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Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions - 20th September 2008



I have been a bit tardy updating this blog, must be giving into the sin of sloth. It is one of the seven deadly ones. Today let us read the lives of Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions. These saints were newly canonized by Pope John Paul II.

I suspect that a similar persecution may take place in my native land of India. I hope that the Catholic population there gives a strong witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ and the river of blood of the martyrs gives birth to a new harvest of Catholic Souls in a land of one billion people.



Born to Korean nobility; his parents were converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. Andrew was baptized at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He became Korea's first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea. Leader of the Martyrs of Korea.

After baptism at the age of fifteen, Andrew traveled thirteen hundred miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital.

Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and a married man, aged forty-five. Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Beijing to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found four thousand Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were ten thousand Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883.

When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984, he canonized Andrew, Paul, ninety-eight Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were laypersons: forty-seven women, forty-five men.

Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of twenty-six. She was put in prison, pierced with hot awls and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of thirteen, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a forty-one-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.

Today there are approximately four million Catholics in Korea.

The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today's splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land.

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