The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints
The Lives of the 103 Martyr Saints of Korea
Saint Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert, Bishop
Bishop Imbert was born in France on April 15, 1797. He joined the Paris Foreign Mission Society in 1819, and in the following year he left Paris to go to Szechuan in China. Later he was in charge of the seminary there.
He was named the Vicar Apostolic of Korea at the age of 41. In 1837, he was led by Korean Catholics and successfully crossed the Yalu River after many hardships and difficulties. Thirteen days later his entourage arrived at Seoul. He was the fist bishop to set foot in this country, six years after the establishment of the Vicariate Apostolic of Korea and 52 years after the foundation of the Catholic Church in Korea. One can easily imagine how happy the Catholics of that time were.
He met two French priests, Fathers Maubant and Chastan. They worked very hard in a strange and unfamiliar country. The number of the Catholics was about 6,000 when the first French missionary (Father Maubant) started to work in Korea in 1836. By 1839 the number of Catholics had reached 9,000.
Bishop Imbert tried to escape the persecution, and in 1839 hid himself in Suwon with the help of Son Andrew.
The fact that the French missionaries were in the country had become known publicly to almost everyone, because some informers spread the news.
The traitor, Kim Yo-sang, promised the government officials that he would catch the French missionaries if they gave him some policemen. The government officials gave him the police that he requested.
Kim Yo-sang approached a naive Catholic farmer and told him a lie, saying that some learned Catholics in Seoul had persuaded the government officials to accept the Catholic faith. He said that the government officials and even some high ranking ministers had decided to become Catholic. He went further, suggesting that the French missionaries should go to Seoul to convert the government people.
The simple Catholic, deceived by Kim Yo-sang, led the group of men to Son Andrew's home, where Bishop Imbert had been hiding. He arrived ahead of the police and told the bishop what he heard from Kim Yo-sang. The bishop knew that the Catholic had been deceived. He did not run away but decided to give himself up to the police in order to avoid trouble for his people.
On August 10, 1839, the feast of St. Laurence, his patron saint, Bishop Imbert surrendered himself to the police and was led to the Seoul prison. He was interrogated by a Korean official. The official forced him to renounce God, but he strongly refused to do so. Therefore, Bishop Imbert was finally sentenced to death, and was beheaded at Saenamteo on September 21, 1839. He was 43 years old. His body was buried in Samseongsan Mountain, and later transferred to the grotto of Myongdong Cathedral.
Saint Jacques Honoré Chastan, Priest (1803-1839)
Father Chastan was born in a small village in France on October 7, 1803. His parents were simple farmers. From the time he was a boy, he had a strong desire to go to a remote foreign land to save souls. He entered the seminary, and his desire to save souls became stronger. To those who doubted whether he could bear all the hardships in a foreign land, he used to answer that God would give him courage to bear all the hardships and that a piece of bread and a glass of water would be all he would need in order to survive.
When it was decided that he could enter the seminary of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, he was very happy and sent the following letter to one of his friends. "Rejoice with me! My joy is greater than the joy a man might feel who thought he would be imprisoned for a long time, but then is finally freed. Rejoice with me, therefore, and praise the divine providence with all my friends!"
Jacques Chastan was ordained a priest just before Christmas of 1826 and went home to bid farewell to his parents. They knew their son's desire to go to a mission land, but it was a surprise for them to realize that he had to leave so soon. With tears in their eyes, they begged him not to go. Father Chastan knelt before his mother and asked for her blessing, but she strongly refused to bless him, calling him an ungrateful son.
Father Chastan's heart was breaking with sorrow, but his strong will remained steadfast. He tried to convince his parents that it was God's will for him to go to a mission land to save pagan souls. They would not listen to him. Father Chastan had to leave home without a gentle kiss from his mother. He went away knowing that he would probably never return. It was a really sad moment.
Father Chastan came to Korea, and with Father Maubant, who had been in Korea before him, worked hard to save souls. They visited remote Catholic villages deep in the mountains and converted many people. They baptized thousands, heard their confessions, and said Mass for them.
Following the order of Bishop Imbert, Father Chastan gave himself up with Father Maubant. All three missionaries met in prison. They were beheaded at Saenamteo on September 21, 1839. Their bodies were buried in Samseongsan Mountain and later transferred to the grotto of Myongdong Cathedral. Father Chastan was 35 years old when he was martyred.