Meet some of the Vietnamese Martyrs – an Example Alive and Necessary Today

The lives of Andre Dung Lac and the Vietnamese martyrs, their example and heroic stories are cherished in the churches across the 26 dioceses of Vietnam.

Newsroom (28/11/2021 3:30 PM Gaudium Press) On this important day, the faithful sang songs of praise to the martyrs, and the churches rang the bells with pride and joy. Vietnamese Catholics love to dedicate noble sentiments and prayers to martyrs, who intimately united to the heart of the Son of God despised death and worldly interests and faced with death were not afraid to choose God.

St. John Paul II canonized the 117 martyrs in 1988. However, they are only a tiny number compared to the more than 100,000 people imprisoned and who died in Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty during fierce persecutions between the 17th and 19th centuries. These included Vietnamese and foreign bishops, priests, religious and parishioners. They did not want to be commemorated by the world or honoured by posterity: blessed with divine grace, they found happiness and victory in God himself.

“The mystery of martyrdom is a testimony of God, martyrdom does not mean the opposition between atheism and theism, nor a conflict between different religions. Martyrdom is understood simply as a testimony of the noble values of the Gospel, a testimony of the saving love of Jesus”, said Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, during the liturgical celebration of the Vietnamese martyrs, on November 24.

Martyrdom: A Mystery and a Grace

“Martyrdom is not only a mystery, but also a grace. The martyrs presented themselves before the high officials as a firm witness to the faith and love of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The martyrs were ordinary people, even ignorant peasants but, in front of the king and the high imperial officials, they reacted in a very wise, judicious and confident manner. This was a grace of God, not the work of man. They too were human beings in flesh and blood, as weak as us. If they could endure all the lashes, the chains and the cruel tortures, it was truly the grace of God and his power, which dwelled in them, that made it possible”. The Prelate concluded: “The spirit of martyrdom is still necessary in today’s civilized world where there are forms of persecution: at times it is an external violence or an internal psychological pressure. That is why everyone must witness to God in today’s society by always choosing the right values of the Gospel, by living according to the Word of God, by not letting bad events shake our faith and separate us from the love of Jesus. The attractions of worldly life are flattering, but we must say categorically ‘no’, and not compromise with evil. The martyrs remind us to always be faithful to the law of God: today we are called to follow their example and the courageous witness of faith, for which they suffered pain, in order to obtain eternal life“.

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Fr. Andre Dung Lac

Fr. Andre Dung Lac was a Vietnamese priest who was executed by beheading in 1839. On his way to the place of execution, he prayed in silence and sang aloud words of praise to God. Before the execution, the executioner approached him and said: “We do not know what crime you committed, but we are only carrying out the order, please understand.” With a big smile on his face, Father Lac replied: “The commander has ordered, so do it.” And before giving his head to the executor’s knife, he asked for the last few minutes of quiet to pray.

Michael Ho Dinh Hy

“Your Majesty, I have served for over 30 years under three different kings and am always faithful to you as a citizen and patriot with all my heart; but today I will accept any punishment from you for not betraying my faith in Jesus Christ, as long as I am faithful to him”, said Michael Ho Dinh Hy, one of the Vietnamese martyrs. He held a high position in the imperial court. Yet, He did not give up his faith for worldly prestige but preferred to remain faithful to God even if it cost him his life, as it did in 1857. Despite the king’s various offers to tempt him, he remained steadfast in his faith and tried to live like Jesus Christ, refusing all the material privileges and glories given by kings.

Fr. John Théophane Vénard

There are also martyrs such as Fr. John Théophane Vénard of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP), when arrested and tried in court, were invited to step on the Cross to be acquitted, but they categorically refused. John Theoane Venard answered unequivocally: “I adore the Cross and have preached for all of my life the Cross, the way of love, how could I irreverently trample on the Cross now? My life would not be worthy of my faith in God if I denied this belief”. He was martyred in Tonkin in 1861.

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