Thoughts from Modern Martyrs – Henry Dorie

Henry DorieHenry Dorie, the close friend and companion of Just de Bretenieres, came from the Vendee, which lies along the west coast of France, some what to the south. Relatives still live in the humble salt-maker’s home where the future martyr of Korea was born on September 23, 1839.

Henry Dorie’s father paid rent to Count Bessay, who later became the patron of Henry and, together with Father Boulanger, a curate in the parish at Saint Hilaire of Talmont, arranged for the boy s education.

The call to the priesthood is not always clearly given, but Henry Dorie, like Theophane Venard and Just de Bretenieres, seemed to have been thus privileged. According to his own testimony, Henry Dorie, at the age of fifteen, received an inspiration which he could no more have resisted than could a river avoid running towards the sea.

He entered college at Sables d’Olonne, a well-known watering place on the Vendee coast, and, in 1860, began his theological studies at Lugon. He was not a brilliant student and had to work harder than most of his companions, but his disposition, modest and recollected, yet bright and even gay, won for him the love of all whom he met.

The lines of his future life were cast during his seminary course, as we discover from a letter written to an intimate friend and containing the following sentences: “I wish to give my self wholly to our Lord to work, to suffer all my life, and to die for Him and for the propagation of His kingdom on earth.”

This thought was genuine, and the inevitable step came soon when, in the summer of 1862, he went to the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Paris.

His patron, Count Bessay, his parents and even his pastor, vigorously opposed this step, and it was only when young Dorie, almost in despair, threatened to give up all thought of the priesthood if he could not go to the Foreign Missions, that his mother and the others interested realized the risk they were taking of thwarting the designs of God.

Theophane Venard, whose home was not many miles away from the Vendee, had been martyred the previous year, and this event had produced a deep impression on Henry Dorie, contributing not a little to his final determination. It was thus that one young man drew another in France, and Dorie himself, by his example, soon brought to the Mission House three others, one of whom was the late Bishop Cousin of Nagasaki, Japan.

With thirteen others, Henry Dorie was ordained in Paris, May 21, 1864. He had not yet been assigned to his future missions, but in his heart there were two preferences: one for Korea, the other, anywhere if he could only be sent with his dearest friend, Just de Bretenieres.

Of the Korean mission there is a note in Henry Dorie s private diary, written while at the Rue du Bac, which says: Korea, the finest mission in the whole world! In spite of the rage of our enemies, the converts increase rapidly. There are two bishops and seven missionaries working secretly among these people. Of all the Asiatic races, the Korean is everywhere acknowledged to have the best heart. Some one in the house said the other day that this is the mission to which I shall be sent. God grant it. Still I have no will but His in this matter. Alleluia. Korea for ever!

On June 13 the fields of action were distributed, and Henry Done was assigned to Korea with three of his classmates, Louis Beaulieu, Martin Huin, and Just de Bretenieres. The young missionary from the Vendee could hardly contain himself with joy, yet he foresaw many difficulties, the great one being, as he wrote to a seminary friend, to get into the country, since the law punished with death any stranger making this attempt.

The 15th of July was the date fixed for the departure. The parish priest of Saint Hilaire, Father Boudaud, went from the Vendee to Paris to represent the parents of Henry Dorie at the ceremony which took place in the evening at half-past seven o clock.

The young missionaries and their directors met in the Blessed Virgin s Oratory, to sing together the Ave Maris Stella with the invocations, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us. The Magnificat followed and all entered the chapel, where, after the Veni Creator, a Confessor of the Faith addressed the new apostles, inviting them, not to the joys of home and earthly love, but to suffering and, in God s gift, to martyrdom.

When the last word had been said the missionaries mounted to the plat form of the altar and faced the congregation. Then, one after another, the directors and friends approached in turn to reverently kiss the feet of the young apostles and to embrace their dear ones probably for the last time on earth.

During the ceremony a psalm was sung, the verses alternating with the antiphon from Isaias: “Quam speciosi pedes evangelizantium pacem, evangelizantium bona.” “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace, of those who bring glad tidings to men.”

When this was finished the students chanted the Benedictus, closing the ceremony with the famous Hymn of Departure, which was composed by Gounod, once an aspirant in this house.

Leaving the church, the ten missionaries hastened to the Gare de Lyon, the railway station for Lyons, and took the nine o clock train for Marseilles.

