Our True Companion

(Homily for Holy Thursday)

In a Lenten retreat given to the Holy Father, Cardinal Francis Nguyen Van Thuan told about his experience in a communist prison. The “re-education camp” divided the prisoners into groups of fifty who slept in a common bed. Each man had a foot and a half wide space. Of the fifty prisoners with Bishop Van Thuan, five others were Christians. With the cooperation of the non-Christian prisoners, they made arrangements so that at night they would be near each other. When lights went out at 9:30, the Bishop quietly said Mass and distributed communion to the Catholics. He kept one consecrated Host always in his shirt pocket. During the night, the prisoners took turns for adoration. During the day, even in the midst of the cruelty of prison life, Bishop Van Thuan focused his attention on Jesus. Describing his experience, he quoted from St. Teresa of Avila, “In the Most Blessed Sacrament, Jesus has become our true companion.”

Tonight we celebrate the great love of Jesus. He humbled himself by washing the disciples' feet. And he humbled himself even more to become present in bread broken and destined for human nourishment. What he wants is that he should be our intimate companion. We honor him this evening by imitating his example of foot-washing and by celebrating this Mass of the Last Supper, followed by a solemn procession and adoration.

I am proud the reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament by Holy Family parishioners. At almost any hour of the day or night you can find people in our adoration chapel. At our Masses there is a good spirit of reverence. Certainly we can and will do more. The Eucharist is our life. While we cannot carry him in our pocket as Cardinal Van Thuan did in that prison camp, we can carry him always in our hearts. Jesus has become our true companion.


Spanish Version

From Archives:

2010 Homily: Foot Washing & Celibacy
2009: Join the Nearest Household
2008: Grandma, Can I Wash Your Feet?
2007: The Passover Lamb Must Be Eaten
2006: A New Friend at the Banquet
2005: Our True Companion
2004: A Girl's Heroic Holy Hour
2003: Do This!
2002: Humiliation of Priesthood
2001: Super-Abundance of Mercy
2000: Washing of Feet & Eucharist
1999: Family Struggles & Strengths
1998: In Remembrance of Me

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About Terri:

Pope John Paul II stated a little over a year ago that nutrition and hydration, even when administered through medical assistance, remain “a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.” In short, eating and drinking are common to every living human. “Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal,” the Holy Father continued. “In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.” Thus we denounce the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schindler-Schiavo as the deliberate euthanasia of a disabled woman.


Allowing her to drink water would be the definitive test of swallowing function. She may be able to swallow water and other clear liquids, in which case she will avoid death by dehydration, even if she later succumbs to malnutrition. Or she may be able to swallow pureed food, which will avoid death by malnutrition. Or she may not be able to swallow water without aspiration into the lungs, and so would develop pneumonia, and have a quicker and more peaceful death.

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