Thought for the Day – 6 November – The Memorial of St Théophane Vénard (1829-1861) Martyr of Vietnam (The Saint who influenced St Therese of the Child Jesus to dream of becoming a Missionary – she is of course, now a patron of Missionaries).
The letter below holds the last words of Saint Jean-Théophane Vénard—a French Catholic missionary sentenced to death in Vietnam—to his father, written in the night before his execution.
It is said that “on the way to martyrdom Father Vénard chanted psalms and hymns. To his executioner, who coveted his clothing and asked what he would give to be killed promptly, he answered: ‘The longer it lasts the better it will be’.”
“20 January 1861
Very dear, very respected and beloved father,
Because my sentence keeps me waiting I want to send you another goodbye which will probably be the last. The days of my imprisonment are passing gently. Everybody around me honours me, a great number [of people] loves me. From the great Mandarin to the last soldier, everybody regrets that the law of the kingdom condemns me to death. I did not have to endure torture, like many of my brothers. A light cut of a saber will separate my head [from my body], like the gardener cuts a spring flower for his pleasure. We are all flowers planted on this earth that God reaps in His due time, some earlier, some later. May it be the purple rose, the maiden lily, or the humble violet. Let’s all try to please the Lord and Master according to the scent or colour that is given to us.
I wish you, dear father, a long, quiet and virtuous life. Carry gently the cross of this life, like Jesus did, until the day of the peaceful passing. Father and son will meet again in paradise. I, little ephemeral, I will go there first. Goodbye.
Your very devoted and respectful son
J Théophane Vénard”
However, Théophane’s decapitation at the hands of an executioner was a gruesome event. He died, a martyr of Indochina, on February 2, 1861. The best word to describe Théophane Vénard is “happy.” He was happy at home, happy at school and seminary, happy when he was sick, happy to be sent to Vietnam. And he was happy in his hiding hole, happy in his cage and happy to bend his neck for the executioner’s saber. We may not wish for martyrdom but undoubtedly we would like to be infected with a joy like Théophane Vénard.
St Théophane Vénard, Pray for us!