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CBCK Newsletter No.42 (Spring 2003)
Index
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints - 25

Saint Kim Hyo-im Columba (1814-1839)
Saint Kim Hyo-ju Agnes
(1816-1839)

    Kim Hyo-im Columba was born in 1814 and her sister Hyo-ju Agnes two years later to a pagan family in Bamseom, which means chestnut island, on the banks of the Han River. Originally their family had not been Catholic but their mother had early on taken an interest in the faith and gradually came closer to it but their father was a non-believer. In fact, their father did not even want to hear the Church mentioned in his house and strictly forbade it.
    After their father died, their mother became a devout Catholic with her six children: Anthony, Benedicta, Hyo-im Columba, Hyo-ju Agnes, Francis and Clara. Shortly after their baptism Hyo-im Columba and Hyo-ju Agnes, along with their younger sister Clara, promised to offer their lives to God as virgins. Their mother thought they should get married but they did not change their mind and braided their hair up in chignons to give the impression that they were married women. They went to live with their older brother, Anthony, who was living in Yongmori, near Seoul. They devoted themselves to their spiritual life by praying, fasting twice a week, reading religious books, saying the Rosary and giving alms to people in need. Their family was well-off but they showed no interest in earthly wealth. By temperament they were gentle and affectionate and this was reflected in their lives.
    All the Catholics around praised their charity and good example, and showed them great respect. Their mother died in Yongmori. Because she had been such a faithful Catholic Father Chastan had come specially to confer to her the Last Rites. From then on they never left Yongmori.
    In 1839 the persecution began to spread and Catholics were arrested everywhere. Yet the three sisters were not afraid and prayed daily for those who were suffering in prison. On May 3, a man named Kim Sa-mun who lived in the same village reported Anthony to the magistrate as a rich man who was a believer, and described how his house could be found. The police who had been frantically searching for Catholics in the area headed to Yongmori without delay. Anthony happened to be away at the time doing business as well as practicing his archery. Upon hearing the news of the police's arrival Anthony's wife Kim Lucia escaped with Banedicta and Clara, and Columba climbed over the wall into the neighboring house and hid in a pile of wood. Agnes alone was not able to flee. She was sitting in her room when the police invaded the house. The excited invaders took Agnes prisoner and after searching the house next door found Columba too and brought her back to her home. Then, Columba who saw the rude invaders mishandling her younger sister Agnes got angry at them and protested in a dignified manner: "If you want to arrest us we will follow you quietly. But why do you molest one considered a criminal of the country?"
    The police put the two sisters in a room and spent the night in the house having a feast on the dogs and chickens of the household. In the morning they bound the sisters with a red rope and after presenting them to the village leader took them off to Seoul.
    As soon as they arrived at the Justice Ministry the interrogation began. The judge asked Columba.
    "It is said you believe in the Catholic Church. Is this a fact?"
    "Yes, it is. I worship and respect God."
    "Why do you believe a teaching that is forbidden in our country? Why do you the Catholics refuse to offer the ancestral rites?"
    "The ancestral rites have no meaning. In this world it may be right for children to prepare food for parents who are in jail and ask them to come out and eat it but if the parents cannot come out and eat the food prepared for them of what use is it?" The judge continued, "That is what you say. However, not offering the rites to ancestors is an act which destroys human relationships. Tell us that you give up your faith and reveal to us where you have hidden your books and where the other Catholics are. Reveal us the whereabouts of your brother?" They answered. "Even though we were to die ten thousand times we cannot renounce our faith in God. We do not know where our brother is either."
    The two sisters also explained why they could not betray the other Catholics and give up their religious books. Preparations were then made to torture them. It was the normal practice to torture Catholics who had been arrested and were being interrogated. The police first beat them all over their bodies, then used a cudgel with spikes on it on their shoulders, arms and the joints of their knees. Yet the expression on their faces did not change. The commander got angry and shouted, "Use more strength. Hit them harder!"
    So, they underwent the pain of the 'jurae' five times. Between each session the police enticed them with promises and hopes if they would change their minds. However, the two sisters did not waver. They shook their heads and remained silent. The bones in their legs bent under the torture of the 'jurae'. During it all the sisters seemed to be already enjoying the heavenly peace. They never uttered a sound. Often those who were to be martyrs called on "Jesus, Mary" while being tortured, but these two sisters said nothing.
They prayed in silence as though exchanging words directly with Jesus and Mary. The prison guards could not hide their amazement at their silent persistence. This caused them to be more angry and malicious. They thought the two women must be possessed by some devilish power. They tore off the sisters' clothes and wrote the characters for 'jumun' (an incantation or charm) on their backs. Then they burned the lines of the characters into their backs up to thirteen times with a red hot skewer. But it was as if the two women did not know what was happening. Even as the flesh on their backs burned their calm expression did not change.
(To be continued on CBCK Newsletter No. 43)

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