The Korean martyrs St. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang and their companions were canonized by Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimage to Korea on May 6, 1984. This ceremony was the first canonization in modern Church history to take place outside Rome.
Christianity was introduced in Korea by a group of Catholic laypersons in 1784; the laity kept their faith alive until the first religious missionaries arrived in 1836, over half a century later. During four separate persecutions of the Church — in 1839, 1846, 1866, and 1867 — 103 Koreans were martyred, including St. Andrew Kim Taegon (the first Korean priest), and St. Paul Chong Hasang (a lay apostle). Eleven of the martyrs were priests; the other ninety-two were lay persons (forty-seven women and forty-five men).
1. The laity (ordinary men and women who are not ordained or called to be religious sisters or brothers) can play a very important role in establishing and preserving the life of the Church. It was lay persons who brought Catholicism to Korea, and who preserved it (without the benefit of the Mass or other sacraments) for over fifty years until the arrival of missionary priests.
2. Much Church history is written from a Western perspective, but it is important for European and American Catholics to remember that other cultures have much to contribute to the life of the Church, and are entitled to hear the gospel. Instead of worrying about being criticized for “cultural imperialism” (in which the Church is supposedly guilty of “imposing” its religious beliefs on other cultures), we must remember that Jesus instructed His followers to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Eustace and Companions (c. 118), Martyrs; St. Eustace is the Patron of protection from fire (temporal or eternal) and of people in difficult circumstances.