MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART FOR THE FEAST OF THE VIETNAMESE MARTYRS AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2009 AT 2.30PM.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have gathered with your priests to honour the Vietnamese martyrs who died under persecutions that lasted from 1625 to 1886.
Their constant witness to the love of Jesus Christ and to the faith that comes from the apostles is an example to us as we gather to honour them and to remember that we are invited to give ourselves completely in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us call to mind our sins.
The Church in Vietnam is set to begin a jubilee year, celebrating 350 years since the establishment of its first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place.
In a letter proclaiming the jubilee, the Vietnamese bishops point out that “to foster the spirit of communion in the heart of the Church”, the Pope has exhorted them to “dedicate special attention” to certain priorities, especially the exercise of charity.
“It will also be necessary to give particular care to youth, especially the young people of our countryside who, at present, are crowding into big cities to continue their studies or to find work.”
The most important task is the proclamation of the Gospel. “By fulfilling this mission, the Church contributes to the development of the person, not only on the human and spiritual plane, but also on the social plane.”
“The holy year encourages us to share the joy of our faith with all the members of the Vietnamese nation.”
The word martyr means a witness. The Martyrs of Vietnam show the power of the faith in Jesus Christ that comes to us from the apostles and which goes beyond all human life and death to lead us on our journey to eternity.
Andrew Dung Lac is honoured by being the representative of the 117 martyrs of Vietnam who died between 1745 and 1862. His name is placed in the Roman calendar. He was born in 1795 in a pagan family in Bac-Ninh in North Vietnam. When he was twelve the family moved to Hanoi where his parents could find work. When he met a catechist he received food and shelter from him and was educated in the Christian faith, being baptised in Vinh-Tri with the Christian name, Andrew. After learning Chinese and Latin he became a catechist and therefore taught the faith in the country.
He was chosen to study theology and on 15th March 1823 he was ordained a priest. As a parish priest in Ke-Dan he was tireless in his preaching. He often fasted and lived a simple moral life. His example to the people was so good that many people were baptised. In 1835 he was imprisoned and the congregation whom he served gave donations to purchase his freedom. Four years later he was again arrested with another Vietnamese priest that he was visiting so as to go to Confession.
The persecution, which followed, was a most radical move. Christians were marked on their faces with the words ‘ta dao’ equals false religion, husbands were separated from wives and children from their parents, Christian villages were destroyed and their possessions distributed.
The 117 martyrs were beatified in four groups; the first on 27th May 1900 by Pope Leo XIII, the second on 20th May 1906 and a third on 2nd May 1909 both by Pius X, the last group on 29th April 1951 by Pope Pius XII. They were all canonised in Rome on 19th June 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
My prayer for you and for your families is that you will remember the faith which has sustained you. May it help you to keep your love of Jesus Christ in the first place and your faithfulness to prayer and Christian living as your beacon, knowing that it has sustained the martyrs who gave origin to the faith that you have and which has shown such strength in Australia, your country of adoption.
Here in Melbourne I esteem deeply the Vietnamese community. I thank your priests, your young men who are studying for the priesthood and all of you who seek to live after the pattern of Jesus Christ knowing that he will sustain you. Saint Andrew and companions, pray for us.
+ Denis J. Hart,ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE