St. Theophane Venard
Even as a youngster this holy French priest dreamed of being a martyr. He went to study for the priesthood. Then he entered a college for missionaries in Paris, France. His family, whom he dearly loved, was greatly saddened to think that after he became a priest, he would leave them. Travel was not what it is today. Theophane realized that the long ocean voyage to the Orient would most probably separate him from his family for the rest of his life.
"My darling sister," he wrote in a letter, "how I cried when I read your letter. Yes, I well knew the sorrow I was going to bring on my family. I think there will be a special sorrow for you, my dear little sister. But don't you think it cost me bloody tears, too? By taking such a step, I knew that I would give all of you great pain. Whoever loved his home more than I do? All my happiness on this earth was centered there. But God, who has united us all in bonds of most tender affection, wanted to draw me from it."
After being ordained a priest, Theophane set out for Hong Kong. He sailed in September, 1852. He studied languages for over a year there. Then he went on to Tongking. Two obstacles were in the way of this zealous missionary: his poor health and a terrible persecution. Yet he struggled bravely on. Often he wrote to tell his beloved sister in France all his adventures and narrow escapes from his persecutors. At last, after bravely serving the many Christians in Tongking, Theophane was captured and chained in a cage for two months.
His gentle ways won even his jailers. He managed to write a letter home in which he said: "All those who surround me are civil and respectful. A good many of them love me. From the great mandarin down to the humblest private soldier, everyone regrets that the laws of the country condemn one to death. I have not been put to the torture like my brethren." But their sympathy did not save his life. After he had been beheaded, crowds rushed to soak handkerchiefs in his blood. He was martyred on February 2, 1861. Father Venard was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on June 19, 1988. He is one of the martyrs of Vietnam celebrated on November 24.
The life of St. Theophane was marked by courage for the sake of the Gospel. Is there a risk I can take in faith, in order to bring Jesus' love to someone in need?