Today is the liturgical memorial of the martyrs St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn and his companions. We have an opportunity to deepen our appreciation for the vocation to martyrdom Kim had, and how the Church in Korea is dependent on the witness of Kim and his companions. As John Paul II reminded us, the Church in Korea was founded and sustained by the laity under the power of Christ crucified and risen. Here is the final exhortation of St. Andrew Kim. The martyr’s words is good wisdom for today.
My brethren and dear friends, think about this and reflect on it: from the beginning of time God has ordered the heavens, the earth, and all things. Consider the creation of man in this light and reflect on why he has created man, each man, in his image and likeness: why, and with what purpose.
If, then, placed as we are in this world full of danger and misery, we do not know the Lord our creator, what is the point in having been born? Our life is pointless. Thanks to God, we have come into this world. Also thanks to God, we have received baptism, we have entered the Church, and we have received the glorious name of disciples of the Lord. But what use would that name be if it did not correspond to reality? If it does not, then it is in vain that we have come into the world and entered into the Church. Moreover, such a state of affairs would not serve the Lord and his grace. It would be better for us never to have been born than to receive the grace of the Lord and then sin against him.
Look at the farmer sowing his field. He ploughs the earth at the appropriate time, then he manures it, and he cultivates the growing seed without caring how hard his work is under a hot sun. When harvest time arrives, if the ears are fat then he forgets his labour and his sweat because his heart is full of joy and he delights in the harvest. But if the grains are shrivelled and there is nothing but straw and empty husks, then the farmer remembers his sweat and heavy labour: the more he has worked the field, the more he turns his back on it.
It is the same with the Lord. The Earth is his field; we men are his seed; his manure is grace. By the Incarnation and the Redemption he waters us with his blood so that we can grow and ripen. When the time for harvest comes at the Day of Judgement, if by his grace we are found to be ripe, we shall know the joy of the kingdom as the adoptive children of God. But if we are found to be unripe, we shall have become enemies of God instead of the adoptive sons we were, and we shall receive the eternal punishment we deserve.
My very dear brethren, know this: our Lord Jesus, coming down here, himself suffered pains beyond counting: by his Passion he founded the Church and by the passion of his faithful he makes it grow. The powers of this world may well oppress it and attack it, but they will never have victory over it. After the Ascension of Jesus, from the time of the Apostles until now, the holy Church has grown everywhere in the middle of persecution.
It is fifty or sixty years now since the holy Church entered our land of Korea. The faithful have endured persecution over and over again. Today it is beginning once more: many of our friends in faith, and I myself, are in prison. You too are under threat. Since we form one body, how can we not have sad hearts? How can we not, as human beings, feel the pain of separation?
All the same, as Scripture tells us, God takes care of the least of the hairs of our head and nothing escapes his infinite knowledge. How then can we see this persecution except as something ordered by the Lord either as a prize or as a punishment? Follow therefore the will of God, fight with all your heart for our divine leader Jesus, and you will vanquish the demon of this world, who has already been vanquished by Christ.
I implore you: do not forget fraternal love but help one another and persevere until the Lord takes pity on us and ends this persecution.
There are twenty of us here and, thank God, all is well with us so far. If one of us is put to death I beg you not to forget his family.
There are many other things I could say to you, but how to say them all in a letter? So I will end here. As for us, in a short time we will go into combat. I beg you to keep yourselves faithful so that we can all be reunited in the joys of heaven. With all my heart, I embrace you.