I celebrated the feast of the Korean saints Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and companions today during the Capuchin retreat in West Virginia. A Korean priest, Fr. Stephen, is among those making the retreat.
Pope John Paul II called the Korean church unique, because it was founded by laypeople. In the 17th century, when that country was isolated from the rest of the world, some laymen traveling to Peking learned about Christianity from some books they found there and were converted.
They returned to their country and practiced the faith without any priests. The first priests to arrive there were quickly martyred. In the late 18th and 19th century over 10,000 Korean laypeople, husbands and wives and their children, were martyred.
The feast provides a wonderful endorsement of the role of the laity in the church. The earliest Christian martyrs were often bishops and priests, because the governments thought the church could be exterminated or controlled by eliminating its leadership. This feast reminds us that laypeople can bring the faith to others and make it grow and endure even through persecution. And they will give their lives for it.
God bless this church, thriving today.