Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim and Companions at Mississippi Abbey
Saint Andrew Kim was the very first Korean born Catholic priest. In 1835 there were no seminaries in Korea, so at age fifteen Andrew and two companions had to sneak out of Korea and walk to the nearest seminary which was 1,300 miles away, in Macao, China. The journey took eight months. What hardships these young men endured to follow their vocations in those days!
Fr. Andrew Kim was ordained for only one year when he was caught ministering to Korean Christians, and he was only twenty-five years old when he was martyred in 1846. He wasn’t the first martyr in Korea. His father and grandfather were also tortured and beheaded for their faith. Out of the first 23,000 Catholics, 8,000 were put to death, that’s one out of every three. But the Church continued to grow: 50,000 by 1900; 150,000 by 1950; and today there are fifteen million Christians in South Korea.
What about North Korea? It had more Christians than the South when the country was divided after World War Two. But since then the totalitarian leadership of North Korea has been trying to stamp out Christianity. Missionaries were thrown out, churches were closed, and believers were executed. Today there are only 350,000 Christians left in North Korea, and about 100,000 of them are locked up in harsh prisons or work camps. Again, that’s about one out of three. North Korea is the most oppressive place in the world for Christians to live. How grateful we should be for our freedom to be Christians and celebrate the Eucharist every day. Let us pray for those who do not have this freedom, and when they become martyrs may they pray for us.