Born: August 21, 1821
Died: September 16, 1846
FEast: Sept. 20th
Patron of: Korea
St. Andrew Kim
Christianity made its way into Korea as early as the 1500s, during which many people were baptized by Japanese invaders. After this, several books written by Chinese Christians were snuck into the country. Korea was rather isolated from the world at this time, except when it was time to pay taxes to China, and so when Christian missionaries from Paris were sent in 1836 to Korea, they were surprised to find thousands of Catholics practicing secretly out of their homes without any priests or churches.
Andrew Kim Taegon was born in in South Central Korea to a family of Christian converts in 1821. His grandfather and great uncle had been martyred for this in 1814 and 1816, leaving his family destitute, even though the family had descended from a line of nobility.
He was baptized at age 15, and then traveled 1,200 miles to study in Macau, China to enter the seminary. Father Legregois wrote about him, " Kim Tae-gon Andrew is active but precise, obedient but daring, and has strong will power. He is a very promising young man. He is eloquent and his judgement is good, enabling him to solve problems quickly and easily." He also spent some of his years of study in the Philippines.
His father was also martyred in 1839, but in 1844, Andrew was ordained in Shanghai, becoming the first Korean to be ordained, and returned to Korea to preach anyway.
This journey home allowed Andrew Kim Taegon to study the land so that the French missionaries could find better ways into the country. He was captured at the age of 25, however, and was tortured and beheaded in 1846 near Seoul on the Han river. Rumors say that the king and some of the other leaders did not want him executed because of his wealth of knowledge, but the Christian persecution at the time sentenced him as a heretic and traitor. It is said that the torturers threw lime on his face and pierced his ears with arrows.
Korea's first bishop asked only to be buried near Andrew Kim Taegon when he passed away in 1853, having dearly loved him and being eternally grateful for the sacrifice he made for the Korean Church.
Christian persecutions continued in Korea into 1866 as well, with martyrs from all the years of persecution numbering around 10,000. Religious freedom finally came to the country in 1883.
Another early leader of the Korean Church was Paul Chong Hasang. When he was young, he took a job interpreting for the government, and when he was sent to China, he secretly asked for priests and missionaries to be sent back to Korea. Later, he directly appealed to Pope Gregory X about this, as well. Though he was married and not ordained, Paul Chong Hasang was extremely influential to the Christian community, writing letters when he was arrested encouraging them to stay hopeful and unified. He was martyred as well in 1839, after facing the government and defending his faith. His mother Cecelia Yu Sosa was tortured and killed as well.
Though Pope John Paul II canonized over 100 Korean martyrs during his visit in 1984, several stories describe the horrors of the persecution. Columba Kim (26) and her sister, when in jail with condemned criminals, were pierced with tools and burned with coals. It is because of their fervent objections and the stand they took against their torturers that this was not done to any more women. Peter Ryou (13) was tortured with his skin torn so badly that he could peel off pieces of it. A nobleman that denied his faith to avoid torture came back with regret and was tortured to death as well. Pope John Paul II praised these brave early church members as well as all the unknown martyrs, astounded by how strong the faith foundations could be when it was begun by all lay members.
To be the first to do what we wish already existed - that is where we ask you to guide us. To be fearless - even with the risk of judgement, of persecution, of setbacks, and ridicule, you persevered. When you faced the ultimate punishment for this, not even then did you turn back. Lead us to do the same, and to be as faithful as you. Amen.
Images of St. Andrew Kim are always very recognizeable because of his moustache and iconic hat and red stole. While I wanted this recognition to remain, I did try to modify the style a bit to appear as more acceptable streetwear. He smiles slightly as he knows who will really win this battle.