Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of Father Antonio Boucher, C.S.s.R. there is no shortage of literature concerning Brother Marcel Van, most of it written, under obedience, by Van himself.
The Complete Works of Marcel Van – Autobiography, Conversations, Correspondence and Other Writings – are available in English at Les Amis de Van online bookstore
In August 1945, Brother Marcel began his novitiate in the Redemptorist monastery at Hanoi under the guidance and spiritual direction of his novice master, Father Antonio Boucher C.Ss.R., who was to remain his spiritual director until Brother Marcel’s incarceration in 1954.
When Brother Marcel began his novitiate, he was 17 years of age. Father Boucher was struck almost immediately by the stories of Van’s early years and adolescence, not solely because of their unusual content, but , more especially, by the existence of an extraordinary interior life which they revealed. Perspicaciously and no doubt, influenced by the Holy Spirit, Father Boucher asked the young Brother to commit the story of his life to paper. Marcel found this task arduous, but, systematicallv and religiously, over the course of his novitiate year, he entrusted the loose leaves of paper to his spiritual director, to do with them as he wished.
“God has sent us a little Vietnamese religious, who has come from the end of the earth to bring the message to the entire world: a simple way, a humble way, an evangelical way, a way of service to the Church in the community.The saints mark their times. Thérèse is a sign for her time .Van is a sign for his time.”
Cardinal Van Thuan.*
Shortly before October 7th 1945, now a young Redemptorist novice, Brother Marcel, had his first “conversation” with Our Lord , during which the young brother was asked to ” listen to the words I am saying to you here and to put them into writing”. So, Brother Marcel recorded these conversations and handed the sheets of paper, on which he had recorded them, to Father Boucher. Most of the conversations were with Our Lord, but occasionally Our Lady and Saint Thérèse also conversed with Van. Thus, we have in this copious work a treasure trove of spirituality, in which Jesus takes Brother Marcel with gentleness, tenderness and almost breathtaking familiarity to the very heart of the matter: the unfathomable love of God for his children.
“This young man, who has experienced many emotional wounds during his childhood and youth, has been “weaned” by the tenderness of his heavenly Mother, of his beloved Jesus and of his sister Thérèse, who was so incredibly close to him. That little Jesus showers him with kisses, that Mary takes him on her knees, that he snuggles up against her breast, all these marks of affection would surprise us, nay, disturb us, if they were not encapsulated in that which is at the heart of little Van’s experience and message: his unbounded confidence in Him who is Love.”
Cardinal Christopher Schonborn OP, Archbishop of Vienna.*
Brother Marcel wrote many letters. Over 300 were kept or garnered by Father Boucher and translated by him from Vietnamese into French. They provide a cornucopia of insights, experiences and examples of “the little way of spirituality”, first expounded to Marcel by his ” big sister”, Thérèse, against the backcloth of his daily life in the monastery, as he fulfills his mission of “changing suffering into joy” . This ” hidden apostle of love”‘s final letter was written from the Central Camp of Re-Education by Prisoner No.304A , better known to us as Brother Marcel Van, C. Ss. R.
“In reading these letters, the complete life of a young man unfolds with his encounters, his doubts, his responsibilities, his weakness. Little by little the depth of a life firmly established in Christ is unveiled. Van loves Jesus; he loves him passionately and because he loves Him, he loves, also, all men: “Oh Jesus! If it were possible for me to describe the love you have for me, if it were possible for me to express all my feelings regarding souls that I love, I would ask, to do so, a period of infinite time, since my love for the souls that I love comes from your love, which is love without end, a love which plunges into infinite depths”.
Archbishop Renato Boccardo, Archbishop of Spoleto.*
“What is not to conclude if it is not that a star is risen in the East which belongs to a specific constellation of the Catholic firmament, and which offers to the Magi of the East and of the West, a light which leads to the Messiah of Nations.”
Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops).*
* Extracts from the forewords of “The Complete Works of Marcel Van”.