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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Five Loaves & Two Fish
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Thursday, October 25, 2007
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
Carl A. Anderson:
Welcome to today's discussion of Cardinal Van Thuan's book Five Loaves and Two Fish. I hope you all enjoyed reading this book as much as I did.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
What was the cardinal's most important contribution that defines his legacy to all of us now?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think having been with Benedict XVI and having heard Benedict speak about his legacy, the Pope noted he was an apostle of hope and that he had a clear witness of holiness. Despite terrible external adversity, Cardinal Van Thuan showed courageous witness, accepting a role as Archbishop of Saigon days before it fell, which was an act of huge courage.

Robert J. Fallon, PSD
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Much like Cardinal Van Thuan, there are many Catholic martyrs unjustly persecuted, jailed, tortured, killed and forgotten in inhumane conditions with little or no hope of freedom or humane treatment. Is there anything, in addition to prayer, which, we as knights can do and/or agencies, with which we can interact to help or free these modern day saints of the Church persecuted?
Carl A. Anderson:
Of course the history of Christianity is one of martyrs at every point. However, in the United States we are blessed with a religious liberty, enshrined in our First Amendment, which is a very important aspect of our country, and one that we should not take for granted. We should be inspired by their example especially in the Knights of Columbus with our martyr saints of the last century, and we should strive to be in greater solidarity with those who suffer today, including solidarity in prayer, but also in solidarity of awareness of their situation.

It seems to me that persecution always makes the Church stronger. Do you see a great rebirth of the faith coming in Viet Nam?
Carl A. Anderson:
That there is faith in Viet Nam is great. We should fully expect faith to grow there. Looking at the book itself, we see that those Cardinal Van Thuan interacted with, were so moved, that even a communist used to pray weekly for him at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang. We should ask ourselves where we may have opportunities to encourage and support the faith in countries such as Viet Nam.

Tucumcari, NM
Like Mother Teresa, Cardinal Van Thuan seemed to have quite a dark night of the soul. What do you see as the major difference between their two experiences?
Carl A. Anderson:
Mother Teresa had a dark night of the soul despite public adulation and praise, while Cardinal Van Thuan's was suffered with the derision and hatred of his government. What this tells us is as Pope Benedict has pointed out several times, doubt and spiritual trials happen to all of us. The key is to keep our eyes, as both of these holy people did, on God himself.

Bruce Goeser
Miami, FL
I seem to notice some similarities between Mother Teresa (whom we read about last month) and Cardinal Van Thuan. Perhaps it is their tenacity and perseverance in serving the Lord. Any thoughts on this?
Carl A. Anderson:
Yes, both certainly had tenacity and perseverance, which is the hallmark of every saint. Certainly no saint didn't have those two qualities. As Pope Benedict pointed out in Introduction to Christianity, no Christian, indeed no person, is able to live without adversity and doubt. The question is how does one respond to that. He wrote: "In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will experience the uncertainty of unbelief..." He went on to say: "Christian belief - as we have already said - means opting for the view that what cannot be seen is more real than what can be seen. It is an avowal of the primacy of the invisible as the truly real." This is also what Cardinal Van Thuan stressed in emphasis on belief in God himself, not the works of God.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
Would things have been different was the Cardinal as the Italians say "papabile"?
Carl A. Anderson:
Of course it's a bit of an awkward question because he died before there was a conclave. But the fact that you ask the question shows that the Church has become universal and global - we can now think of someone from Asia or Latin America or Africa as a future pope. Also, I really think that for people who exhibit such transparent holiness, such a question as whether they might be papabile is something they just don't think about.

Great Falls, MT
What would you say is the greatest lesson for us to learn from this book? Is it forgiveness? Is it perserverence? Is it love?
Carl A. Anderson:
As St. Paul says, the greatest is always love, and as St. Paul says, love is patient, it bears all things, it forgives all things. So we might look at these other virtues as really an extension of love, or so connected with it, that they are unable to be separated from it.

Notre Dame
Is there a book about all the persecutions of the Church in modern times? How many martyrs has the Church had in the 20th century till today?
Carl A. Anderson:
There have been many martyrs in the twentieth century including many Knights of Columbus, six of whom have been canonized and three of whom are beatified. A good list of many of the persecutions of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century can be found at

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
Do we know who the Cardinal's greatest influences are?
Carl A. Anderson:
One great influence on Cardinal Van Thuan was Bishop John Walsh, who was famous for saying "I am not going to wait, I will live each present moment, filling it to the brim with love." This is cited in the First Loaf and is clearly a theme throughout Van Thuan's work. It may seem strange but his Second Life is discerning between God and God works. The greatest influence on him is God, which may sound strange, but which is also clearly the reality that comes through in reading Mother Teresa's book last month as well.

Maria C.
Wallingford, Conn.
Did you ever meet Cardinal Francois personally? Please tell of your discussions and your impressions of the man. I am sure he is a modern saint.
Carl A. Anderson:
I met him at the consitory in Rome when he was made a cardinal and conveyed the appreciation and congratulations of the Knights of Columbus to him. Even at that time when he was already sick, you could still see the peace and tranquility that emanated from this holy man. I think his books convey that same impression as well.

Alan Klaus
Santa Fe, NM
I am a first time user of Knights of Columbus and think Five Loaves and two Fish is really neat and to have some one like Carl A. Anderson answering question is a treat. My question is what were the implications in the response to Jesus when the disciples were told the people were hungary and to feed them. One of the disciples asked Jesus where would they get the food to feed so many.
Carl A. Anderson:
The loaves and fish even in the gospel are symbolic. They represent the spiritual gifts that are being given. The Cardinal uses the metaphor of loaves and fishes to describe the spiritual gifts that he has been given, for example, the fourth loaf, which he describes as the Eucharist. As the book indicates, the Cardinal saw that from the small offering of his own life, God had worked great things.

Le Nguyen, PGK
Falls Church, Virginia, USA
Worthy Supreme Knight Carl Anderson-Through the life of the legacy of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, I can see the invisible God in the personal God. As a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and recently you have attended a ceremony in Italy with Pope Benedict XVI where the cause for Cardinal Van Thuan's canonization was officially opened. Would you please share with us some of your experiences during the time you have worked with the late Cardinal FX Nguyen Van Thuan?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think first, being with the Pope and hearing him speak about Cardinal Van Thuan, it was clear that Pope Benedict had a great appreciation for and inspiration from knowing Cardinal Van Thuan. This is an experience we must learn from so that as Christians we are able to influence and edify and inspire each other.

Ft. Worth, TX
Many people don't understand the contemplative life; they think it's a foolish waste and an evasion of reality to live in a convent, supposedly cut off from the world and from those who think differently from you. Do you see a connection between Cardinal Thuan's "distinguishing between God and the works of God" in his solitary confinement to the life of contemplatives in the Church? Can his witness foster understanding of the contemplative vocation, even though his vocation was to an active, pastoral life?
Carl A. Anderson:
St. Therese of the Little Flower is a great example of the necessity of the contemplative life and perhaps this is what Cardinal Van Thuan means when he talks about the distinction between the works of God and God himself. This is what he is pointing out, what is witnessed to by the contemplative life. As Mother Teresa, whose life we explored last month said: "The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace." Pope John Paul also stressed the importance of contemplative life in Vita Consecrata, writing: "Monasticism and the contemplative life are a constant reminder that the primacy of God gives full meaning and joy to human lives, because men and women are made for God, and their hearts are restless until they rest in him."

Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you all for your participation in this evening's discussion. I look forward to discussing "My Life with the Saints" by James Martin, SJ, next month.

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