Skip to comments.Letter of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (martyr) to Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol, 1846
Posted on 09/20/2019 6:32:13 AM PDT by Antoninus
Andrew Kim Taegon was the first native-born Catholic priest in Korea. He was sired in a family that had supplied numerous martyrs to the glory of Jesus Christ, including his father, Saint Ignatius Kim, and his uncle, Saint Paul Chong Hasang.
As a child, Andrew's intelligence impressed a French missionary priest in Korea, and he was sent by his father to Macao to learn Latin and other Western subjects. He later studied for the priesthood and would be ordained in 1844 in Shanghai. After his ordination, he secretly returned to Korea to serve the Catholic community therea dangerous mission considering Christianity was outlawed in Korea at this time.
Not long after his arrival, Andrew was captured by Korean officials. Following is a letter written by him from prison to Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol, who had ordained him two years before. It tells his story much better than I could:
My Lord, Your Excellency will have already heard what has happened in the capital since we parted. We set sail as soon as we had completed our preparations, and a favourable wind brought us in safety to the sea of Yen-pieng, which was covered at that time by a quantity of fishing boats. My people bought some fish, and went to the harbour of the island of Suney to sell it again, but not finding purchasers, they sent a sailor ashore to salt it.
In the course of our voyage we passed by Pokang, and the islands of Maihap Thetsinmok and Sotseng Taitseng, and at last cast anchor near Pelintao. I saw there about a hundred fishing junks from Canton; they kept very near to the shore, but the crew were prevented from landing by sentinels, who were posted on the elevations of the coast, and the tops of the hills....
After having executed your Lordship's orders, we set out again, and returned to the harbour of Suney. Up to this time my voyage had been very prosperous, and I hoped for an equally fortunate termination of it. The fish which we had left was not yet dried, which obliged us to stay longer in port. My servant Veran asked leave to go on shore to reclaim some money which he had left in charge of a family, with whom he had been concealed for seven years for fear of persecution.
After he had gone the mandarin came to our boat, with some of his people, and asked to be allowed to use it to drive away the Chinese junks. Corean law does not allow the boats of the nobles to be taken for the public service, and as I had been made, I do not know how, to pass with the people for a ianpan of high rank, as the nobles are called, I should have fallen in their estimation, and so done an injury to our future expeditions, if I had given up my boat to the mandarin. Besides, Veran had prescribed for me a line of conduct which I was to pursue in similar circumstances. I therefore replied to the mandarin, that my boat was for my own use, and that I could not give it up to him. His officers abused me violently, and took my pilot away with them.
They came back in the evening, and taking away another sailor, brought him into the court, where the answers which both of them made when questioned, threw grave suspicions upon me. The mandarin was aware that the grandmother of one of them was a Christian. The officers then consulted together, and said: "We are thirty; if this person is really noble, perhaps one or two of us may be put to death, but not all; let us go and seize him." They accordingly came at night, accompanied by several women of bad character, and throwing themselves upon us like madmen, they dragged me by the hair, some of which was pulled out, and tying me with a cord, they showered kicks and blows with their hands and with sticks upon me. In the mean time the remaining sailors under cover of the darkness of the night crept quietly down into the boat, and rowed away as fast as they could.
When we reached the shore, the officers stripped me of my clothes, bound and beat me again with every sort of insult and sarcasm, and brought me to the court, where a great many persons were assembled. The mandarin said to me: "Are you a Christian?"
"Yes, I am," I answered.
"Why do you practise this religion contrary to the king's orders? Give it up."
"I practice my religion because it is true; it teaches me to know God, and brings me to eternal happiness: I know of no such thing as apostasy."
The torture was then applied to me, and the judge said, "If you do not apostatise you shall die under the blows."
"As you please, but I will never abandon my God. Do you wish to hear the truth of my religion? Listen. The God whom I worship is the Creator of heaven and earth, of men and of everything that is: He punishes sin and rewards virtue, &c. Whence it follows that all men are bound to do homage to Him. For my part, I thank thee, O mandarin, for making me suffer these tortures for His love. May my God reward you for this benefit, and raise you to a higher rank."
