||December 17, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 21 • Oakland, CA|
Refugees brought faith from Vietnam to Oakland
I greet you in the name of Christ the King whose feast we celebrate today, but also I greet you in the name of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs whose feast day we also celebrate this morning which is the reason for my being here with you.
We are God's troops. By our commitment to follow Christ as our King, we contribute to the betterment of the kingdom when, in Christ's name we heal the sick, mend broken relationships, feed the hungry, clothe the poor and love the unwanted children of God. There is so much to be done, requiring all of our help and assistance.
What are we fighting for? We are fighting for the love and peace of God to be a reality for every human person who lives today and those who come after us in the next generations. Since Christ Our King taught us how to be good stewards of human life and all its resources, we have the responsibility to take care of that life so that each person can have the quality of life which by God's will is deserved. Christ has come to serve and not to be served.
In the light of these realities, what has made the 117 Vietnamese martyrs whose feast we also celebrate today to be saints? What led them to die a death of martyrdom? Their motive was nothing short of willingness to submit their lives to the reign of Jesus Christ and to follow him faithfully no matter what the cost.
According to documented history, Catholic Christianity began in Vietnam in 1533. At that time, the country was ruled by King Trang Ton of the Le Dynasty. This king issued a decree of prohibition against the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. The decree mentioned specifically a missionary named Ignatius, a Westerner arriving in the country aboard a commercial ship in order to preach at Ninh Cuong and Quan Anh Villages, presently the province An Nam Dinh in Northern Vietnam.
Over the centuries that followed, lay persons, vowed religious and priests were martyred for their Catholic faith.
On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized the faithful witness of those Vietnamese men and women martyred throughout the years by canonizing 117 of them at a ceremony in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The 117 Vietnamese Martyrs included 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish missionaries and 10 French missionaries. By elevating the martyrs to the rank of canonized saints, the pope encouraged the universal Church to celebrate the martyrs' fidelity to the kingdom. This is a singular honor for Vietnam and its people.
The Vietnamese Church, throughout its history, has been proven heroic and has matured through the blood of the martyrs and sacrifices of many. It has always remained faithful to the Church and to the Vicar of Christ, worthy of being described by Pope Pius XI as the Eldest Daughter of the Catholic Church in Asia.
Such is the great history which you inherit and celebrate today as Vietnamese Catholics. By the sacrifice of those who come before you and by your own sacrifices and suffering in leaving your native land and settling in the U.S. as immigrants and refugees, you have continued to grow in your Catholic faith. You have proudly brought that faith from Vietnam to Oakland and you have become a part of the vitality of this local Church.
I am most grateful to all of you for the Catholic faith you claimed as your own and for your commitment to pass on that faith to the next generation. I am grateful for all the good works you do in making the Vietnamese Community an expression of the Lord's kingdom, a place of refuge for those who come here to find the love and warmth of Christ the King, the One who serves. Be assured that your fidelity to him and his Church will help you to know continually his presence, his love and his peace.
A happy Vietnamese Martyrs Feast Day to all of you.
(This was Archbishop Brunett's homily Nov. 25, the Feast of Christ the King, at the Vietnamese Martyrs Mass at St. Anthony Church in Oakland.)
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