Vietnamese Dominican Martyrs: Sts Ignatius Delgado, Vincent Lim, Dominic An-Kham, and Companions
The reason behind martyrdom is faith in Jesus Christ, at least from the martyr’s point of view. He is ready to be murdered for his belief. From the other side’s point of view, it could be justice, defence of the social order, etc. since the martyrs represent opposition to the establishment: a new creed; new bases for justice and social behaviour; a cultural intromission etc. But what would be the opinion of an external observer like us?
We Catholics could say after Tertullian that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians, and to judge from the situation of Vietnam nowadays it seems that we would be right. The reason behind a martyrdom lies in the necessity of witnessing, of heroes who show in their terrible deaths that there is a God worthy of being praised. A martyrdom is crime, without any doubt, but something that Providence uses to establish the faith on a strong foundation.
And what about the opinion of the atheist and non-believers? The cleverest among them could say that nescentia necat: “ignorance kills”. Ignorance on the part of the martyr who thinks that there is something more valuable than his own life, but also ignorance on the part of the murderers that don’t recognize the importance of a martyr for a particular cause. A system of religious thought to destin people to ignorance only leads to death.
I honestly agree with the Latin expression. Ignorance kills, and kills because it is the thing that makes an innocent guilty. Someone who is unrelated to the truth is a slave of ignorance that as a cruel master is capable of commanding anything of its subjects regardless of the harm that might be suffered. That is why Jesus Christ, when he was on the cross, implored his father to forgive the ignorance of his executors. That God is ready to forgive them because they are ignorant entails a particular praxis of destroying that ignorance, otherwise supreme rule would easily be obliterated by a subtle exercise of irresponsibility. The words of the Roman soldier after the murder are then proved to be the merciful unveiling of ignorant actions.
The entire world is pierced by the sword of ignorance. We are born in her and she will be always a burden for every one of our actions: she is the tribute to our human nature. The only solution would be an extraordinary act of revelation on the part of Truth itself. Grace, without wiping out nature, perfects the latter by releasing it from ignorance. That is the reason why Dominicans are called preachers of Grace, teachers of the secret weapon against ignorance. Truth can be achieve through a vital and exhausting search in the deep caverns of human mystery, through the sacrifice of a life devoted to the study of the secrets of creation, but only Grace can free us from what by nature we have acquired (a very famous Spanish proverb used in university affairs would fit this matter: Quod natura non da, Salamantica non praestat).
The life of innumerable martyrs that the Order of Preachers has offered to the Church is a clear testimony of an ancestral war against ignorance, ignorance of the Grace that, through the testimony of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are able to enjoy. Ignorance was the enemy of this group of Dominicans of the Holy Rosary Province (one of the provinces of the Order devoted to the missions) that exercised their ministry in the lands of what is now Vietnam. Bishops, priests, lay Dominicans… a very image of the church murdered in one of the most terrible fashions in the history of Martyrdom. All of them were able to sign their names in the book of Life and their victory had obtained Grace for the people to whom they dedicated their lives.
Eternal glory to the martyrs!