Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Korean Martyrs

Feast of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, 
Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs 

To every one of them he says the same thing: Follow me!  Follow me, he says to Philip and Matthew and Levi and Peter. (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, John 1:43; John 21:19.)

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19.)  Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead. (Matthew 8:22.) Follow me! 

And to the heart of every man sitting here this morning, he says the same thing: Follow me!  That’s the reason you’re here, listening for that still small voice, that naggingly insistent demand: Follow me!

But how, Lord?  How do I follow you?

Paul Chong Ha-sang learned the way as a little boy, six years old, when his father and brother were martyred for teaching Christ.  He learned the way as he and his mother fled to the countryside where no one would notice them.  For many that would have been the end of it.  But Paul listened for that voice as his father had taught him: Follow me!    

So, the young Paul snuck across the border, not once, but nine times, and when the Bishop of Beiging would not listen to him he wrote to the Pope, until Gregory X sent a Bishop to Korea, a Bishop who recognized Christ calling this young man to be a Priest and accepted him to the study of Theology.  But Paul was not to die a Priest, for just before his ordination he and the Bishop and Father Andrew Kim Kaegon, the only native Korean priest at the time, were martyred with 103 others who have been canonized, and as many as 10,000 other faithful Korean Catholics in the following years.

Paul knew the way.  He’d walked it, as he heard the still, small voice of the crucified, calling to him from the wood of cross.  Follow me, in my passion.  Follow me, in my suffering.  Follow me, as I lay down my life for the sheep.  Deny yourself...take up your cross, and follow me.

As gold in the furnace, God proved him,
and as a sacrificial offering God took him to himself.

The blood of these martyrs we celebrate today, made fertile the Korean soil and brought forth a harvest so wondrous, that it’s hard to imagine.  For example, the second largest Archdiocese, Daegu is about a quarter the size of the Archdiocese of Boston.  But last year, while Boston baptised less than 3,000 catechumens, tiny Daegu baptised more than twice that number.  One quarter the size, and more than twice the converts!

And why?  Because God chose to make “the blood of the Martyrs...a most fruitful seed,” (Roman Missal, Collect for the Feast of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs) “which sprouted a new bud, which grew to a full blown tree in this pilgrim Church.” (Hymn.The Martyrdom of One Hundred and Three.)

May that same blood make our hearts fertile ground for the grace to renounce all selfish please and prestige, deny our very selves, follow the via dolorosa, the only road which leads to him.

Monsignor James P. Moroney