Special Mass marks 182nd death anniversary of lay martyrs Martin Tran Ngoc Tho and John Baptist Tran Ngoc Con
Old people in traditional clothes lead a procession around the village to honor their native martyrs in Xuan Bang parish in Nam Dinh province on Nov. 5. (Photo: tonggiaophanhanoi.org)
Catholics in Vietnam's two northern dioceses have been urged to maintain their ancestors’ treasures of faith as they remembered hundreds of people killed during waves of persecution since the 18th century.
On Nov 5, thousands of people from Xuan Bang parish attended a special Mass to celebrate the 182nd death anniversary of lay martyrs Martin Tran Ngoc Tho (1787-1840) and John Baptist Tran Ngoc Con (1805-1840).
They also honored 134 other people killed in the parish during the persecutions, whom local Catholics consider witnesses of faith.
Father Joseph Nguyen Van Hy, the pastor of the parish, said native Catholics accepted death to receive eternal life and divine glory in heaven, which are their ultimate goals. They died for the Catholic faith and their absolute loyalty to God.
"We are the fruits of our native martyrs"
The two lay Catholics are among 117 Vietnam martyrs, whom three popes canonized on four different occasions. They are considered representative figures of thousands killed —estimated to be between 130,000 to 300,00 — during persecutions between 1745–1862.
Father Van Hy said Saints Tho, Con, three other priests, and 20 lay people were arrested on the same day and killed on Nov 8, 1840, in Nam Dinh province. Both Tho and Con were beatified in 1900 and canonized in 1988.
"What we have today is based on their faith and sacrifices and we are the fruits of our native martyrs," he said. "We are urged to keep alive their treasure of faith by bearing witness to Christian values in our daily life and transferring it to younger generations."
He said the blood of the martyrs will become useless if local people ignore their faith.
He said the parish, which is home to 140 martyrs including Tho, Con and four priests, has the highest number of native martyrs in Hanoi archdiocese. Local people started to receive the Good News in the early 17th century.
Before Mass, people carried a picture of the martyrs, marching around their village, singing hymns, saying prayers and playing drums, trumpets and gongs. They also watched cultural performances praising the martyrs’ lives, service and suffering.
"All people can bear witness to the Lord, regardless of their occupation, position or age"
The following day, Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi administered Confirmation to 82 local children.
Archbishop Thien said Saints Tho and Con "used their death to affirm that God exists, the Church teaches good things, and Christians love their country.”
He said all people can bear witness to the Lord, regardless of their occupation, position or age.
He said Christians today are not killed for faith like the martyrs in the past, but they can bear witness to the Good News through their daily activities. It is the sacrament of Confirmation to help strengthen the faith of the faithful so that they can live out their faith in all circumstances.
On Nov. 5, thousands of pilgrims attended the feast of Dominican Martyrs at the Martyrs Shrine in Hai Duong City, some 60 kilometers southeast of Hanoi.
Bishop Vincent Nguyen Van Ban of Hai Phong presided at the Mass joined by some 100 priests.
Bishop Ban called on local people to highly esteem the shrine by making generous donations to a new stone church’s construction that began in 2017. The earlier one was destroyed during a US air raid in 1967.
The shrine was a place where many Catholics and missionaries were executed for their faith. Among them were three Spanish Dominicans — Bishops Jeronimo Hermosilla Liem and Valentino Berrio Ochoa Vinh, and Father Pedro Almato Binh — who were killed on Nov 1, 1861, and Vietnamese Dominican Brother Joseph Nguyen Duy Khang who was killed on Dec 6 of the same year.
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