Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, c. 1795-1839
Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and his 116 companions represent the more than one hundred thousand martyrs killed during the persecutions of Christians which took place periodically beginning in the 17th century and running though most of the 19th century in Viet Nam. These 117 martyrs, who included bishops, priests, missionaries from France and Spain, lay catechists, and even children, were beatified by four different popes between 1900 and 1951. Pope John Paul II canonized them as a group on June 19, 1988.
Andrew Dung-Lac, the symbol of the 117, was born Dung An Trân around 1795 to a poor pagan family in northern Viet Nam. While still a young boy, his family moved to Hanoi to find work. In Hanoi, the youngster met a catechist who provided him with shelter and food. The catechist also instructed the boy in the Christian faith and, three years later, he was baptized, taking the name Andrew at that time.
After receiving instruction in Latin and Chinese, Andrew became a catechist and, later, was selected as a candidate for the priesthood. In March, 1823, Andrew was ordained to the priesthood. As a parish priest, Andrew lived a simple life, fasting often and providing a model for the people in his town, many of whom were baptized by him.
During his reign, Emperor Minh-Mang (1820-1840) reinstituted persecution of Catholics. He has been compared to the emperor Nero in the Roman Empire. During this persecution, Fr. Andrew was imprisoned in 1835. His parishioners bought his freedom by their donations, but Fr. Andrew was rearrested in 1839, along with another Vietnamese priest, Peter Thi. While their freedom was once more purchased, it proved to be brief. Arrested again on November 10, 1839, both priests were tortured and beheaded on December 12, 1839.
These martyrs are honored by a memorial on November 24.
Andrew's message today: Saint Andrew and his companions, as well as the many thousands of unnamed martyrs in Viet Nam, provide powerful examples of the perseverance that strong faith can bring to those who are persecuted. Even today in Viet Nam, as well as elsewhere, persecution of Christians continues, but prayer can strengthen our faith.