The Martyrs of Vietnam, whom we commemorate today, were a whole panoply of Christians, bishops, priests, Franciscans, Dominicans, lay men, women and children, put to death in the most horrific of ways in the series of persecutions in that troubled country in the 17th to 19th centuries. There were thousands – some estimates say up to 300,000 – who witnessed so for the Faith, 117 of whom have been officially canonized by the Church (by Pope John Paul II in 1988), amongst them Andrew-Dung Lac and Theophane Venard, both priests, the latter inspiring the vocation of a young French girl, Therese of Lisieux, who is patroness of the missions, even though she spent almost all of her brief 24 years in a convent.
As Theophane wrote to his family back home in France, not long before his own martyrdom, words which spoke to the heart of the idealistic Therese:
We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in His own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later . . . Father and son may we meet in Paradise. I, poor little moth, go first. Adieu