24 November SAINTS ANDREW DUNG-LAC Priest, AND HIS COMPANIONS (18th and 19th centuries)
This feast day celebrates all of the martyrs of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries (1745-1862) who shed their blood in the remote Far East, particularly in Vietnam. Many of the martyrs were priests of the Dominican order. Others belonged to the Paris Society for Foreign Missions, while still others, including Andrew Dung-Lac, were Vietnamese.
Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, a Vietnamese seminarian, wrote in a letter of 1843, shortly before his martyrdom: “I, Paul, chained for the name of Christ, wish to tell you the tribulations in which I am immersed every day, so that you, inflamed with love for God, may also lift up your praise to God, ‘for his mercy endures forever’. This prison is truly the image of the eternal Hell: to the cruelest tortures of all types, such as fetters, iron chains and bonds, are added hate, vindictiveness, calumny, indecent words, interrogations, bad acts, unjust oaths, curses and finally difficulties and sorrow. But God, who once freed the three boys from the path of the flames, is always with me and has freed me from these tribulations and converted them into sweetness, ‘for his mercy endures forever…. Assist me with your prayers so that I may struggle according to the law, and indeed ‘fight the good fight’ and that I may be worthy to fight until the end, finishing my course happily; if we do not see each other again in this life, in the future age, nonetheless, this will be our joy, when standing before the throne of the spotless Lamb, with one voice we sing his praises, exulting in the joy of eternal victory. Amen.” Saints Andrew Dũng-Lạc and his CompanionsThe evangelization of Vietnam began in the 16th century and was formally established with the setting up of two Vicariates Apostolic in 1659. There are now about 6 million Catholics in Vietnam, some 10% of the population.
This growth comes partly from the fact that since the earliest times the seed of the Faith has been watered by the blood of the martyrs of Vietnam – the missionary clergy, the local clergy and the ordinary Christian people. They have all shared the labour of apostolic work and have together faced death to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel. In the course of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries no less than 53 decrees, signed by the lords and emperors of the country from 1625 to 1886, launched one persecution of Christians after another, each one more savage than the last. Over the whole territory of Vietnam about 130,000 Christians were killed in these persecutions. Over the centuries the names of most of them have been lost, but their memory is still alive in the Catholic community.
Since the beginning of the 20th century 117 of these heroes (those whose sufferings were cruellest and best documented) were beatified, in four groups. They were all canonized together by Pope John Paul II on 19 June 1988.