“Are you a faithful Catholic?”
(A Letter from Prison, dated August 26, 1846)
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea announces the ‘Jubilee of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn’ to be celebrated from November 29, 2020, the first Sunday of Advent, to November 27, 2021, the day before the first Sunday of Advent. This Jubilee is a festival inviting the faithful to consolidate in their lives faith in the God to Whom the martyrs devoted their lives, and to share the true joy of faith. The spirituality of martyrdom is a precious inheritance to the Catholic Church in Korea. I pray that throughout the Jubilee Year all believers will be inspired by the spirit of martyrdom and cherish ever more their “faith working through love” (Gal 5,6).
“Are you a faithful Catholic?”
The theme of this Jubilee is the question that Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn received during his interrogation in prison. It is also a crucial question to be addressed by each Christian. “Yes, I am a faithful Catholic”: This deep faith confession by St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, who dared to defy the fear of death, gives us confidence that God alone is the entirety of our lives, and only faith in Him guarantees us eternal happiness. “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16,33). St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, who willingly accepted martyrdom, invites us to confess to our neighbors, “I am a Catholic who bears witness to God’s love and mercy, and who desires to be the light and salt of the world!”
Our ancestors in the faith, along with St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, bore witness to the Kingdom of God in this world by practicing the idea of equality through maintaining human dignity even in a feudal society where discrimination prevailed. The reason why UNESCO selected St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn as a universal patron is because the faithful community represented by him demonstrated the spirit of equality and fraternal love in the practice of their faith and their living out of the Gospel.
Today, we, at one and the same time, live in the shadow of human greatness and limitations. However, the true greatness of humanity comes not from the pride of being able to do and control so much, but from their ability to acknowledge their own weaknesses and limitations, and to rely on the Lord, the Source of all things. For it is God who gives us strength in our weakness, wealth in our poverty, and hope in our despair. In addition, when God becomes all in our lives, He banishes conflict, envy, selfishness, and division, and allows peace to reign through prayerful actions. Further, efforts to lovingly protect the dignity of creation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are in accordance with the spirituality of our martyred Saint Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn.
During the Jubilee Year, let us deeply engrave in our hearts the spirituality of St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, who loved God ‘with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength’ (cf. Mk 12,30). Let us follow the path of the martyrs who testified to their love of God. Resisting the temptation of this world to seek comfort in material abundance, let us live lives of gratitude and mercy. Let us live like St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn in response to the love of God, the Source of all things.
While the world faces such crises as the spread of COVID-19, the destruction of the ecosystem, climate change, and economic polarization, our Church is now facing serious challenges from an inertia in faith, new atheism and technological omnipotence. In addition, Korea, which marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 2020, is still suffering from national division. However, the courageous confession of faith made by St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn shows us how we might start anew.
On this occasion of the Jubilee Year, let us follow St. Father Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn’s example and confidently confess our faith through our lives and actions. Let us take up our own crosses and the burdens of the world, take courage and testify in our daily lives that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14,6). May the joy of the Jubilee, through our firm confession and practice of our faith, overflow into our neighbors’ lives, both nationwide and worldwide.
“Are you a faithful Catholic?” “Yes, I am a faithful Catholic.”
Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Conception, Patroness of Korea, pray for us!
St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn and all the holy martyrs of Korea, pray for us!
November 29, 2020
The first Sunday of Advent
+ Matthias Ri Iong-hoon
President of the CBCK