The Church celebrates St. Andrew Dung-Lac “and companions” on November 24 each year. The “companions” part is often overlooked, but represents more than 100 martyrs who were killed in Vietnam.
More specifically, according to VaticanNews, “117 Vietnamese faithful” are part of this celebration.
This includes “bishops, priests, and many laypeople, a mother of six and even a nine-year-old child, who gave their lives for Christ between the 17th and the 19th centuries. Ninety-six were native Vietnamese and 21 were Spanish or French missionaries who had embraced that land and culture.”
Even this number is only a representation, as it is estimated that, “between 100,000 and 300,000 martyrs” died in Vietnam during those centuries.
Keeping the faith alive
Part of the persecution can be traced back to Emperor Minh-Mang in 1832, who commanded all Christians to trample upon crucifixes and deny their faith.
For many years Vietnamese Catholics had to pass on their faith quietly, without the help of missionary priests, many of whom had been killed. Lay catechists helped keep the flame of faith alive in Vietnam.
Despite the intense persecution, Catholicism remained in Vietnam for centuries and continues to thrive both in the country as well as among Vietnamese abroad. The persecutors thought they would eliminate Christianity, but they only helped it to survive for generations to come.
St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the hundreds (possibly thousands) of martyrs honored on this day have become the Patron Saints of Vietnam and are powerful intercessors for Vietnamese Catholics.