Marcel Van

Marcel Van (1928-1959), the apostle of love

Early childhood:

Marcel Nguyan Tan Van was born on March 15, 1928 in Ngam Giáo, Bac Ninh (Vietnam), and he died on July 10, 1959 in Yên Bình.

Born into a Catholic family, he was baptized the day after he was born, receiving the name of Joachim. At the age of 3, he expressed the desire to become a saint. In 1932 his sister Anne-Marie Tê was born. The little Joachim Van was then sent to stay with his aunt, as they thought his excessive displays of affection were dangerous for the newborn child.  He returned to live with his parents at the age of six.

On the day of his first communion, he asked for two graces from Jesus:

-To keep his heart pure so that he could love Him with all his heart.

-To give all men and women a strong and perfect faith.

At the rectory Huu-Bang: mistreatment by master Vinh and assistance of Mary Immaculate

One day his mother took Van to Fr. Joseph Nha at the parish of Huu-Bang, so that he could prepare to become a priest. Van was allowed to receive Holy Communion, a permission already granted by the parish priest of Ngam-Giao. This aroused the admiration of his little comrades, but made the catechists jealous. One of them, Master Vinh, made life particularly difficult for Van. He attempted twice to rape him, he beat him, prevented him from receiving Communion, deprived him of food, and even attempted to prevent him from reciting his Rosary. Van courageously resisted, relying on an unshakeable confidence in the Virgin Mary. "Thanks to her," he writes, "the devil never managed to defeat me."

Van eventually fled. He wandered for a time, was nearly sold into slavery, then became the apostle of other unhappy children. After a while, he returned to live with his family.

His mother took him back to the rectory of Huu-Bang. There, he gathered other young people to form a kind of league of resistance to fight the bad morals of some of the catechists.

Simple dialogues with Therese of Lisieux, and with Jesus

In December 1941, Van learned about his acceptance at the small seminary of Lan-Song, run by the Dominicans. A few months later, the small seminary had to close after it was bombed by the Japanese. Van was fortunate enough to be able to pursue his studies at the rectory of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus parish in Quang-Uyên.

It is there that he discovered, after having prayed to the Virgin that she would enlighten him, The Story of a Soul, by St Therese of Lisieux. This book was going to be a revelation for him.

Shortly afterwards, Van received an unusual grace: Therese began to talk with Van, asking him to pray for the French, inviting him to converse with God as two friends would do ... God indeed is interested even in the small things of everyday life.

In June 1944, Van was received at the Redemptorist convent in Hanoi (there were some initial difficulties because of his small size, that of a 12-year old boy while he was actually 16!). There he received the name of Marcel. It was then that his dialogues with Jesus began.

Prayer for France given to Marcel Van

Jesus told Marcel Van:

Little child of my love, listen, and I will dictate to you a prayer. This prayer, I want the French to recite it to me ...

Lord Jesus, have compassion upon France, deign to embrace her with your love and show her all your tenderness. Grant that, filled with love for you, she contribute to make you be loved by all the nations of the earth.  

O love of Jesus, we here commit ourselves to remain faithful to you forever, and to work with a burning heart to spread your kingdom throughout the universe. Amen.

 ... tell the French that this prayer is the very one I want to hear from their mouth. It came out of my heart burning with love.

Jesus to Marcel Van on November 14, 1945

Marcel Van condemned to forced labor, and confessor of the faith

In July 1954, after the Geneva Accords, Vietnam was cut in two. Marcel Van, who was in the South, asked to return to the North, now Communist. He was arrested on May 7, 1955, tried and sentenced to 15 years of forced labor. He died of exhaustion and illness on July 10, 1959 at the age of 31. In December 1949, he had written to his superiors: "  "Who can know the power of love, who can know the sweetness... there will come a day when I will die, but I will die consumed by love".

The process of beatification for Marcel Van was opened in the diocese of Belley-Ars (France) on March 26, 1997.

Father Gilles Berceville, Marcel Van, ou l'infini pauvreté de l'Amour (Marcel Van: The Infinite Poverty of Love), Éditions de l'Emmanuel, 2009.


Complete Works :

  • Autobiography. Which was written in obedience to his novice master and spiritual director.
  • Conversations. Which were interior conversations that Marcel had with Jesus, Mary and St Therese.
  • Correspondence. This includes letters to his spiritual director, to his sister Anne-Marie, superiors, confreres, family and friends.
  • Other Works. This includes poems, letters to Jesus, etc.