The Korean Martyrs

Today, September 20, is the Memorial of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, the Martyrs of Korea.

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first Korean priest and pastor. He was martyred by the sword on September 16, 1846, only thirteen months after ordination, at the age of 26.

St. Paul Chong Ha-sang was a lay leader of the Church in Korea, who had traveled with others to China to beseech the Bishop of Beijing and, ultimately, Pope Gregory X, to send Catholic priests and bishops to Korea to serve the Catholics of the peninsula. A bishop and ten priests were sent by the Paris Foreign Mission Society, bringing new life to the Church in Korea.

St. Paul Chong Ha-sang was studying for the priesthood when he was martyred at the age of 45 on September 22, 1839. Two months later, St. Paul’s mother, St. Yu Cecilia, died while imprisoned for her faith and the following month after that, St. Paul’s younger sister, St. Jung Hye, was also martyred. All three were canonized along with St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon and 99 others on May 6, 1984 by Pope St. John Paul II.

On August 16, 2014, Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 Catholic companions martyred in 1791 were beatified by Pope Francis. The cause for canonization has begun, as well, for Korean Catholics who were killed by Communists during the 20th century.

Missionaries and native-born Catholics were under constant threat of persecution and death in Korea during the 18th and 19th centuries, until Korea adopted religious freedom in 1886. 10,000 Korean Catholics lost their lives in devotion to the faith during these years.

Today, the Church in South Korea has over five and a half million members, representing 10.6% of the population. In North Korea, which brutally suppresses Christianity, it is estimated there are only about 5000 Catholics. Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014. South Korea has elected two Catholic presidents: the late Kim Dae-jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts toward improved relations with North Korea, and the recently elected Moon Jae-in, who began his term in May of this year.

Today would be a good day to pray for peace, not only between North and South Korea, but between North Korea and the United States and North Korea and Japan. North Korea, under the dictator Kim Jong-un, has launched repeated missile tests, including two over Japan, demonstrating its capability to hit Japan and even Guam, a U. S. territory. For his part, U. S. president Donald Trump, has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the United States. Kim has replied with his own threats to destroy U. S. bases. I can’t recall tensions ever being higher between North Korea and the United States since the Korean War. Prayers are needed.

O God, who has been pleased to increase your adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.    from New … St. Joseph Weekday Missal

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.



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