Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and His Companions

Celebrated November 24

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and His Companions, Martyrs

Today we commemorate 117 saints who were martyred in the territory we now know as Vietnam. Christianity was first established in that land during the early years of the seventeenth century, but the succeeding years were far from peaceful for Catholics.

Between 1625 and 1886, about 260 years, 53 different decrees of persecution were promulgated and about 130,000 Catholics were martyred for their faith.

Of the 117 canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, 6 died between the years 1745 and 1799, and the other 111 between 1835 and 1862.

The manner of their deaths varied; 74 were beheaded, others were crucified, strangled, burned alive, quartered, or died in prison because of torture.

Of the 117, 96 were Vietnamese, 11 were Spaniards, and 10 French. In the group, there were 8 bishops, 50 priests, 1 seminarian, 16 catechists, and 42 lay people, one of whom was a woman.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who heads the list of these martyrs, was born in 1795 in Bac Ninh, in the north of Vietnam (then known as Tonkin). His parents were so poor that they sold him to a catechist, who took the child to the Catholic mission.

There the child was baptised, given the name Andrew, and reared. In time, he became a catechist, then studied theology, and eventually was ordained (1823). His priestly years coincided with the years of brutal persecution under the Tonkinese ruler Minh Mang (1820–41).

While serving as a pastor in a small village, Andrew was arrested, but his parishioners secured his release after paying a ransom to city officials.

Andrew then changed his name from Dung to Lac and went to another part of Tonkin to continue ministering to Catholics. There he was again arrested (November 10, 1839). His release was once more secured by paying a ransom.

His freedom was short-lived, however, for soon afterward, as he was getting off a river boat, a man offered his hand to help him get ashore. The man, a government official, recognised the priest and called out: “Look! We have caught a master of religion!”

Andrew was immediately arrested (November 16, 1839) and taken to a prison in Hanoi. Because he refused to deny his faith by stepping on a crucifix, he was beheaded on December 21, 1839. The memorial of these 117 Vietnamese martyrs is celebrated on November 24, because several of them were martyred together on that day.

A description in French or Spanish can be found on the Vatican web site. An interesting and detailed history of the Catholic Church in Vietnam can be found in this blog entry. It includes an English translation of the Vatican text.

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