisoners and moved us to the North, I said to myself, “Here is my cathedral, here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God’s will that I am here. I accept his will”. And from that minute onwards, a new peace filled my heart and stayed with me for thirteen years.”
Cardinal Pell of Australia was wrongfully sentenced to prison. He relates how in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a 6-foot-wide cell, “he learned to look on his sentence “as a gift and a grace.”
While unable to say Mass for the first time in decades for the over 400-day duration of his imprisonment, Pell said he took refuge in reading the breviary and keeping up to date with sports games and the news. “My jail time doesn’t give me nightmares,” adding that he hopes that his experience can help other people, not just those in jail, who are going through tough times.”
I’m sure that Cardinal Van and Thuan and Cardinal Pell had their desperate moments during their captivity, but they came to trust the Lord and count on his presence to give them peace and enable them to love their captors. What great models they are for us who’s difficult situations are not so desperate in comparison.
So Lord, please help us to count on your presence to help us in the good days and tough days…when healthy and sick… when wealthy and poor.. when understood and misunderstood…. and we ask for the intercession of the saints, living and dead, to help us.