St. Jeong Ha-sang
Recently on Sept. 3 to 11, the Seoul Catholic Theater Association performed "Jeong Ha-Sang" at the Consolation Hall at the Seosomun Shrine History Museum in celebration of the opening of the museum.
The performance, directed by Fr. Yu Hwan-min, was especially meaningful because the Catholic Church in Korea marks the 180th anniversary of a mass martyrdom outside Seosomun Gate.
The area outside the gate used to be crowded with people; thus it became a public execution ground during the late Joseon era in the 19th century.
This execution ground also became the site where early Korean Catholics were martyred. Those who were executed lived out their final moments in front of Seosomun Gate. Forty-four martyrs out of 103 Korean saints and 25 martyrs out of 124 Korean blessed were beheaded at the gate.
Because of the tragic history, this historical place was hidden and deserted for some time. The so-called Space of Death just remained a neighborhood park until it was opened to the public in June this year.
Most symbolically in this very place, the Catholic Church established the museum in collaboration with the city administration. From now on, they will provide not only Catholics but all the citizens with various exhibitions, performances, a pilgrimage site, and education programs. So far, since opening in June, it is said that 60,000 people have visited the museum.
Saint Jeong Ha-sang Paul (1794-1839) was martyred on Sept. 22, 1839, during the persecution of the year Kihae, the second persecution of Catholics in the Joseon era of King Heonjong (1827-1849).
Jeong Ha-sang was included among 103 saints who were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1984, and every year on Sept. 20, 103 Korean martyrs are commemorated by the Catholic Church with a memorial.
Jeong Ha-sang was the son of the martyr Augustine Jeong Yak-jong who died during the persecution of the year Sinyu in 1801. He was only seven years old when his father was martyred.
He became a servant of a government interpreter; so he could travel to Beijing many times. Thanks to this opportunity, he could entreat the bishop of Beijing to send priests to Korea, and with the help of the bishop, he could write a letter to Pope Gregory XVI in 1825, requesting the foundation of a diocese in Korea.
Thanks to all those constant efforts, Bishop Imbert with Fr. Maubant and Fr. Chastan were sent to Korea. Bishop Imbert expected to ordain Jeong Ha-sang, but unfortunately, he had to endure severe torture before being bound to a cross on a cart, dying at the age of 45.
Together with Jeong Ha-sang, his mother Yu So-sa Cecilia, Yu Jin-gil Augustino, and Jo Sin-cheol Carlo were also martyred and became saints.
What a lovely life they had! In an apologetic letter defending Christianity, addressed to the second vice-premier Lee Ji-yeon who led the persecution, Jeong Ha-sang expressed his firm faith. "Living in this world, even the smallest being is holy thanks to the power of the Lord. How can we serve and worship the Lord as we reward His grace even one hundred thousand!"
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