Thought for the Day – 20 September – The Memorial of the Korean Martyrs – Sts Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang & Companions – 103 saints and beati
Andrew Kim waged his last combat on 16 September 1846. He faced it with the same intrepid calm he had always shown in every trial of his life. Fastened to a chair with his arms in chains, he was borne to the river’s edge some distance from Seoul. A company of soldiers surrounded him, followed by a large crowd. The sentence was read to the condemned man at the execution site. Andrew then protested in a loud voice that if he had communicated with the French, it had been for his religion and his God. “It is for Him that I die!” he cried out. Then, after exhorting all those who heard him to become Christians if they desired to escape a miserable eternity, he gave himself up to the executioners for the long and cruel preparatory steps that were to precede his death.
The torturers pierced both his ears with arrows and left them in the wounds, raised up the hair on his neck and covered his face with lime in order to give him a grotesque and repulsive appearance. His arms were then pulled back and bound from behind. The soldiers passed long sticks under his armpits, lifted him up and circled the attending crowd three times, each time drawing closer to the execution post. Commanded to kneel down, he obeyed and stretched out his neck. As calm as though this were the most ordinary action of his life, he asked, “Am I well positioned like this? Can you strike easily?”
“No, not like that,” the soldiers answered. “Turn to the side a little. There, that’s fine!”
“Strike, then,” said Andrew. “I am ready.”
They began their savage dance, whirling round him and working themselves up with a sort of death chant, brandishing their large sabres and striking at will. The martyr’s head fell only at the eighth blow.
Thus did young Andrew Kim the first Korean priest, live and die. He was scarcely twenty-five years old. He received the finest funeral prayers – the tears of his bishop and all his brethren, who at his venerated tomb wept over so many eminent gifts, pledges of a fruitful apostolate, cut off by the sabres.
But he is not altogether dead. His memory lives on in every heart and it is in the contact with his sacred bones that Korean priests come to seek the lights and generous inspirations of charity which will one day transform Korea and you and I!