St. Andrew Dung Lac and the Vietnamese Martyrs
Today the Church honors 117 Christians who suffered and died for their faith in Vietnam since the 17th century—they stand as representatives for the hundreds of thousands who suffered for their faith in that nation.
The canonized group includes 96 people who were from Vietnam and 21 missionaries from Spain and France; eight were bishops, 50 were priests, and nearly 60 were lay people.
St. Andrew Dung-Lac was a diocesan priest—he was named Dung An Tran when he was born in 1795 in North Vietnam. When he was 12, he moved to Hanoi with his family so his parents could find work. A catechist there offered him food and shelter, and helped him receive an education. Dung was baptized, and chose the name Andrew—he became a catechist himself, teaching others the faith, and eventually was chosen to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1823, and was known as an effective preacher and a model of holiness for those he served.
When the emperor began persecuting Christians, Andrew was imprisoned several times, but released when his congregation purchased his freedom. Eventually, though, he was arrested, tortured, and beheaded.
Dominican and Jesuit missionaries were the first to suffer martyrdom in Vietnam—they brought the faith to that land in the 17th century. Since then Christians have suffered under political regimes that suspected the faith as foreign influence.
The ruling powers forced many Christians to renounce their faith under threat of torture or execution—they were required to trample a crucifix to prove their allegiance to the state. Many hid, but the authorities rewarded those who turned in Christians, giving away large amounts of silver in return for reports of where the faithful were hiding. In return, Christians bribed those authorities to buy their safety. At one point, a third of the budget for a French missionary society was dedicated to buying safety for Catholics in Vietnam.
Christians were martyred in horrific ways in Vietnam, including St. Andrew Dung Lac—their bodies were mutilated and some were tortured with the use of psychoactive drugs. Many were branded on the face, and whole towns known to hold Christians were wiped out.
An 1862 treaty with the French granted freedom to Catholics, but did not stop all persecutions. Most recently, in the last century, Communists tried to purge the nation of religion, and more than 600,000 fled, leaving everything behind.
This image of the Vietnamese martyrs was used by the Vatican for their canonization—it appears here, along with the image of St. Andrew Dung Lac, with permission from Catholic.org.
St. Andrew Dung Lac and the Vietnamese Martyrs, who embraced suffering rather than renounce their faith, pray for us!