The hostility that is brewing in North Korea, is nothing new. In the history of the world, Korea has a bitter history concerning the freedom of it’s citizens, in particular, the religious freedom of it’s people. Today in the Traditional Holy Mother Church, we honor the Korean martyrs, whose number reaches into the hundreds, perhaps even into the thousands, who were killed for their Faith in Korea. The story of the Catholic Church in Korea is unique in that the majority of those who promoted the faith were laymen. Catholicism had reached into China and several of the religious books were smuggled into Korea. Once in Korea, they were read and discussed by the learned men of Korea. When faced with the ultimate Truth, that Christ had come to redeem mankind, many of the Korean men converted their hearts and worked tirelessly to spread the Faith among their fellow men.
One such Korean, Ni-seung-houn, went to Beijing in 1784 to study Catholicism and was baptized. Upon returning to Korea, he converted many others. In the late 1700’s the people were convinced that these converted Christians were traitors to their country. Many were rounded up and imprisoned…many more were killed. But the faith endured…the underground Church flourished by the dim light of candles and the Light of Christ that shone from the hearts of these brave and holy men. Many years later when a missionary priest returned to Korea he was met with several thousand faithful Catholics who had kept the Faith alive regardless of the fact that they had never even met a priest! How incredible! Against all the odds that were stacked against It…the Holy Faith was kept alive in the hearts of the Christian Koreans.
For several years, the Korean people were able to worship, but once again, the persecutions began and it seemed that the Catholic Church would never overcome such obstacles. But God had other plans and continued to send brave men into Korea to establish His Church there. Several of these men were Paul Chong Hasang, a layman, who traveled back and forth between China and Korea, pleading with the Church in China to send priests into Korea. Finally, he was able to convince Pope Gregory X to recognize the Catholics in Korea and establish a Catholic Diocese there. Another Korean who was instrumental in spreading the Faith in Korea was Father Andrew Kim Taegon, Korea’s first native son to become a priest. Unfortunately, only one year after returning to Korea, he was martyred. Severe persecutions followed once again, and the Christians hid, fleeing into the mountains.
Over the next century, the Catholic Church in Korea was taken over by communists and separated itself from the True Church in Rome. Many of those who remain Faithful, remain underground… the Church in North Korea is in dire need of renewal.
With all that is going on in the world….particularly in North Korea with Kim Jong Un, threatening the use of nuclear missiles, we need to pray for peace. We need to pray for the conversion of hardened hearts everywhere. We need to remember the strength and determination of the Korean martyrs that we honor today…remember the fortitude that these martyrs displayed…particularly the laymen…and we need to pray…unite our hearts with theirs…and pray for a peaceful resolution to what is going on. I mean, even though I appreciate a president who shows strength and resolve when dealing with a ‘madman’, we must pray for the safety of all people…not just Americans…but especially for those Koreans who have maintained their devotion to the Lord…and have remained Faithful for all these years, despite living in a country that has been anything but Faithful. Saint Paul Chong Hasang and St. Andrew Kim Taegon, pray for us, and all the Faithful Christians who remain in North Korea despite all the hardships they endure, Amen.