At these words the mandarin and the whole assembly began to laugh. They next brought me a cangue about eight feet long, which I immediately took up, and put on my neck, at which bursts of laughter broke from all parts of the audience. I was thrown into prison with the two sailors, who had already apostatised. My hands and feet, my neck and my loins were tightly bound, so that I could neither walk, nor sit, nor lie down. A crowd of people pressed round me out of curiosity, and I spent part of the night in preaching the faith to them, and they declared that they would embrace it if it were not forbidden by the king.
The officers finding some Chinese articles in my bag believed that I was of that country, and the next day the mandarin sent for me and asked if I was a Chinese.
"No,'' I answered, "I am a Corean."
Not believing what I said he asked, "In what province of China were you born?"
"I was brought up in Macao in the province of Koang-tong; I am a Christian, and curiosity and the desire of propagating my religion brought me to this country."
He then sent me back to prison, from whence, five days later, I was taken by a subaltern and several men to Kaiton, the capital of the province. The governor asked me if I was a Chinese, and I answered as I had done to the mandarin of the island. He put a great many questions to me about my religion, and I gladly took the opportunity of speaking to him of the immortality of the soul, hell, paradise, the existence of God, and the necessity of worshipping Him in order to be happy after death.
He and his people answered, "What you say is good and reasonable: but the king does not allow us to be Christians." They afterwards asked me many things which would have compromised the Christians and the mission, and I was very careful not to reply to them. "If you do not tell us the truth," they said angrily, "we will torment you in various ways.''
"Do what you please," I answered; and running to the instruments of torture I took them up and threw them at the governor's feet, saying, "See, I am ready, strike me. I do not fear your tortures."
The officers removed them immediately, and the servants of the mandarin came up to me and said: "It is the custom for every body who speaks to the governor to call himself So-in" (which means fool.) "What are you saying?" I answered, "I am a great nobleman, and know nothing of such an expression."
Some days afterwards the governor sent for me again, and overwhelmed me with questions about China, sometimes speaking by an interpreter to find out if I was really a Chinese, and ending by ordering me to apostatise. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to express my pity for him. The two Christians who were arrested with me were overcome by the severity of the torture, and pointed out the house where I had lived in the capital, besides betraying your excellency's servant, Thomas Ly, his brother Matthew, and several others: they confessed that I had communicated with the Chinese junks, and given some letters to one of them. A detachment of soldiers was immediately sent off to the junks, which brought back the letters to the governor. We were very strictly guarded in separate cells, with four soldiers watching us night and day, and a long cord tied to our loins. The soldiers seeing seven scars which had been left on my breast by the ten leeches which I had put on when I was ill at Macao, declared that I was the Great Bear, and amused themselves by many jokes about it.
As soon as the king heard of our arrest he sent some officers to bring us to the capital: he had been told that I was a Chinese. During the journey we were not bound as we were in prison, but our arms were tied with a red cord, as is done with robbers and great criminals, and our heads were covered with bags of black cloth. We suffered greatly on the way from the crowds, who thought I was a foreigner, and pressed to see me, some even climbing up trees and getting on the roofs of houses as I passed....
Read the rest of this fascinating letter here.
Big Brass Balls. And, today, Korea has a vibrant Christian community and sends missionaries all over the world.
“At these words the mandarin and the whole assembly began to laugh. They next brought me a cangue about eight feet long, which I immediately took up, and put on my neck, at which bursts of laughter broke from all parts of the audience. I was thrown into prison with the two sailors, who had already apostatised. My hands and feet, my neck and my loins were tightly bound, so that I could neither walk, nor sit, nor lie down. A crowd of people pressed round me out of curiosity, and I spent part of the night in preaching the faith to them, and they declared that they would embrace it if it were not forbidden by the king.”
The world has not changed.
“When I had finished speaking the judges answered: “Your religion is good, but ours is so also, and therefore we practise it.”
“If such is your opinion,” I replied, “you ought to leave us alone and live at peace with us. But instead of that you persecute us, and treat us worse than the greatest criminals: you confess that our religion is good, and you attack us as if its teaching was abominable.’’
This reading is very good and very challenging to me. I will probably be thinking about it all day, and beyond.
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