Four days later they bade farewell to France. In the Indian Ocean they encountered the monsoon, a terrible wind which kept them in peril for nine days, and after leaving Ceylon they met fresh storms. On August 20 they arrived at Singapore, where they found seven of the Paris missionaries to bid them welcome.

After a short stay, the four Koreans took leave of their brethren and embarked for Saigon. Here they were received by Bishop Lefebre and eighteen missionaries. Many of these had already been put to the torture, yet all were cheerful. Merry laughter with bright repartees were exchanged at that hospitable board where these apostles met for the first and last time. Night broke up this gathering which would only be renewed in heaven.

Leaving Saigon, the four missionaries coasted to Hong Kong.

Henry Dorie, with his companions, passed a few happy weeks here in the mission house and, on September 29, embarked for Shanghai. Pirates, storms, and illness followed the young apostles, and finally they landed at a place called Tin-Kao. Here, through the courtesy of some English mer chants, the weary travellers were provided with horses and wagons, and thus they reached the mission of Father Metayer, who arranged for their jour ney to the residence of Bishop Verolles. Bishop Verolles lodged his guests as comfortably as he could, keeping them fifteen days to recruit their health, after which he assigned each to a mission, as they were to remain in his vicariate during the winter to learn Chinese. Father Dorie was appointed to the mission of Saint Joseph of the Bears, where he was welcomed by the Christians as if he were an angel from heaven.

The village contained about three hundred people, and, although it is in the fortieth degree of North latitude, the cold is excessive, the thermometer falling often to thirty degrees below zero. The Christians kept the fires going for their young pastor night and day, and provided him with a long cloak lined with sheepskin and furs. They even made a fur protection for his nose and supplied him most liber ally with food. On Christmas they were so delighted to have midnight Mass that, when it was over, they offered Father Dorie no fewer than sixteen different kinds of food, throwing themselves at his feet to implore an extra blessing.

On May 2 Henry Dorie and his companions left Manchuria. Twenty-four days later, after several narrow escapes, they succeeded in landing on the shores of Korea, in the guise of mourners. They were carried by porters, according to the custom of the country, to the house of Bishop Berneux in Seoul. Here the four young missionaries stayed for fifteen days, in a little room which served as bedroom, parlor, dining-room, chapel and sacristy. Bishop Berneux’s health had been nearly exhausted after twenty-five years of toil among the Korean people, and he welcomed the new arrivals with joy.

Father Dorie was stationed about seven miles outside of the city, at a place called Son-Kol. He found the language a kind of Chinese patois, and, as he termed it, “truly diabolical,” but he set himself bravely to master it.

During the preceding year, in one of the northern provinces, four thousand had been baptized, including a most prominent Korean. The harvest seemed ripe when Father Dorie settled down to his mission labors, June 23 1865.

The King, however, had died and the Queen Regent was a Christian-hater who, at every announcement of new conversions, thirsted more passionately for Christian blood.

Six months after Henry Dorie’s arrival the prospect of persecution dawned and at the same time a terrible famine devastated the country. Father Dorie was lodged in the chapel, the walls of which were of earth and the roof of straw. There were no windows, the only opening being a door three feet high, paneled with paper. The food was unpalatable at first, but the young missionary wrote home that he preferred his surroundings to the finest presbytery in the Vendee.

The village soon had not a single pagan. All were baptized and assisted with fervor at the daily Mass. Father Dorie then wished to extend the sphere of his activities, but, on account of the risk, was forbidden by superiors. The Koreans named their young pastor Kim-Sin-Fon, Kim meaning gold, and Sin-Pon, spiritual father.

At this time Russia was pressing toward the Korean frontiers,demanding land for a commercial station. The Queen Regent of Korea, being perplexed, sent for Bishop Berneux, and was benefited by the latter s advice and friendly overtures to the Russian envoy; yet, within a few months, in February, 1866, Bishop Berneux was dragged from his house and thrown into a dungeon reserved for the worst criminals. The government agents then made a systematic search for the remaining missionaries.

Three out of the twelve in Korea managed to escape. The nine others were seized, tortured, and finally put to death. Bishop Berneux with Henry Dorie, Just de Bretenieres, and Louis Beaulieu, on March 8, 1866, were led outside the town, their heads being struck off in the presence of an immense multitude of people.

Of Henry Dorie’s death Father Ferron, who barely escaped the axe of the executioner, wrote: “The barbarians overwhelmed him with blows until his body became one wound. The skin of his legs was peeled off leaving the bones bare; they then broke the legs and in this condition he was carried to the scaffold where he consummated his glorious sacrifice. Here was the realization of his dream: To suffer for God will henceforth be my motto. He had given to the God Whom he loved so much, the very last drop of his blood.”

