It is said that Catholicism in Korea has unique origin for it was not brought there by missionaries from the West. Catholicism started when a certain Korean community found some text explaining the Catholic doctrine. From there, the Catholic community grew.
Catholicism in Korea is very meaningful because even though it is not the bastion of Catholicism in Asia, it produced 103 saints and many more martyrs are under scrutiny in the Vatican. It was believed that more or less 8,000 Catholics died during the persecution under the Chosun Dynasty.
The mother church in Korea is the Myeongdong Cathedral. It is formally known as The Cathedral Church of Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. The masses in this church are mostly in Korean with one English mass on a Sunday. This is also a good place for prayer and contemplation.
|The bust of Saint Andrew Kim Taegun.|
The Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto with the convent of the
Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres in the background.
|The statue of Jesus Christ originally placed in front of the cathedral.|
The cathedral also has a crypt which contains the remains of St. Andrew Kim Taegun and St. Laurent Imbert. Within the crypt is located the perpetual adoration chapel.
|After the Chrism Mass officiated by His Eminence Nicholas Cardinal Cheong.|
|The cathedral choir loft.|
|The Korean priests who renewed their priestly vows during the Chrism Mass.|
|After the Chrism Mass, I was fortunate to meet Archbishop Emeritus |
Nicholas Cardinal Cheong at the Myeongdong Cathedral convent.
Another church to visit in Korea is the Jeoldusan Martyr's Shrine. The shrine was erected on the very site where the Korean Christians were executed in the 1860's.
|Entrance to the Martyrs' Shrine|
|One of the tools used to persecute early Christians in Korea.|
|The Martyrs' Shrine|
The Martyrs' Shrine houses the Church, the Museum and the Martyrs' Crypt. The Martyr's Crypt contains the remains of the martyrs such as Saint Andrew Kim Taegun, Bishop Laurent Imbert, Bishop Simeon Francois Berneux, Paul Chong Hasan, etc.
|Statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegun|
On the grounds of the shrine, you can pray at the imposing statue of Saint Andrew Kim Taegun, the Patron Saint of Korean Clergy. It was said that he had the opportunity to visit the province of Bulacan in the Philippines during the Spanish times.
|A tribute to a family martyred because of their faith.|
|A stone with anti-Westerners notice during the Chosun dynasty.|
|A Shrine to the Martyrs|
The next church is Saenamteo, a very interesting pilgrim church in Korea. The site was used as a place for punishing political prisoners, including Roman Catholic believers, priests, and missionaries during the Joseon Dynasty. This was where Saint Andrew Kim Taegon was executed. The Memorial Church which now stands at the site was consecrated in 1987.
|The statue of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Korea.|
|The statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegun.|
|The statue of one of the martyrs.|
|The exquisite painting of Our Lady of Korea.|
|The baptistry at the altar.|
|The mural at the altar depicting the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus in Korean style.|
|A mural in the altar depicting the Korean Martyrs.|
|The Martyrium's imposing altar in Korean style.|
|The vessel for holy water.|
|The Church's Korean bell used during consecration.|
The last church is a little obscure church built over a hill called Yakhyeon Church. This was where the early Christians in Korea were persecuted. It is the first Catholic church to be established in Seoul, and the first Gothic-style church in Korea. This is nestled in a lovable surroundings perfect for persons wanting spiritual discernment and a perfect venue for weddings.
|Across the road is the Memorial to the Martyrs.|
Visiting these churches has been very meaningful for my faith life. It just encourage me to love the Lord fully without any reservation. It is in such love that I believe, I can live my life to the fullest!
Advise to Expatriates in Seoul: Most of the masses in Seoul are in Korean language. Even the Holy Week and Christmas services are in Korean. English mass only happens every Sunday, 9:00 a.m. at Myeongdong Cathedral.