Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Lesson Learned From An Apostate

A columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times recalls a trip to a pilgrimage site commemorating Korean martyrs. While there, he stayed at an overnight lodge and met by chance a priest who was in the seminary with him. He was now the pastor of the parish where the pilgrimage site is located. 
As the pastor of a parish that went back to the time of the martyrs, he became interested in the history of the early Church, and became interesting in the life story of the martyr Yi Joon-chang Ludovico (1759-1801). 

Ludovico was a bright, talented person, which helped prepare him for the difficult times he would soon confront as a missioner to his own people in the Chungnam province. At this time, the Catholics didn't understand all the discipline and structural realities  of the Church and picked their own priests to minister to them. Ludovico  was chosen as the priest for  the community, and due to his efforts the community grew to over 300 members. It was from this community that years later the first two Korean priests and many other Christians would trace their roots. 

During that time no other area embraced Catholicism the way Chungnam did. The parish grew so rapidly that Ludovico saw the need for priests and worked to have a priest come in from China. During the persecution of Catholics in 1791, Ludovico was picked up by the authorities, denied his faith, and was released. He returned to his hometown but was persuaded to move because of his continued work with the Christians, and because the danger of being reported was always present.

Bishop Daveluy was quoted as saying the apostasy of Ludovico was a great sadness and embarrassment to the Catholic community. His parish did grow to over 300 members in a short time under his leadership, and, in a very worldly way, he may have thought they needed him, and denied his faith to be with them.

Ludovico later was sorry for his denial, and again professing his faith, he continued his teaching and missionary work. In 1801, he was again arrested and killed by beheading. The pastor used the story of Ludovico to address the serious problem today of many lax Catholics and those who have left the community of faith entirely.

The pastor thinks the Church should not only study effective ways of increasing the numbers of Christians but also how to invite back those who for one reason or another have decided to leave the Church.  

The words of the pastor made him think about the recent emphasis on the new evangelization. Not only do we have to continue our work of evangelization, as in the past, but at the same time look for ways to invite back to the community those who have left. Doing this earnestly will be a good example to those who have left, he said, but cautioned that we should not expect quick results.


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