Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Face of Death Some Run

When we think about the history of the Church in Korea we remember the many martyrs but at the same time many were those who wanted to live and turned against the community of faith.

After Chu Mun-mo, James (1752-1801) the Chinese priest entered Korea, the Masses were attended with great fervor. However, those who reported the Masses and gave the names of those in attendance to the authorities were also Catholics. The numbers of those who turned against the Church were as large as those who died as Martyrs.

An article in Catholic Digest taken from lectures of a professor reminds us of the sadness during the  many years of persecution and the large number of those that turned against the community of faith. The writer mentions how in his own life he reflects on what he does and wonders whether it is a martyr's choice or a renegade's act. When he speaks and acts, is it building up or dividing the community?

One of the Catholics who because of the rites controversy fell away; reported to the authorities the whereabouts of the priest. The Christians were quick to hide him. In order to give the priest time to escape the leader of the Catholics put on the priest's clothes to give time for the priest to escape. He was tortured, suffered but never gave in and finally killed.

Many of the Catholics gave their lives to save the priest. Kang Wan-suk, Columba, was a member of the noble class and the authorities were not allowed to search her house and that is where he was hidden for 6 years. Many are the stories retold about Columba and her work as a catechist. 

The priest during this time was hearing about the deaths of many of the Catholics because of his presence  and he decided to return to China. He had only to cross over the Yalu River to live. It was at this time that he began to think deeply on what was transpiring in Korea. The Catholics were given their lives for the priest and he was returning home. He returned to his Christians and gave himself up to the authorities.

This part of the story was written by the French Missioner Fr. Dallet, using the written material left by his compatriot, the martyred bishop Antoine Daveluy. He called this the Korean 'Quo Vadis'  (Where are you going?) section of the history. (The story of St. Peter who was leaving Rome to escape the persecution and was met by Jesus on the Road asking him Quo Vadis? And returns to Rome and death).

Father reported to the authorities that he was the Father Chu they were looking for and was killed on April 19, 1801, the first priest who died as a martyr in Korea.

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