I was never interested in the martyrs. Not even the 103 Korean martyrs that the Korean Catholic Church holds pride in. Even though the martyrs are considered great heroes of the faith, I was never drawn to them. However, everything changed one afternoon.
The story of my love and devotion to the Korean martyrs began during a trip to Korea with my sister. My sister and I were in Korea for about two months. In the first month, we stayed at one of the convents of our religious order (located in Dae-Jeon). I was discerning my vocation to the religious life at that time, so the sisters invited me over to their convent for a “come and see” experience.
One afternoon, I remember feeling so bored.
There was no TV in the room where we stayed, and at that time, I didn’t have an iPhone or laptop where I could keep myself busy or entertained. So, I decided to check their library out to see if there was anything interesting that I could read.
To my surprise, I found a few comic books! I love reading comic books. But when I realized that it was about the Korean martyrs and saints, the excitement quickly vanished… (sigh). Still, I had nothing better to do, so I decided to give it a try. I grabbed a book, took it to my room, and began reading it…
The comic book was about a 13-year-old boy named Saint Peter Yu Tae Chol (유대철). As the story progressed, I became so immersed in the story that I finished the comic book in one sitting. I was amazed by the great faith and love for God that this little boy had. This comic book totally changed my perspective on the martyrs.
Saint Peter Yu Tae Chol (성유대철 베드로) was the first Korean saint and martyr that had a huge influence on my life. The Catholic Church in Korea at that time was facing severe persecution. As a result, many of the Korean Catholics, including missionary priests and bishops who came to Korea, were captured, tortured, and killed, dying as martyrs. Saint Peter Yu Tae Chol was also arrested for being a Catholic.
The scene that left me with a great impression was when the guards were torturing and threatening Yu Tae Chol to try to get him to deny his Catholic faith. As their last resort, the guards threatened to put a HOT piece of charcoal on his tongue. But Yu Tae Chol showed NO fear, and he willingly opened his mouth wide open. The guards were so taken aback by the fearless courage that this little boy showed. I, also, was speechless. I could only wonder how this little boy could have such a profound and strong faith and love for God.
When I looked at this young martyr, I came to realize that faith is truly a grace from God, and it has nothing to do with how young or how old you are.
Saint Peter Yu Tae Chol inspires me to live out my faith with the same spirit he showed in that particular scene: choosing death rather than choosing to deny his God. The martyrs lived and died with that mindset: death rather than doing anything that would hurt or make God sad. Whenever I pick up a book about the Korean martyrs, they always bring encouragement and motivation to my life. Books, and even comic books about the saints, can have a big influence in one’s life. As Catholics, we are so blessed to have the saints who continue to inspire us even today.
Sr. Clara Choi is a Korean-American sister. After graduating from college, she joined the Sisters of the Blessed Korean Martyrs (SBKM) in 2010, receiving her formation in Mexico. In 2020, she made her perpetual vows in Korea, and is part of the Quasi-Province of Americas that serves in Mexico, Peru, and USA.
Facebook: Sbkm Vocation https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015097803485