The Vendee may indeed be proud of Henry Dorie, and the faithful villagers of Saint Hilaire pray today that the name of their heroic townsman may soon be found among the saints of Christ’s holy Church.

Thoughts from Henry Dorie

I have not the courage to see millions of souls, created to the image of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, souls for whom He would die again, if necessary, perish, without lifting a hand to help them.

It does not need a month to make one feel at home in the Missions Etrangeres of Paris; twenty-four hours is enough. From the very first hour, I exclaimed with joy in my heart, “Haec requies mea. Domus Dei et porta cceli.” Every one is bright and gay, and sadness seems an unknown visitor.

If with this poor little body I should turn out to be really a missionary according to our clear Lord s heart, a martyr, who knows? would you not then be happy and proud of your son?

We are treated at the Mission House just like spoiled children, and allowed every possible comfort and pleasure. The reason given to us by our superiors is, “By and by, you will have quite enough time to suffer.”

Suffering is the dart or sting which goads us when our miserable indolence and cowardice would induce us to stop by the way; and which forces us, like unwilling beasts of burden, to push on, breathless and exhausted though we may be, to the end of our journey, which is Heaven. Sufferings are not only useful; they are necessary to an apostle.

I believe zeal can only be maintained by continual struggles and trials, just as the hardiest warriors are those who have accustomed themselves to every species of fatigue.

Sacrifices made for God have a sweetness and a joy unknown to the world. Everything here below entails regret; the longer life is, the more full it is of care, because all life is, as it were, the destruction of pleasant illusions.

Ah, if we only had more faith, more love, what great works might we not do for Christ! What a store of merits should we not lay up! But our miserable stupidity and coldness of heart, our clinging to earthly things, dim our sight and weaken our perceptions of God and Heaven.

In the strength of the Holy Eucharist you will acquire a force which will enable you to love even the sacrifice which He demands of you.

Climbing by very slow degrees the mountain which leads to the priesthood, I am about to take the first step. As on this engagement depends my eternal happiness or misery, I recommend myself earnestly to your good prayers.

Whether it be among the icebergs of the North Pole, or under the burning sun of India, or in the marshes of Cochin-China, or in the for ests of Tonquin, or in the plains of China, I do not care. Everywhere there are people to be converted, souls to be saved.

Oh, you may well say that those who undertake this life have bitter sacrifices to make; I have felt them in their fulness, and am feeling them still; but I strive with all my might against this terrible discouragement and despondency.

You are right in thinking that I am happy in the Foreign Mission College; but it has likewise entailed sacrifices very painful to flesh and blood. But I feel now that the die is cast; and I can say with Saint Paul, “Vae mihi si non evangelizavero!”

God bless you! In Heaven there will be no separation, nor need there be on this earth, if we love God. I hope to meet you very often in the Sacred Heart of my sweet Jesus, the King of my heart. It is there that we must give one another rendezvous.

Is it possible that the offering of the Holy Sacrifice can ever become a common thing to one? God forbid!

The experience of each day brings home to me the truth of those words of Saint Francis de Sales: “The mercy of God is the throne of our miseries.

Surely the cross becomes the property and sole glory of a man when he has once entered on his apostolate; how can I refuse it when it is presented to me, no matter in what form?

I, a priest! I, at the altar to bring down my God, and to immolate the thrice-holy Victim! The thought fills me with such terror at my own unworthiness that I scarcely dare entertain it.

The Crucifix alone teaches one the worth of a single human soul.

Not for all the gold in Christendom would I return to the Vendee; I am now a missionary, and must be nothing else.

In a sermon last week we were told that the heart of the missionary was also the most loving and the most tender to his own relatives, and I think it is quite true.

It is in moments like these that one seems to touch with one s very fin ger the true meaning of those words: “Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, or lands, for My name s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.”

O my God, what joy to give one’s life thus for our Lord! And then it is so soon over; one gets so quickly to Heaven!

These three great vicariates, Pondicherry, Coimbutor, and Mysore, which divide India, do not boar much fruit. About eighty missionaries are toiling there under that burning sun. This martyrdom is as good as any other, I think.

As to Annam, it is only the fear of our troops that prevents the King, Tu Due, from re-opening the persecution. They say he has sworn by his gods to annihilate the Christian religion in his kingdom, and to destroy every representation of the Crucified One. We must only pray the harder for him and for his unhappy people.

