St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions

Friends in Christ,[i] today is the Feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the 117 martyrs of Vietnam. The Catholic Faith came to Vietnam in 1615, by Jesuit missionaries, but soon the king banned all foreign missionaries; and tried to make the people deny their faith. Catholics had to survive secretly. Over the centuries, several persecutions were launched, but the Faith continued to grow.
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Dung An Trân was born in 1795 to a poor, pagan family in North Vietnam. When he was 12, his family moved to Hanoi where his parents could find work, and there he met a catechist and also received assistance. He was educated in the Faith for 3 years, and was baptized Andrew Dung.
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After more studies including learning Latin, he himself became a catechist. He was chosen to study theology, and then ordained a priest. As a parish priest, he was tireless in his preaching. He often fasted and lived a very simple life of sacrifice; he was a good example for the people, and many were baptized. In 1835 Fr. Andrew was imprisoned under emperor Minh-Mang’s persecutions, but his parish collected donations and bought his freedom.
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To avoid persecutions he changed his name to Andrew Lac and moved to another city to continue his work. Arrested for the 3rd time, he was taken to Hanoi, where he and another priest were brutally tortured and then beheaded.
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In 1988, Pope John Paul II canonized 117 martyrs of Vietnam, who gave their lives for Christ during this persecution. There were 8 bishops, 50 priests, and 59 lay Catholics who laid down their life for Christ.
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One of those martyrs of Vietnam[ii] wrote a letter from prison to encourage the others. He says this:
I wish to tell you of the trials besetting me daily, that you may be inflamed with love for God. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles— also hatred, swearing and curses. In the midst of these torments by the grace of God I am full of joy, because I am not alone—Christ is with me.
Aid me with your prayers, that I may have the strength to fight the good fight and finish the race. We may not again see each other in this life, but we will see each other in the world to come, where at the throne of the Lamb, we will exult forever in the joy of our triumph.’
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Martyrs are the seeds for Faith; today there are over 5 million Catholics in Vietnam.

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[i] The write-up here borrows largely from Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi, provided by Catholicculture.com.

[ii] From a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh sent to students of the Seminary of Ke-Vinh in 1843

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