November 23, 2017

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, Martyrs

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac

On November 24th the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, a 19th century Vietnamese priest and companions, who lost their lives for the Faith. St. Andrew was one of 117 people who were martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. The last of these martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. The suffering they endured was barbaric.

Christianity came to Vietnam through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. The emperor Minh-Mang, banned all foreign missionaries and commanded Vietnamese Catholics to renounce their religion by trampling on a crucifix. Their churches were destroyed and catechesis forbidden.

Christians were branded on the face with the words ta dao (false religion) and Christian families and villages were destroyed. Like the priest holes in Ireland during English persecution, many Catholics were offered sanctuary in the homes of the faithful. Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century after 1820. Between 100,000 and 300,000 Vietnamese Catholics were killed or subjected to hardship. Missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society and Spanish Dominican priest and tertiaries.

Persecution would break out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected religious missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with the rebellion of one of his sons. Many endured extreme privations and hardship; many more were put to death for their allegiance to the Church. In 1860, a treaty with France would guarantee religious freedom to Catholics, but it would not stop all persecution.

Members of the Vietnamese martyrs, Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All 117 martyrs were canonized in Rome on June 19, 1988 by Pope Saint John Paul II. Among them, 76 were beheaded, 21 were suffocated, 6 burnt alive, 5 mutilated and 9 died in prison as a result of torture. O God, who kept the Martyrs Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions faithful to the Cross of your Son, even unto death, grant by their intercession, that we may be your children in name and in truth.

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