Friday, September 20, 2013

Compete Well for the Faith

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and, and Companions, Martyrs

By Melanie Rigney

… Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
Why should I fear in evil days, with the iniquity of my assailants surrounding me? (Psalms 49:6)
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Lord, bless those around the world who proclaim your name fearlessly.

The nineteenth century was a dangerous time to be a Catholic in Korea. It’s estimated that at least eight thousand of the faithful were killed during that century. Today, we remember 103 of those brave souls, who were canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 1984.

Since today’s Gospel reading mentions some of the women who supported Jesus’s ministry—Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna—let’s take a look at some of the women among the Korean martyrs. Their faith is breath-taking:

  • Anna Pak Agi was fifty-six years old, with little formal education. She, her husband, and their oldest son were arrested for being Catholic. The men denied the faith and were released. Anna refused and was tortured, dying three months later in prison. She told the authorities: “I don’t know anything but Jesus and Mary.”
  • Catherine Yi and her adult daughter Magdalene Cho had moved from the country to Seoul to avoid persecution. But they were arrested there. Both stood by their faith despite repeated beatings, and died in prison from illnesses.
  • Authorities told Agatha Yi, who was just seventeen, and her younger brother that her parents had denied their faith (which was a lie). Her response? Whether my parents betrayed or not is their affair. As for us, we cannot betray the Lord of heaven whom we have always served.”
  • Teresa Kwon, her husband, and a widow who lived with them had supported Korean priests and helped the needy. When a judge urged her to give up her faith following torture, Teresa said, “Our Lord is the father of all human beings and the master of all creatures. How can I renounce him?” She was thirty-five when she and her companions were beheaded.

Strong women with strong faith supported Christ during his time here on earth. Strong women with strong faith supported him in nineteenth century Korea. Strong women with strong faith support him today throughout the globe, in safe and unsafe places. This is to take nothing away from the strong men throughout history that have done and are doing the same. But we often hear less about the women. Let’s remember them today as we remember the martyrs of Korea.

Reach out to the strongest woman of faith you know. Let her know how her walk inspires you.

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