Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.

Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Korean Martyrs

September 20th is date of the Universal Church's memorial for the Martyrs of Korea, Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, who perished in the waves of persecution in Korea in 1839, 1846, in 1867.

There are a total of 103 Korean saints, which gives Korea one of the highest, if not the highest, number of saints per capita in the world! In addition to these declared saints, there were an estimated 10,000 Korean Catholics who chose martyrdom for the Faith rather than apostasy. As His Holiness Pope John Paul II said, speaking at the canonization on May 6, 1984:

The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by lay people. 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 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 in the Church of silence in the north of this tragically divided land.

The Holy Father was right to praise the Church in Korea, a Church very close to his heart. Years before I even thought of becoming Catholic, Korean Catholics witnessed to me by their kindness and generosity. It seemed that when ever I met a particularly kind Korean, he or she turned out to be Catholic. Korea can be a very difficult country to live in as a foreigner; we are often met with mistrust or even dislike. But I have always felt somrthing akin to comraderie from Korean Catholics. Perhaps the horrible persecutions they faced at the hands of their fellow Koreans have helped them to discard the xenophobic nationalism so prevelent here.

Although I am American, I am proud to consider myself in many ways a Korean Catholic. As I converted here in this land, the liturgical and cultural practices unique to Korean Catholicism seem natural to me. In fact, when I worshipped in America, I found American Catholicism to be foreign and exotic.

The Korean Church and her Blessed Martyrs have much to be proud of and are living proof that the Christian message is indeed universal and transcendent.