Pope Francis: Perseverance in following Christ

by FLL Editorial Team

(Vatican News) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis praises Saint Andrew Kim Taegon for embodying apostolic zeal, and upholds the heroic witness of the first native priest of Korea and a martyr for the faith, who persevered in showing the love of God to his compatriots despite persecution and hardships.

"His life was and remains an eloquent testimony of zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel."

With these words, Pope Francis described St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first native priest of Korea and a martyr for the faith, at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday in St. Peter's Square, as he continued his catechesis series on saints who personified apostolic zeal.

Reflecting on the Asian saint to the thousands of faithful in the Square, the Pope praised his trust in the Lord and his perseverance in spreading the Gospel despite hardship and persecution.

The Holy Father recalled that despite living in a time of "fierce persecution," Saint Andrew courageously sought out the scattered members of his flock who, for fear of arrest, were forced to keep their identity secret.

“About 200 years ago, the Korean land was the scene of a very severe persecution of the Christian faith. At that time, believing in Jesus Christ in Korea meant being ready to bear witness even unto death.”

The Holy Father also recalled that lay people were key for transmitting the faith in Korea, and noted that their faith was essential for making Jesus' love known throughout their territory.

Great hardships for the Gospel

As a young seminarian, he recalled, Andrew aided missionary priests from abroad, who covertly entered the country to minister to its people.

The Saint, Pope Francis insisted, endured great hardships for the sake of the Gospel.

"Once, amid a long trek through the snow, he fell to the ground exhausted and risked dying of exposure. Suddenly he heard a voice saying: 'Get up and keep walking!' He realized that, in his witness to the Gospel, he was not alone, and that the Lord would never forsake him."

Perseverance in following Christ

In the end, the Holy Father recognized that his perseverance in following Christ and serving his people led to his death as a martyr.

For Andrew Kim, the Pope said, the expression that summed up the whole identity of the Christian was "disciple of Jesus." "Indeed, to be a disciple of the Lord," the Pope said, "means to follow Him, to follow His way, and this involves giving one's life for the Gospel."

The Christian, he continued, is by nature a missionary and a witness, just as Jesus was a missionary and witness to the Father. "Every Christian community," he said, "receives this identity from the Holy Spirit, and so does the whole Church, since the day of Pentecost."

Living the Gospel in its fullness

When the Gospel is lived in its fullness, the Pope noted, the person does not turn in on himself, "but bears witness to the faith by making it become a contagious faith." It is precisely there, he said, where "the passion for evangelization is born."

And even if the surrounding context is not favorable, the Pope said, it does not change. "On the contrary, it becomes even more valuable. St. Andrew Kim and other Korean believers have shown that the witness borne the Gospel given in times of persecution can bear much fruit for the faith."

The Pope also recalled that when Andrew was a seminarian he had to find a way to secretly welcome missionary priests from abroad.

"This was not an easy task, as the regime of the time strictly forbade all foreigners from entering the territory. Once he walked through the snow, without eating, for so long that he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing. At that point, he suddenly heard a voice: 'Get up, walk!' Hearing that voice, Andrew came to his senses, catching a glimpse of something like a shadow of someone guiding him."

Great Korean witness

This experience of "the great Korean witness," the Holy Father observed, teaches us an important aspect of apostolic zeal, "namely, the courage to get back up when we fall down."

While St. Andrew fell in a physical sense, St. Peter's falls into sin, and his denial of Christ three times, the Pope said, shows us that we can always rise back up even after we fall.

At the same time, the Pope said, "we can always get back up, because the Lord Jesus never abandons us, is always near, encourages us, and takes us by the hand. And He always repeats to us, 'Get up, walk!'"

Jesus Himself, the Pope reassured his audience, is the One who rose from the dead.

Rising from every fall

"His Resurrection is precisely the mystery in which is rooted the possibility for us to rise from every fall," he said, insisting, "It is the source of the strength that enables us to go forward."

Pope Francis concluded by urging the faithful to let the saint's example empower them.

“Brothers and sisters, let us not be discouraged, let us not be robbed of the sweet joy of evangelization, and with the strength that Jesus Christ gives us, let us go forward.”

Source: Pope at Audience: Korean St. Andrew Kim Taegon 'embodied apostolic zeal'