During the persecutions of 1839, 1846, 1866, and 1867, one hundred and three Christians in Korea gave their lives as martyrs. The martyrs included clergy, but were, for the most part, members of the laity. They consecrated the rich beginnings of the Church in Korea with their blood. Among them were Fr. Andrew Kim of Taegon, the first Korean priest and pastor, and Paul Chong of Hasang, a lay apostle.
St. Andrew Kim Taegon was born into a noble Korean family. He traveled to China to become a Catholic priest and he was ordained in Macao. When he returned to Korea, as the first native priest, he was arrested, tortured, and eventually beheaded.
Paul Chong Hasang was a seminarian, aged 45. As a layman, he was one of the great founders of the Catholic Church in Korea. He was persecuted before he could be ordained.
"We have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?"
~St. Andrew Kim Taegon
"I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together."
~ Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Final Exhortation
It is interesting to note that during the Korean War of 1950 - 53 many priests, nuns, and lay people were killed or expelled. In today's still divided Korea, the Church flourishes in the South, both in terms of numbers and intellectually, but it remains underground in the North.
"The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today's splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land."
~Pope John Paul II at the canonization of the Korean Martyrs, May 6, 1984
To learn more about the Korean martyrs commemorated today, go here.
Almighty Father, You have created all nations and You are their salvation. In the land of Korea, Your call to the Catholic faith formed a people of adoption whose growth You nurtured by the blood of Saints Andrew, Paul, and their companions. Through their intercession, give us the strength to always remain faithful to Your commandments and to courageously and boldly proclaim the gospel message to all your people through our actions and our words. We ask this through in the precious name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.