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Weekly Saint: The 1st Korean Priest

Good Monday morning and Happy Weekly Saint Day here at Christian Persecution Report.

Today, we’re going to take a brief look at Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean Roman Catholic Priest.

In the many, many years leading up to Andrew Kim Tae-gon’s martyrdom, thousands of Christians in Korea were killed for their faith, so it’s a little hard to pick just one from the crowd.

However there are several things about Andrew Kim Tae-gon and Korea at the time of his life and death that are important for us to know and learn from.

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Andrew Kim Tae-gon courtesy of Catholic.org
  1. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was born in 1821, near the end of the Joseon Dynasty.  During this time of the isolationist empire, Christians were severely tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus.
  2. Christian faith and martyrdom was a way of life for Kim Tae-gon from the get-go.  His great-grandfather, uncle and father were all faithful believers of Christ and were martyred.
  3. Knowing that he would most likely be killed for his faith did not deter him from becoming the first native-born Roman Catholic Priest.
  4. The idea of martyrdom also did not stop him from returning to his home land and to his people after he received his training and ordination in China.
  5. “On September 26, [1846] at the age of 25, Kim was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His ears were pierced with arrows; his face covered with lime.”

 

As I learned about Andrew Kim Tae-gon, my heart was heavy with sadness.  I look at the picture of him and sense the sadness in his eyes. I imagine all the things that he grew up knowing and enduring contributed to that sadness.

And, my Lord, what a horrible, terrible, awful way to die!

But, what saddens me the most are these words from Andrew Kim Tae-gon near the time of his death:

 “My dear brothers and sisters know this: Our Lord Jesus Christ upon descending into the world took innumerable pains upon and constituted the holy Church through his own passion and increases it through the passion of its faithful….Now, however, some fifty or sixty years since holy Church entered into our Korea, the faithful suffer persecutions again. Even today persecution rages, so that many of our friends of the same faith, among who am I myself, have been thrown into prison. Just as you also remain in the midst of persecution. Since we have formed one body, how can we not be saddened in our innermost hearts? How can we not experience the pain of separation in our human faculties? However, as Scripture says, God cares for the least hair of our heads, and indeed he cares with his omniscience; therefore, how can persecution be considered as anything other than the command of God, or his prize, or precisely his punishment?…We are twenty here, and thanks be to God all are still well. If anyone is killed, I beg you not to forget his family. I have many more things to say, but how can I express them with pen and paper? I make an end to this letter. Since we are now close to the struggle, I pray you to walk in faith, so that when you have finally entered into Heaven, we may greet one another. I leave you my kiss of love.” – New World Encyclopedia and others.

 

I wonder what Andrew Kim Tae-gon would think about Korea today?  It makes me so sad to know that nearly two-hundred years after his death, his words appropriately describe the state of Christianity in North Korea today.

It pains me to know that the same isolationist views are adopted by the regime in North Korea today.  It’s unfathomable that progress has not been made in regards to freedom of religion and that Christians are still imprisoned and worse for their beliefs, along with other minorities.

I imagine that the same contemplative, soulful sadness for his people would exist in Andrew Kim Tae-gon’s eyes today.

But, I also love that he was committed and resigned to scriptural truths about persecution and that he did not expect to be delivered from this fate, but sent a reminder to other Christians to remember the martyrs’ families.

Today, my prayer is that every single Christian follows Andrew Kim Tae-gon’s example to prepare our hearts and minds for the possibility of persecution for our faith, not to be surprised if we are persecuted, to draw strength from God and scriptural truth, and remember to pray for and take care of the families of those persecuted.

As Christians, our kingdom knows no geographical and governmental borders.  When one Christian suffers, we all suffer.  Help us to remember our brothers and sisters who do not have freedom to worship our God, as well as their families.  Especially in North Korea.

Amen.

 

 

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