The First Step Is To Admit That You Have A Problem

Mysterious Renewal

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Carmelite monastery in Mobile (here). The last four nuns were moving out, having grown old and infirm and in need of a good deal of assistance. I've been meaning to follow up on that story. 

As with many religious orders, new vocations have not been arriving for many years, and so it seemed that when these last nuns died or grew to ill to remain, the Carmel would be finished. But through a complex series of providential events, there is a new group of nuns arriving to take their places. They are from Vietnam: in a beautiful turn of providence, a country within which the U.S. fought a terrible war against totalitarian atheism is now sending the bright green shoots of spiritual renewal to its former enemy, no doubt entirely unaware of the real significance of what it is doing. I don't know the whole story; perhaps part of it is that the Communist government is not terribly unhappy to get rid of a few religious people from time to time. Apparently it took a while, but the young nuns were eventually granted permission to leave.

I visited the monastery last weekend. I'd like to say more but once again an evening has slipped away from me, so for now I'll just post this picture of three pictures, one of the elderly departing nuns (with the Archbishop of Mobile) and two of the new group, taken before they left Vietnam. (They arrived here last Sunday). I'm not sure whether it will come through here, but I found it hard to look at the original pictures without smiling. (This is a photo of a bulletin board in the monastery on which the pictures were posted.)



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Those are great.


Such lovely, radiant faces.


Very beautiful.

I have come to love Vietnam and its people. I lived in Northern Virginia for many years, where there is a large Vietnamese population (and many great restaurants!) and got to know quite a few Vietnamese Catholics (and some Cao Dai, a very weird syncronistic faith).

While I may take issue with your description of the American War (after all, there were many other factors, and the "domino effect" collapsed after American withdrawal, and hey, the "totalitarianism" apparently allowed this community to flourish, I am happy that these sisters have come to the US; may they inspire many!

Daniel, I didn't say anything about *why* we were in Vietnam. I was only saying that communism is totalitarian atheism (among other things), which I think is not really disputable in reference to the ideology itself.

And I found out after writing the post that one reason these nuns were willing to come to the U.S. is that the Carmelites have more postulants than they have room for, and the government won't let them expand. On the basis of a very brief bit of looking around on the web, it seems that the government has loosened up on religion a good bit since its early days, but still maintains fairly tight though intermittent control.

The fact that Christianity flourishes or at least is strengthened under difficulty and persecution always strikes me as sort of a sad comment on human nature.

The Carmel in Brussels has had a Vietnamese prioress for a few years now. It is delightful that an avowedly atheistic regime is unintentionally managing to renew and export Christianity.

Irony can be beautiful. But alas it's visible in the reverse, too: the countries where Christians are most free are where the faith is in most trouble internally.

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