Saint of the Day for 20 September: Korean Martyr Saints
The 103 Korean martyrs: an example of faith and courage
Korean Martyr Saints
Lord, send us Thy gifts, so that our lives too may be pure and uncompromising, that we may bear witness to our love for Thee and strive, together with our brothers and sisters of all religions and races, for unity, freedom and peace on this earth of ours, steeped in the blood of so many of Thy holy martyrs, and enjoy the light of Thy glory in heaven.
Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, priest, Paul Chong Hasang and companions, martyrs in Korea. On this day, in a single celebration, we also venerate all the one hundred and three martyrs, who courageously bore witness to the Christian faith, first introduced with fervour in this kingdom by a few lay people and then nourished and consolidated by the preaching of missionaries and the celebration of the sacraments. All these athletes of Christ, of whom three were bishops, eight priests and all the other lay people, including some married and others not, old, young and children, subjected to torture, consecrated with their precious blood the beginnings of the Church in Korea.
The Saint and Mission
The Holy Korean Martyrs are indelible symbols of a mission rooted in deep faith and human resilience. Their journey, steeped in courage and dedication, underlines a vital mission to preserve the truth of the Christian faith in a context of extreme persecution.
First and foremost, their mission was to transmit the light of the Gospel in a territory largely unexplored by Christianity. Their evangelisation was not just a transmission of religious teachings, but a revolution of love, compassion and selfless service to others. This missionary spirit created a community that, despite difficulties and constant threats, has continued to grow and flourish, enriching the spiritual soil of Korea.
The path of the Holy Korean Martyrs required an impressive capacity for self-giving. Their lives tell of a conscious sacrifice, a deliberate renunciation of personal comforts, and even their own lives, for the greater good of the community and the affirmation of the truth of the Gospel. This mission made it clear that Christian witness is not just a matter of words, but of concrete actions that embody the love of Christ among people.
A significant aspect of their mission was the inculturation of the Christian message in the Korean reality of the time. Their ability to integrate the faith with the local culture and traditions was a remarkable missionary triumph, facilitating the acceptance and adoption of Christian principles by the local population.
Through their witness, we are invited to reflect on our personal and community mission in today’s world. The story of the Holy Korean Martyrs challenges us to consider how we can live an authentic faith in a world that can often seem indifferent or even hostile to Christian values. They remind us that authentic mission goes beyond verbal proclamation, requiring a living witness that embodies Christ’s teachings in everyday life.
The Holy Korean Martyrs remain as a shining beacon of a radical missionary commitment, marked by a deep love for God and neighbour. Their sacrifice recalls us to an unceasing mission of service, love and witness to the Gospel truth, inviting us to carry on their legacy with courage and hope, for a Church ever more incarnated in its context and time, a credible witness to the joy of the Gospel.
The Saint and Mercy
The Holy Korean Martyrs, emblematic figures of resistance and unchanging faith, undoubtedly represent the profound embodiment of mercy in the context of Christian history in Korea. Their story offers us a fascinating insight into mercy not only as a virtue, but also as a driving force for peaceful resistance and the affirmation of human dignity.
Mercy, as shown by these martyrs, is manifested through their dedication to the service of others, prioritising the common good above their own personal well-being. They welcomed and assisted the most vulnerable in society, working with a deep sense of compassion and empathy.
In addition to their care for others, the Holy Korean Martyrs demonstrated an extraordinary mercy towards themselves in willingly accepting the deadly consequences of their Christian faith. This supreme level of self-compassion is a testimony to their profound understanding of the intrinsic dignity of human life and its inextricable connection to the divine.
Their testimony, marked by intense suffering and sacrifice, is also a powerful reminder of the importance of mercy in our relationship with the divine. Their unwavering faith in the Christian promises demonstrated an absolute trust in God’s mercy, which sustains every individual in life’s most difficult trials.
In the context of Christian spirituality, mercy is intrinsically linked to the notion of sacrifice and redemption. The Holy Korean Martyrs embody this link, showing by their lives that the path of mercy is the one that leads to truth and ultimate liberation.
As we reflect on their example, we are called to consider how we can embody mercy in our daily lives, not only through great acts of sacrifice, but also through everyday gestures of kindness, understanding and acceptance towards others.
The lives and martyrdom of the Holy Korean Martyrs are a powerful and moving testament to the power of mercy. Their example invites us to live with an open heart, willing to give and receive mercy in all circumstances of life. Through their intercession, we can find inspiration to become agents of mercy in our world, bringing light into darkness and hope where there is despair.
S. Gennaro was born in the second half of the 3rd century, most probably in Benevento, although some sources say he was born in Naples. From a noble family and very Christian, he preferred the ecclesiastical life from his youth. At the age of thirty, he was a priest and bishop of Benevento when Diocletian’s persecution broke out. Great was his friendship with the deacon Sosius, whom he often consulted about the affairs of the diocese, finding in him much knowledge and spiritual comfort.
One day, while Sosius was reading the Gospel in the church, the bishop saw a flame shining above his head, which he knew to be a herald of martyrdom. Filled with jubilation at such grace, he kissed the head of the one who had to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ and…