Last Sunday, September 20th, was the Feast of the Korean Martyrs, among whom the Church numbers St. Jacques Chastan and St. Laurent Imbert. My parish of the Immaculate Conception has the privilege of having had St. Jacques Chastan as a parish priest.
Even though it was a Sunday, our parish decided to put up St. Chastan's picture at the altar for the people to venerate. We had intended to bring out his relics as well, which are kept in a side chapel, but they were bolted down. Anyway, here are images from the Mass as well as a write up on St. Chastan and his martyrdom. It's very inspiring, a priest who really laid down his life for his sheep. A fitting message as we celebrate the Year for Priests.
A follow up post on the new Shrine to St. Chastan will be coming soon.
"Bonus pastor ponit animam suam pro ovibus suis" -- The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.
Censing the relics of St. Chastan at the beginning of Mass
A Brief History of the life St. Jacques Chastan and his martyrdom
The Vicariate Apostolic of Korea was formally established as of September 9, 1831, and the Paris Foreign Mission Society (M.E.P.) was asked to be in charge of spreading the faith in Korea. The first Vicar Apostolic of Korea was Bishop Barthélemy Bruguière. He unsuccessfully tried to enter Korea, and died in Mongolia on October 20, 1835. In 1836, Bishop Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert was named the second Vicar Apostolic of Korea. Bishop Imbert successfully crossed the Yalu River to enter this country on December 31, 1837, six years after the establishment of the Vicariate Apostolic of Korea in 1831. By 1838, Korea had a bishop, two priests and more than nine thousand Catholics.
Censing the image of St. Chastan at the altar
In 1839, however, those who didn’t like the Catholics came to power again. The fact that the French missionaries were in the country became known to the government, and a new persecution started throughout the country. Due to the severe persecution, the Catholic Church in Korea lost the bishop, the priests and many leading lay Catholics. The survivors again were forced to escape to the mountains. The three French missionaries including St. Jacques Chastan and St. Laurent Imbert, were beheaded in Saenamt’o on September 21, 1839, after severe tortures.St. Jacques Honoré Chastan, M.E.P. - Pastor bonus, the good shepherd: a life lived for Christ and His Catholic Church
(Martyred Sept. 21, 1839)
Extracts of two letters.
1) " (...) In spite of the danger of death, the number of Christians multiplies daily. The harvest has not been less abundant this year than last year. I had about 1100 baptisms, my confrere 1400. I have received many consolation in this second pastoral visit: it has been for me and those poor spiritual children a great joy to meet once more. I found them better instructed in religion, more fervent in the service of the Lord, having kept quite faithfully the grace of the sacraments... I have to travel about 1500 km, mostly through places covered with snow, with ice, over the mountains. All this is little when we think of what Our Lord endured for our souls. How sweet it is to be able to suffer something in gratitude to His infinite love..."
(To his parents, October 3, 1838)2) On August 23, 1839, the 2 French Missionaries received this note from their now-captured bishop, (Saint) Mgr. Imbert: "Bonus pastor ponit animam suam pro ovibus suis. Si nondum estis profecti per cymbam, venite cum misso Son Kie Tsong -- The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. If you haven’t yet left by boat, come with the envoy Son Kie Tsong."
The bishop who, at first, was resolved to protect his two missionaries, finally gave in. Plunged in the frightening heart of Korean prisons, tortured, daily exposed to the sight the tortures endured by his three main catechists, this man so hard on himself had not been able to resist the spectacle of the tortures of his flock. At the end, this very rigorous apostolic Vicar of Korea took a decision which is exceptional in the history of the Church: to ask his 2 priests (all his clergy) to hand themselves over...
Soon after receiving this note, St Jacques wrote his last letter to his parents:
"My dearest parents, may the peace of Our dear Lord be with you...
In the last 15 years, this dear mission enjoyed a real tranquility rarely disturbed. The Christians who had been dispersed in the last persecution had been able to get together, since the arrival of the missionaries, there were jubilant, and the presence of His Excellency had fulfilled our desires. This joy did not remain long undisturbed since about 100 Christians were caught, their fortune taken, their bodies beaten, and worse, their souls having become the enemies of God by apostasy.
This year the devil has doubled his rage. The persecution much more cruel has in fact become much more glorious by the constancy of martyrs of all age, of both sexes, of all conditions. In the space of two months, 25 people got beheaded after undergoing long and awful torments. 5 others actually died in these torments of as a result of them. More than 150 persons, now in prison, await the same fate. A single word of apostasy could free them from these horrible prisons where they suffer a long martyrdom, but the grace of the Lord strengthens them so well that they accept with joy all these torments. How happy will they be if they persevere until the end.
For 4 months we have hidden ourselves thanks to some Christians, and we would have done it longer if a higher order had not obliged us to reveal ourselves. His Excellency, our bishop, judges that in our present circumstances, it is the duty of a good shepherd to give his life to save his sheep; he has himself given the example by delivering himself... A single victim will not suffice to the rage of the persecutors, they will have three. The order to hide has kept us in hiding, the order to manifest ourselves is as welcome as the first. In all things, the will of God, the fulfilment of his good pleasure. I have always loved you, always cherished you while on earth, be assured that I will never forget you if God grants me to enter Heaven through the door of martyrdom...
My dearest father, mother, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, as it is most probably the last time I have the honour to write you, deign accept my last farewell... I have to go, I can’t write any longer...
While waiting to see each other again in Heaven where I am going to prepare for you a place, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, love also the dear neighbor as yourselves and you will infallibly receive the happiness to find yourselves at our "rendezvous" in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
I have the honour to be in the tenderest bonds and in the most affectuous charity that a son can have for his father, mother, brothers, sisters, your most humble and devoted son.
August 31, 1839.
Sources: "Mourir pour la Corée", Paris, 1996, pp. 230-1, 258-262
The relics of St. Chastan