Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received . . .
One of the saints remembered today by the Church this week is St. Paul Tong Buong, a Vietnamese martyr. The Vatican estimates the total number of Vietnamese martyrs at between 130,000 and 300,000. These martyrs died during various persecutions beginning in the 17th century through the mid 20th century. The tortures these individuals underwent are considered to be among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom.
St. Paul Tong Buong died during the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, a period of intense political rivalry and civil wars. In 1833, all Christians were ordered to renounce the faith, and to trample crucifixes underfoot. That edict started a persecution of great intensity that was to last for half a century. That year St. Paul Tong Bong a member of the royal bodyguard was arrested for being a Christian. He was tortured, humiliated, and beheaded. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1988.
The courage of martyrs like St. Paul Tong Buong always fill me with admiration and lead me to wonder about the strength of my own faith. These stories also fill me with sadness that people were and still are killed for their beliefs.
Today, as we remember St. Paul Tong Buong let us pray that all people will soon enjoy religious freedom and that we will always respect the beliefs of others even when they differ from our own. Let us also give thanks for the faith and courage of Vietnamese Christians that has so enriched our Church throughout the world.
- Sister Mary Ann Strain, CP