The Martyrs of Vietnam
The letters from some of these martyrs selected for the Office of Readings in the Dominican Breviary are still very raw and moving. They convey so effectively the bravery, strength and integrity of the martyrs and of those who offered themselves to the missions and to spreading the Gospel in a foreign (and hostile) land. They also testify to the uncertainties and pain of families who gave their children over to the work of God in the missions. It is these that we honour today and praise God for the graces He gave the martyrs in bearing witness to Him and His love.
The following is from a letter by St Pedro Almato to his father. It was written from Tonkin (Vietnam) on 3 August 1859:
"My dearest Father,
I suppose you must already have mourned for me thinking I was dead; there has been enough reason for that, for I myself did not expect I could be alive this long, nor do I have much hope of surviving this great persecution... The evils we have suffered up to now are great; our missions, formerly flourishing, have lost their greenery and their beauty. So many have been killed or exiled! It really makes you want to cry when you see people being executed, others being kept in dungeons for a long time and having their homes pillaged and torn down, they themselves being left in the street without so much as a piece of bread... I do not know how many exactly, have also suffered martyrdom.
Another European and I have been hiding for seven months in a small house that has underground caves where we can hide if the Mandarins decide to pay us a visit. If you should hear that I have been caught and martyred for the faith, do not cry, rejoice instead for the happiness that is mine. I say good-bye to you, my Mother, to my brother and sisters and to our relatives and friends, in case I cannot write again. Pray a lot for me to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin to give me the grace I need to die for their love. Farewell, my Father."
Let us continue to pray for the Church in Vietnam and ask the martyrs to pray for us all that we too may receive the grace to witness to our love for Christ and our Blessed Mother.