The cross is the theme this week. Last Friday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This Sunday, the 24th in Ordinary Time, Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk 8:34). The first reading from Isaiah 50 we also read on Palm Sunday and later this week on Thursday we will celebrate the feast day of the martyrs Andrew Kim Tae-gon and Paul Chong Ha-sang. A word or two on these Korean saints, as their stories are inspiring and exemplify the Gospel.
Catholicism did not enter Korea until 1592. Like Japan, the nation was isolated and sealed off from foreign contact. Somehow Catholic literature from China, brought there by Jesuit missionaries, found its way into the peninsula. The native Koreans who read the material were so impressed they converted. When a Chinese priest at last visited Korea in the late 1700s, he found nearly 4,000 Catholics. Remember, these Catholics had never seen a priest.
One of these individuals was a faithful father, a man named Ignatius Kim. Ignatius was arrested in 1839 and put to death for his faith. So devout this man and so inspiring his marytrdom, Ignatius' son decided to become a priest. The boy had also been influenced by one of his early catechists, Paul Chong Ha-sang, a married man, who was also killed in 1839.
Andrew, the fruit of these martyrs, traveled 1,300 miles to China at age 15 to train in the seminary. Upon ordination, he returned to Korea to minister to his people. The joy the Koreans had of seeing one of their own not only a priest, but bringing them the sacraments and the faith, did not last long, however. Fr. Andrew was soon arrested and put to death. He was age 25.
One hundred and three other Catholics were martyred between 1839 and 1867. These saints, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1983, are a mix of men and women, lay and cleric/religious. They were tortured and put to death brutally. They suffered the cross.
But they said what Isaiah said: "The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced."
And they heard Jesus say to them, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
God bless these martyrs and everyone else who bravely carries their cross.
The Saint Juliana Emerald City Gala is this evening, Saturday, September 15th! I cannot thank enough Kim McAuliffe and the entire committee who have worked so hard over the past nine months to ensure the success of this event.
Fr. Emanuel and I will attend the ordination of the three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Chicago tomorrow, Monday the 17th, at Holy Name Cathedral. Please keep Bishops Hicks, Bartosic, and Casey in your prayers.
Religious Ed starts this Wednesday, September 19th! All the best to Patty Collins, the coordinator of RE, and her catechists. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the program, and welcome back students and parents.
Next Saturday, September 22nd is school homecoming. We will have a brief prayer service and rally in front of the church at 10:30am, followed by a procession to Brooks Park. The first football game is 11:30am. This is always a great and fun day.
We are still looking for a grand piano for the church. If you know of one in decent shape (or even a baby grand piano) that could be donated, we would tremendously appreciate it. Please contact me or Glenn De Castro.
Yours in Christ,