Sunday, July 6, 2014

Feast of St. Kim Taegon Andrew

July 5, was the Feast Day of St. Kim Taegon Andrew. In most parishes  the feast day was transferred to Sunday. St. Kim Andrew is the first Korean priest to be ordained after the introduction of Catholicism to Korea at the end of the 18th Century. He was ordained in China in 1845 and was martyred the following year.

The Catholic history of Korea is unique. Before the first priest entered the country there were already 4000 who considered themselves Catholic. The first priest was Fr. Chu Moon-mo, a  Chinese priest who entered in 1785 worked for 6 years and was martyred on 1801. This community was again without bishops or priests for close to another 30 years and was able to produce Christians of great faith willing to die for what they believed.              

The Parish Foreign Mission Society was given  the territory of Korea and when they entered in 1836 they found dynamic Catholic communities led by lay people.They selected a number of young boys from the strong religious families and sent them to the seminary in Macau to study for the priesthood. Kim Andrew was in this group. He was  ordained in China and trying to find ways to help the French missioners  to enter Korea was arrested and with repeated questioning and torture  was beheaded in 1846.

He has left  us a number of letters that he wrote while in prison which are a lesson to all of us on what  a spirituality of martyrdom should encompass. One of the readings for the office of the day is taken from one of his letters from prison. 

"Hold fast, then, to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished. I beg you not to fail in your love for one another, but to support one another and to stand fast until the Lord mercifully delivers us from our trials.There are twenty of us in this place and by God’s grace we are so far all well. If any of us is executed, I ask you not to forget our families. I have many things to say, yet how can pen and paper capture what I feel? I end this letter. As we are all near the final ordeal, I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together. I embrace you all in love."

For the feast day the second reading for the liturgy is a good reminder of what a spirituality of martyrs is all about."We know that afflictions makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been give to us
(Rm. 5:1-5).

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