|The Blood of the Martyrs Is the Seed of New Christians.
The Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang & Their Companions, Martyrs.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Corinthians 15: 1-11.
• Psalm 118 1-2, 16-17, 28.
• Luke 7: 36-50.
…or, from the proper:
• Wisdom 3: 1-9
[or, Romans 8: 31-39.]
• Psalm 126: 1-6.
• Luke 9: 23-26.
…or, any lessons from the common of Martyrs for Several Martyrs.
The Seventeenth Thursday after Pentecost; and, the Commemoration of Saint Eustace & His Companions, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ephesians 4: 1-6.
• Psalm 32: 12, 6.
• Matthew 22: 34-46.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common Sapiéntiam… of Many Martyrs:
• Wisdom 5: 16-20.
• Psalm 123: 7-8.
• Luke 6: 17-23.
10:37 PM 9/20/2018 — Korea has been in the news lately, and the threat posed by North Korea has been on a lot of people's minds. It's therefore providential that all this coincides with the memorial of that troubled peninsula’s most famous saints. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, the son of Korean converts, was the first native-born Catholic priest in Korea and is the patron saint of that country.
His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925, the first native born Korean to be so honored. For whatever reason, Andrew wasn’t baptized until the age of fifteen, and promptly traveled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China, returning to his own country six years later through Manchuria; but, later that same year, he crossed the Yellow Sea back into China, to Shanghai, where he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood. Returning home again, he was given the difficult assignment of arranging for more missionaries to enter Korea from China by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of twenty-five, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River; the charge against him was having had communication with foreigners. Someone who was present at his death recorded his last words for posterity, and it should be noted that, even at the moment of death, he did not pull any punches:
This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.
To fully understand and appreciate Father Kim’s life and death, it’s necessary to place him in the context of what nineteenth century Korea had become. It’s extreme isolationism was an outgrowth of having been invaded and exploited so many times by the empires that surrounded it—first Japan and then China—and how this effected everything else that happened there, including the spread of the Gospel; and, the beginning of Catholicism in Korea is actually traceable to the Japanese invasion of 1592.
Though often overlooked by historians, Catholicism was a significant presence in Japan at the time; and, though never more than three or four percent of the population, there were some places where the Church was particularly powerful, especially in Japan’s Catholic headquarters, Nagasaki. Before the rise of Japanese Shinto-based nationalism and the accompanying concept of the Emperor as a god—both relatively late developments—the Imperial Army had a number of Catholics in it, many of them educated in western countries; and, the first Korean Catholics were baptized by invading Japanese soldiers. The Japanese were eventually pushed out by China. Even so, evangelization was difficult in Korea due to the country's extreme isolationism. The only regular contact the country had with the outside world was on the annual occasion of transporting tax revenue to Beijing; and, it was during one of these journeys—believed to be around 1777, just as the American Revolution was beginning—that religious literature provided by the Jesuits in China was smuggled into the country. This became the basis of a home-church initiative of which Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, a married lay apostle, was a leading figure. When a Chinese priest managed to enter the country secretly twelve years later, he found four thousand Catholics, many of them baptized by Mr. Chŏng, none of whom had ever seen a priest; but, that priest, whoever he was, didn’t waste any time because, seven years later, there were over ten thousand.
Between 1839 and 1867, a number of Korean Catholics won the crown of martyrdom, among them Paul Chŏng Ha-sang. When Pope Saint John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Father Andrew and Mr. Chŏng, 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 lay people: forty-seven women and forty-five men.
Religious freedom finally came to Korea in 1883, and continues to this day in the south.
Andrew Kim and Paul Chŏng never met one another. One a priest, the other a lay man, it’s likely they didn’t even know of one another; they were, nevertheless, motivated by the same dual love of Faith and country. Both of them sought the salvation of souls, each according to his own state in life, and both of them are very great saints.
We, too, feel that same love of both country and faith, especially now during these troubling times for the Church in our country. We don’t know if, at some point in the future, circumstances will call forth saints of this caliber for our nation; but, if it should happen, we could choose much worse models than these two magnificent apostles, and the many who died with them. I’ve quoted to you before that famous line by that erudite Father of the Church of the fourth century, Tertullian: sanguis martyrum semen christianorum—“the blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians” (Apol., 50, 13: CCL 1, 171). In these perilous times, the words of today’s Collect should be a daily prayer for us:
O God … who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example.
* Eutace was commander-in-chief in the army of the Emperor Trajan. Having refused to thank the gods for a triumph, he was subjected to many cruel tortures and burned to death, along with his wife and two children, in AD 120.