Junjun Faithbook: Good day St Andrew. There must be great rejoicing in heaven today for the remembrance of your martyrdom together with many others that marked the beginnings of Christianity in Korea. Please tell us more about your life.
St Andrew Kim: My complete name in Korean is Andrea Kim Taegon…which later on became commonly known as Andrew Kim, for the English speaking world I supposed.
Junjun Faithbook: Thank you for that brief introduction. Could you tell us more about the time of your birth for this I believed is also significant in understanding more of your life?
St Andrew Kim: Sure! I was born on the 21st of August 1821 in Nol-Mae (Solmoe), Chu’ung Chong Province in South Central Korea. This time was also characterised by persecutions of the Christians and suppression of the Catholic faith.
Junjun Faithbook: I believed in that because I read somewhere that during the time of your birth, and even before that, Christianity wasn’t really that popular. Did your parents have you baptized as Christian then?
St Andrew Kim: Not until I was 15 years old. My parents were also converts. And I noticed then, as many converts are, that they were quite enthusiastic and firm in their newly-found faith.
Junjun Faithbook: What was the dominant and practiced religion at the state then?
St Andrew Kim: Confucianism. This meant prohibition of the practice of Christian faith and persecutions for those who were caught witnessing the faith.
Junjun Faithbook: And how did your parents live their Christian faith out in that hostile environment?
St Andrew Kim: They tried, eventhough it cost them their lives. I was told that my great-grandfather was martyred in 1814, few years before I was born. Then two years later, my grand-uncle Kim Han-hyun was also martyred. Then in 1839, my own father, Kim- Je-jun (Ignatius Kim) had to face the same fate for practicing Christianity.
Junjun Faithbook: It seemed like most of your male relatives were martyred then. How did your mother cope up with the loss of your dad?
St Andrew Kim: I grew up very poor. I remember my mum had to go begging to live.
Junjun Faithbook: And what about you?
St Andrew Kim: See, I was baptised when I was 15 years old. But I also believed God called me for something greater, to become a priest. So I travelled over 1200 miles to study at a seminary in Macau, China. It was a Portuguese Colony then.
Junjun Faithbook: And when exactly was this?
St Andrew Kim: In 1836. Then after nine years of seminary studies, I was ordained a priest in 1845.
Junjun Faithbook: At that time, was there already a native or a local priest in Korea?
St Andrew Kim: Not that I know of. (Note: He was the first-Korean born Catholic priest). In fact I was ordained by a French bishop named Jean Joseph Ferreol.
Junjun Faithbook: So what happened after you’re ordained?
St Andrew Kim: I returned to Korea to preach and evangelize.
Junjun Faithbook: But I believe the persecutions of the Christians was still intense then?
St Andrew Kim: Certainly. I had to make a strategy. There was also a group of French missionaries wanting to proclaim the gospel in Korea so I helped them through the way I can.
Junjun Faithbook: And in what way exactly?
St Andrew Kim: My previous trips between China and Korea through some small unworthy vessels and even on foot at times had helped me to map and explore the terrains that would later on became the route for the French missionaries to infiltrate Korea.
Junjun Faithbook: And was this successful? I mean how helpful was that for you and for your ministry as a priest?
St Andrew Kim: God knows. I was just ordained then. But I tried to do the best I can. Unfortunately, in June 1846, I fell into the hands of the border patrol while trying to arrange for the passage of more missionaries to enter Korea by boat along the southeast coast.
Junjun Faithbook: And what happened after that?
St Andrew Kim: They put me in jail. At this same time, persecutions of Christians continued. Christianity was suppressed. Many Christians were executed. But still many had managed to practice their faith covertly.
Junjun Faithbook: And I believed that even you were in jail, you didn’t give up the faith. In fact you still managed to encourage and inspire other Christians outside to continue and stand up for their faith in Christ.
St Andrew Kim: I can’t deny my faith. I can’t denounce my Christianity. And I wanted to tell my fellow Christians that there is hope even in that troubled time for us.
Junjun Faithbook: Would you mind sharing with us the words of encouragement you have given to your fellow Christians in Korea then?
St Andrew Kim: This is my parting words to them:
My dear brothers and sisters know this: Our Lord Jesus Christ upon descending into the world took innumerable pains upon and constituted the holy Church through his own passion and increases it through the passion of its faithful….Now, however, some fifty or sixty years since holy Church entered into our Korea, the faithful suffer persecutions again. Even today persecution rages, so that many of our friends of the same faith, among who am I myself, have been thrown into prison. Just, as you also remain in the midst of persecution. Since we have formed one body, how can we not be saddened in our innermost hearts? How can we not experience the pain of separation in our human faculties? However, as Scripture says, God cares for the least hair of our heads, and indeed he cares with his omniscience; therefore, how can persecution be considered as anything other than the command of God, or his prize, or precisely his punishment?…We are twenty here, and thanks be to God all are still well. If anyone is killed, I beg you not to forget his family. I have many more things to say, but how can I express them with pen and paper? I make an end to this letter. Since we are now close to the struggle, I pray you to walk in faith, so that when you have finally entered into Heaven, we may greet one another. I leave you my kiss of love.
Junjun Faithbook: Wow! These are indeed beautiful, inspiring and hope-filled words of farewell.
St Andrew Kim: All because of the gift of faith and hope that God has given us in Christ.
Junjun Faithbook: Thank you St Andrew for your wonderful witness. Please also express our thanks for your companions who suffered the same martyrdom as you were, such as St Paul Chong Hasang and many others. Thank you for standing up for the Christian faith. Your life and example really give us hope and strengthens our faith that even death could not really stop us from being one in Christ and with one another.
On September 26, at the age of 25, St Andrew Kim Tae-gon was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. Together with his father Ignatius Kim he was beatified on 15th of July 1925. In 1949 the Holy See declared him as the principal patron of the Roman Catholic Clergy in Korea. On the 6th of May 1984, along with 102 other martyrs which includes Paul Chong Hasang, a lay catechist, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
St Andrew Kim Tae-gon and companions, pray for us.