St Andrew Dung-Lac

Priest and Martyr, one of the Martyrs of Vietnam (entered heaven this day, after being beheaded, 1839)

Dear Drew,

Now, now, there’s no need to be rash.  Your freshman year has hardly begun. If you’ve had to brave the tempests of being misunderstood, rejected, sad, and a bit lost, that doesn’t mean you ought to drop out.  Some people face such challenges in high school, where you had smooth sailing for four years; some face them when they start their professional lives; some face them during their “mid-life” crisis; some face them in college; but everyone has to face them sooner or later.  This world is riddled with selfishness of myriad forms; you can’t live here without suffering its fallout. But if God permits it, there must be a reason. I think the reason is clear, and you can find it in the writings of one of today’s saints.

Today the Church remembers and honors the Martyrs of Vietnam.  Of the 130,000 victims that have given their lives for the faith since Christianity arrived on that beautiful Asiatic peninsula, the Church has raised 117 to the altars – missionaries from Europe, Vietnamese natives, priests, bishops, lay people, religious, men, women, and children. The four centuries of faith in Vietnam have involved of a steady flow of martyrs’ blood, watering the soil of the Church and preparing the ground for a future flowering of holiness and Christian prosperity.  They died under the malice of 53 separate edicts against the Christians published by different national leaders between 1625 and 1886. Seventy-five were beheaded (including St Andrew Dung-Lac); 22 were executed by strangulation; six were burned alive; five were slowly dismembered; and nine died in prison, broken by torture.

One of the martyrs, St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, wrote from prison before he died.  Read closely what he says, because I think you will find the light you need in his words:

“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily… the prison here is a true image of everlasting hell; to cruel tortures of every kind–shackles, iron chairs, manacles–are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief.  But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; He has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, ‘for His mercy is forever.  In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone–Christ is with me.  Our Master bears the whole weight of the cross, leaving me only the tiniest, last bit… Come to me with the aid of your prayers, that I may have the strength to fight . . . We may not again see each other in this life.  But we will have the happiness of seeing each other again in the world to come, when, standing at the throne of the spotless Lamb, we will together join in singing His praises and exult forever in the joy of our triumph.  Amen.”

If you can keep in mind those two things – God is with you, even to the point of sharing your suffering and making it lighter; and although true happiness begins in this life, it only reaches fulfillment in heaven – I will wager that as the current storm passes, you will emerge stronger, wiser, and better equipped for whatever mission God has in store for you

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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