Nov 24 – Memorial for St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, martyr, and companions, Martyrs of Vietnam
Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the 20th, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, nuns, or religious brothers. Some were lay people, some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and people.
Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam.
Andrew Dung Lac (1785-1839) was a Vietnamese priest who worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris (MEP). He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured in the persecutions of Minh-Meng. He died with St. Peter Thi, beheaded in Hanoi for the offense of being a priest. He was canonized on 19 Jun 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.
- Patron Saint Index
I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.
Never again in you, Babylon,
will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,
the music of flute and trumpet;
never again will craftsmen of every skill be found
or the sound of the mill be heard;
never again will shine the light of the lamp,
never again will be heard
the voices of bridegroom and bride.
Your traders were the princes of the earth,
all the nations were under your spell.
After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.’ They sang again, ‘Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.’ The angel said, ‘Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb’, and he added, ‘All the things you have written are true messages from God.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!
‘For great misery will descend on the land and wrath on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.
‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’
Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, “That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.
The first time I ever heard about Babylon was in a book of Bible stories. Babylon was described as a great city with a huge population who spoke a common language. The people aspired to build a tower that was so high, it would reach the heavens and be near God. God looked down from Heaven and did not like the direction of their purpose and confused the people, scattering them all over the earth.
Today’s reading speaks of Babylon as a confused world or society, confused not because of a difference in languages, but confusion in morals. It is illustrated as a place that is rife with sin, a place that causes others to fall into sin as well. And the fate that will befall this city will be total annihilation by God.
While the passage speaks of a city or a large society, I think that this could also be viewed microscopically as a family unit or community as well. Our families and communities act as ‘support systems’ to our lives, and we, in turn, play a role to support those in our families and communities. If that support system fails or becomes directionless, then those who depend on it will also likely fail and become lost and scattered. If the unit is not built on a solid moral foundation, then the bricks that form it – the people who are part of the unit – will not be strong enough either, and will crumble. The unit would not be rooted in the Word of God and therefore, the lives that the people would lead would not reflect God’s ways.
The fate of such a unit or community is also foretold in today’s reading, where the destruction of Babylon was likened to a huge millstone-like boulder being hurled into the sea with such force, never to be seen again. Of course, the destruction may not take such a literal form, but I believe that mankind would have a hand in determining its own destruction, as the case may be. The millstone is akin to industry, built by man, and it is the millstone that will destroy the city – destruction caused by a product of our own hand. What I am saying is that we reap what we sow. If we sow bad seeds, we cannot hope to have good produce coming out of the soil. If we live and encourage a sinful life, we cannot expect our lives to be fruitful and godly. We cannot expect to know God, nor can we expect God to save us when the time comes. Our own decisions on how we live life will ultimately determine our fate.
So, what kind of support system do we want to create, to be a part of? We too must be the support system that we want to see, for as much as we depend on others, others will also depend on us. Let us strive to be a unit and a community that lasts for all the right reasons, that God may spare us, and not scatter us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your help to build our lives in Your ways that they may be fruitful and holy. Help us build a foundation that will last always.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the wisdom and direction to go down the right path with You, and for Your mercy and forgiveness when we go astray.