Find me anything, if you can, to be compared to the consolation of being permitted to do something definite for our Lord!

What a terrible tiling it is when Europeans introduce vice with civilization. They should look upon themselves as apostles and evangelizers of the heathen races among whom they may be thrown!

The people of the country of Thibet embrace the faith with joy, although they are on the eve of a fresh persecution. Four young missionaries are on their way to help our brethren there. When starting they were told, You will have your heads cut off, but your deaths will convert Thibet.” May this prophecy be accomplished for their happiness and God’s glory!

Koreans seem eager for instruction. I believe three of our men will be sent there, and I have a sort of hope that I may be one of them; God grant it may be so! But there or else where makes very little difference; I never trouble my head about it. Pray for me, that I may maintain the same calmness to the end, so that I may really have no will but God’s.

Two or three months ago my King Jesus seemed to be present in my very heart with a sweetness and a tenderness to which nothing on earth was comparable. Now all this is past and gone. I feel as if He had hidden Him self from me and all is arid and bitter and desolate. Perhaps it is in order that I should seek Him more diligently. I will try to do so. I will leave all and follow Him.

I wish to give myself wholly to our Lord, to work, to suffer all my life, and to die for Him, and for the spread of His Kingdom upon earth.

I am just now as cold as stone. I look calmly at the sacrifices I am about to make, and accept them with a dull, unreasoning faith; but without a shadow of the enthusiasm I once felt, or the least kindling of love in my breast for Him Who gave Himself for me.

It is not enough to say I wish to suffer; but I want to suffer very much and every day. I am going to make a special prayer to our Master for this, and you, my friend, if you love me, should ask of Him the same thing for me. In truth, however, all this is a matter of conviction with me, not enthusiasm.

We are children of Providence, and fear nothing.

The Catholic faith, wherever the Vicar of Christ numbers his children, alone has the secret of discovering real brothers and sisters.

But if, in spite of my search, He should still veil Himself from me, at least I will strive to be the first in His line of combatants; and under His banner, and with the simple armor of faith, I will plant His cross or die.

The pirates of the Yellow River may take it into their heads to make an end of us as we go down that stream, and no great harm either. May God s holy will be done! Our rendezvous is in Heaven; happy he who gets there first!

Let the best among us help the worst with their prayers, and then all will go well.

One’s life is very short in India: our men usually live about seven years; but what if the time be long or short, provided only it be well employed?

Entirely alone, unable to speak a word or understand what was said to one, would seem to be hopeless ly discouraging. On the contrary, one feels happier than ever.

I prefer my little cabin here to the finest presbytery in the Vendee. I am as happy as a king, sitting on my heels like a good Korean and having no cares whatever.

My chapel is indeed poor, beyond what your imagination can conceive; but what does it signify? my people know no better One; they are quite content; and in this miserable hovel of mud and straw, they pray with a fervor that would shame many Christians in France.

Good-bye to happy days passed on the ocean’s shore; to the much loved woods where we have so often played together; to my native land, the Vendee, so dear to my heart! Good-by to it all! Korea opens her arms to receive me; she asks for laborers, and I come. Already do I feel heart and soul with my poor children there. Already in my dreams I have climbed her mountains and seen my little hiding-place in her rocks. How good is our God!

Would only that such a mission had found a better laborer! I trust to your prayers to make me worthy of such a work. Nay, more, you must strive to obtain for me the palm of martyrdom.

Give us a memento very often at the altar, that we may be filled with that interior spirit which alone can keep alive apostolic zeal.

Already a price is set upon my head; but what does that signify? Only pray for me that I may win my palm. Hurrah for Korea!

The martyr’s palm! – which Saint Gregory calls “suavis adgustum, umbrosa ad requiem, honorabilis ad triumphum,” – sweet to the taste, a shaded rest, an honorable triumph.

The poorer the instrument, the greater will be God’s glory.

The Indian, is he not our brother? A son, like us, of the Eternal Father? Is there a foreign land for those whose home is only in Heaven?

The Korean has a burning faith which seems to stand in no need of human accessories. These people would really rejoice the heart of any missionary.

We shall meet with endless difficulties, I know; but what does that matter? Our lives will be spent under sheds, or in the holes of the rocks, amidst ice and snow, or burning heat. But if we are united to God, what have we to fear?

– from Thoughts from Modern Martyrs, edited and arranged by Father James A Walsh, M.AP.