20 September 2011

Feast of the Korean Martyrs. Pregnant Mother Spared by Persecutors.

St Andrew Kim Taegon, (1821-1846), Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul

St Andrew Kim Taegon's last words: This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively : if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.

Today the Church honours the 103 Korean martyrs canonized on 6 May 1984 by Blessed Pope John Paul II in Seoul. However, around 8,000 Korean Catholics were martyred during periodic persecutions between 1839 and 1868. Among the 8,000 was the grandfather of the first Korean cardinal.

In an article published in July-August 2009 in Misyon, which I edit for the Columbans in the Philippines, after the death of Cardinal Kim Columban Fr Donal O'Keeffe told this extraordinary story: Kim Sou-Hwan (Stephen) was born in May 1922 in Taegu in the province of Kyongsangdo to a fervent Catholic family. His grandfather Kim Bo-hyun (John) was arrested and martyred in Seoul in 1868 during the last persecution of Christians in Korea. His grandmother was also to be executed with him but was released because she was pregnant. The child born was Kim Young-sok (Joseph) who was to become the father of Kim Sou-hwan.

Today many say it is a woman's 'right' to have her unborn baby killed. Yet those who put Cardinal Kim's grandfather and many others to death respected the life of the unborn child his grandmother was carrying.

Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-whan (1922-2009)

A poem of remembrance
by Fr Kevin O'Rourke

Fr Kevin O’Rourke, a Columban from Ireland ordained in 1963, is professor of English at Kyunghee University in Seoul, Korea, and is the author of three books of Korean poetry in translation and is planning to produce an anthology from AD 668 to the present day.

Dust of snow,
a wind that chills to the bone,
pinched mourning faces,
collars raised, hats pulled low,
the shiver of death everywhere.
Cardinal Kim Suhwan
is lowered to his final resting place.

He brought forth simplicity,
a water simplicity that quickened
every root it touched.
He brought forth patience,
a medicament patience that salved
the wounds of the poor.
He brought forth compassion,
a loving compassion that embraced the world.
Simplicity, patience, compassion,
these three:
timber for a master carpenter,
clay for a master potter,
the hub of a master priest’s wheel.
'If you bring forth what is inside,
what you bring forth will save'.

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