24 November – 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 June 1988 by Pope John Paul II. He is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam.
– Patron Saint Index
I, John, heard a voice saying: ‘These, my two witnesses, are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the world. Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like. When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them. Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified. Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’
After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.
Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’
Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.
“…and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God.”
I am learning to play a new song on the violin for an upcoming Prayer Experience Retreat and cannot help but recall how nervous I was when I first picked up the violin again more than 3 years ago. Since then, I have jumped at the various opportunities to play in my ministry whenever called upon and each time I lay the bow on the steel strings, memories of my father come welling through.
He would have been 77 today and as I write this, his smile continues to remind me of how much he loved our family. And particularly, his children. He never stinged on us and always strove to give his very best, only wanting the very best for us. Now, whenever I play any song, I cannot help but give thanks to him for his generosity in recognizing my talent and giving me the gift of music. At times, especially with more contemplative tunes, I close my eyes and see him sitting back with his eyes closed, enjoying the music. That spurs me on even more to play better and give more of myself.
I had always thought that my talent was forced upon me. But since I discovered the love of playing this amazing instrument and singing (I will be taking my classical vocal exams next week), I have begun to appreciate those with similar gifts and remain in awe of the young toddlers who have a natural inclination towards expressing their God-given talents.
The words that follow the haunting violin intro to ‘Sacred Silence’ are – ‘Sacred silence, Holy ocean, Gentle waters, washing over me. Help me listen, Holy Spirit, Come and speak to me.’ Isn’t it wonderful how our God is so approachable and so filled with love for us that we can call upon Him in our wretched, sinful state and plead for His grace and mercies to cleanse us?
Three years ago, while on his deathbed, God’s grace was indeed overflowing as two shepherds visited to bless him and confirm him as a son of God. While some may say he got an ‘express ticket’ without having to go through all the trials and tribulations that we all go through as Catholics, I would like to think that in his own way, dad bore his crosses and gave of himself as any other good Catholic father would have. So today, as I play my violin, I am proud to acknowledge him as a true son of God in every sense.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you continue to carry us on your shoulders, especially when we struggle to find meaning and are deaf to your words of love. We pray that you always keep faith in us and give us the desire to hear your whisper each day.
Thanksgiving: We thank you for your steadfast love and for your faith in each and every one of us.