Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Remember the martyrs!

"This is my last hour of life - listen to me attentively: if I have had communications with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is just beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death..."

St. Andrew Kim Taegon (d. 1846)
These were the last words spoken by Andrew Kim Taegon, a native-born Korean who was publicly executed for his Catholic faith in 1846. Taegon was the first Korean-born man to be ordained to the priesthood. He was one of thousands of Catholics who were martyred by the Korean regime during the mid-nineteenth century; by a regime which, in its last throes of its existence, embraced radical isolationism and, accordingly, began persecuting all who showed signs of "foreign" influence and all who had any contact with the outside world. Catholics, of course, became a prime target of this persecution because 1) they practiced a "foreign" religion (the state religion of Korea was Confusionism) and 2) they were in communion and constant (though discreet) contact with the worldwide Catholic Church, which broke the laws of strict isolationism.

Andrew Kim Taegon was canonized along with Paul Chong Hasang (a Korean government official who embraced Catholic Christianity even in the face of death) and 102 other Korean martyrs by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 1984. They're commemorated today on the Church calendar as "Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Martyrs of Korea."

Unfortunately, Christian martyrdom is not something out of history. It is very real today in places such as Iraq and Egypt (to name just two). On this day, please say a prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters who live in areas of religious persecution - who live in fear for their safety and for thier lives.

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang, pray for us.