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Friday, April 30, 2010

Saint Augustin Schoeffer (1822 – 1851)

Bust of Saint Augustin Schoeffer (1822 – 1851)

From the early 1600s onward, Catholic missionaries of various affiliations were present in Vietnam, though on a small scale and only in the lowlands.

Near the end of that century, a papal intervention gave the evangelisation of the northeast portion of Tonkin--covering roughly one-third of the region--to Spanish Dominicans based in Manila, whilst the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) was given the remaining two-thirds.

La Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (the Paris Foreign Missions Society) (MEP) was established 1658-63. It was one of the main societies for the conversion of Vietnam.

Thousands of Catholic priests, religious and laity in Vietnam who were killed between 1625 and 1886 for their faith

Fr. Schoeffler was one. Following his arrest in the Tonkin, he was invited to renounce his Christian faith and to trample upon the Lord’s cross. When he refused, he was sentenced to death.

The sentence of death, written on a board and planted into the ground before him, read: “In spite of the prohibitions of the religion of Jesus, Augustin, a European priest, has dared to come by stealth into the kingdom to preach that religion and to deceive the people. He is condemned to be beheaded and his head to be thrown into the water.”

He died on 1st May which is his feast day.

In Lent 1849 he wrote the following in a letter to M. Auguste Verrier who was then wishing tobecome a seminarian at the Paris seminary:

"Que la croix de Jésus soit notre unique amour [?]

Bien cher Auguste, ...

Pour ce qui est de ta vocation, de ta prédilection pour une mission plus tôt que pour une autre, sois la desus bien indifférent, car dès qu'il y a des infidèles à convertir que ce soit au Japon ou au Pérou peu importe, la récompense de ses travaux sera toujours aussi belle car partout il y a à souffrir. Je t'assure qu'actuellement je suis bien revenu de la prédilection d'une mission sur une autre, si j'étais encore à Paris peu m'importerait le champ qui me serait dévolu à défricher [le texte porte "déchiffrer" !]. Si Dieu destine une âme à des grandes choses, au martyr par exemple, sa divine Providence saura le trouver partout et par des circonstances inconnues aux hommes faire parvenir ce coeur au but de ses désirs. ...

Les commencements sont un peu durs il faut l'avouer, les maladies, changements de manière de vivre, cela coûte un peu, mais qu'importe, Jésus a bien plus souffert pour nous, n'est-il pas juste que nous nous efforcions de prouver par nos efforts notre reconnaissance pour tous ses bienfaits."
On September 24, 1857, Augustin Schoeffler was declared Venerable by Pope Pius IX. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on May 7, 1900. He was made a saint by Pope John Paul II on June 19, 1988.

St Thérèse of Lisieux was inspired by the martyrs of Vietnam. She was given a copy of the Life and letters of Venerable Théophane Vénard, ( 1829 - 1861) a priest of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society, who had been martyred in Vietnam some years previously.

She was inspired by his example to volunteer for the new Carmelite monastery in Hanoi. She carried on a correspondence with Carmelite sisters at Hanoi, Vietnam. They wished her to come out and join them. But her health did not allow her to go before her death at an early age.

Inspired by such heroism, she wrote:

«Pour les pécheurs, je voudrais ici-bas
Lutter, souffrir à l’ombre de tes palmes,
Protège-moi, viens soutenir mon bras ...

O bienheureux Martyr! De ton amour aux virginales flammes viens m’embrasser...!» (2nd February 1897)

She died on 30 September 1897, clutching a relic of the Venerable Théophane.