People attend the celebration to mark the death anniversary of Father Peter Nguyen Van Luu at Ba Giong Pilgrimage Center in Tien Giang province. (Photo: giaophanmytho.net)
Catholics in a southern diocese have been urged to live out their faith following the example of a martyred priest.
On April 7, Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Kham of My Tho presided at a special Mass to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the death of Saint Martyr Father Peter Nguyen Van Luu at Ba Giong Pilgrimage Center in Tien Giang province. The ceremony was attended by some 100 priests and 1,000 people.
“We can meet God when we listen to his word and receive the Eucharist; that is the most precious gift the Church can bring to humankind,” Bishop Kham said.
He said Saint Martyr Luu was convinced that Jesus Christ was the best gift and offered his life to God. The martyr priest devoted himself entirely to preaching the Good News and giving love and care to people at local parishes he served as parish priest.
The martyr, who is the diocese’s patron, was arrested and killed for bravely administering sacraments to Catholics who were jailed for their faith.
Bishop Kham, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said the real life of the local Church is not that it ha vast fortunes, considerable power and adequate facilities but that it is a community of breaking of bread, listening to God’s word, communion and mutual loving, fervently spreading and bearing witness to Jesus’ Good News.
He urged people to make positive contributions to building the diocese based on the four signs of the church community.
Before the Mass, women in traditional clothes bearing candles and torches marched in lines carrying a statue of Saint Martyr Luu from the church to the main stage where nuns and other people in costumes performed ritual dances to honor the saint martyr.
Born in 1812 in Saigon, Luu was sent to study at Penang Seminary in Malaysia, where he was ordained a priest before returning home.
He offered pastoral care to four parishes — Mac Bac, Sa Dec, My Tho and Ba Giong. He disguised himself as an ordinary man and visited Catholics who were kept in jail for their faith. He administered sacraments to and consoled them.
Father Luu was arrested in December 1860 for his pastoral service in jails and he bravely admitted to being a priest. He was tortured, questioned and threatened but he refused to abandon his Catholic faith.
He told soldiers that “I could not renounce Catholicism which is infused into my body. Laity has no right to abandon faith, let alone me, a priest.”
Father Luu was beheaded on April 7, 1861, in My Tho. His body and pillory were buried by local Catholics.
Martyr Luu was beatified on May 2, 1909, by Pope Pius X and canonized on June 19, 1988, by St. Pope John Paul. He is among 117 Vietnamese martyrs who died for their faith.