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Ordinary Time: September 20th

Memorial of Sts. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs; Ember Wednesday

Other Commemorations: St. Eustace, Martyr (RM) ; Other Titles: Eustachius


September 20, 2023 (Readings on USCCB website)



Memorial of Sts. Andrew Kim and Companions: O God, who have been pleased to increase your adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.


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Today is the Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs. During the 17th century the Christian faith was brought to Korea through the zeal of lay persons. From the very beginning these Christians suffered terrible persecutions and many suffered martyrdom during the 19th century. Today's feast honors a group of 103 martyrs. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867. Notable of these were Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest, and the lay apostle, Paul Chong Hasang. Also among the Korean martyrs were three bishops and seven priests, but for the most part they were heroic laity, men and women, married and single of all ages. They were canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on May 6, 1984.

The Roman Martyrology also commemorates St. Eustace and his companions (d. 188). He was a martyr whose cult was introduced at Rome in the early Middle Ages and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

The beginning of the Autumn or September Embertide, begins today with Ember Wednesday. These Ember Days fall after the third Sunday of September near the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14) and are days of thanksgiving for the completed harvest of fruits and grapes, being historically commemorated as a "wine-press feast." But these Ember Days are also days of penance and atonement since the traditional liturgy connected them with the Jewish celebration of the New Year and Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The Stational churches were part of the Ember Days, with Ember Wednesdays always being with Mary, Station with Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major).

The Ember Days also are no longer universally marked on the General Roman Calendar. In the 1969 Calendar reform (see General Instruction on the Roman Missal), the observance of Ember Days was left to the discretion of the conference of bishops, and can be adjusted and expanded. In the USA most bishops have chosen to not officially observe Ember Days, but in other countries they are observed. While Ember Days are not part of the whole community worship, personal observance at home or small communities is not discouraged.

See September or Fall Ember Days and Contemporary Observation of Ember Days.

Stational Church >>>

St. Andrew Kim Taegon and St. Paul Chong Hasang and their companions
This first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After baptism at the age of fifteen, Andrew traveled thirteen hundred miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital. Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and a married man, aged forty-five. Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Beijing to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found four thousand Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were ten thousand Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883.

When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984, he canonized Andrew, Paul, ninety-eight Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were laypersons: forty-seven women, forty-five men.

Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of twenty-six. She was put in prison, pierced with hot awls and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of thirteen, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a forty-one-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.

Today there are approximately four million Catholics in Korea.
—Excerpted from the Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Patronage: Korean clergy.

Symbols and Representation: Palm frond (for martyrdom); martyr's crown.

Highlights and Things to Do:

St. Eustace and His Companions
The charming legend of Saint Eustace tells how a Roman general named Placidus was once out hunting. He pursued a noble stag, which suddenly turned and approached him. Between the stag's antlers Placidus saw a crucifix. A voice was calling him by name.

The hunter himself had been caught. The vision converted Placidus. He changed his name to Eustace, and gave away much of his money.

The saint still felt able to serve the Roman emperor. Taking up his command again, he led the legions to great victories. By this time his family had become Christian too, and all four of them — Eustace, his wife Theopista, and his sons Agapetus and Theopestus — refused to make sacrifices to pagan gods in the celebrations following his own victories.

All four were accordingly put to death in a bizarre fashion. They were taken to the colosseum in Rome, encased in a bronze bull, and roasted to death.

Although these events are supposed to have taken place around the year 118, no account of Saint Eustace and his family has been found prior to the seventh century. Yet he became one of the most popular saints in the middle ages, celebrated in prose and poetry as well as in art and popular devotion. Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and he is venerated as the patron of hunters.
—Excerpted from the A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

The "Fourteen Auxiliary Saints" or "Fourteen Holy Helpers" are a group of saints invoked because they have been efficacious in assisting in trials and sufferings. Each saint has a separate day for commemoration, and the group was collectively venerated on August 8, until the 1969 reform of the Roman calendar, when the feast was removed from the universal calendar. See Fourteen Holy Helpers and August 8 for more details.

Patronage: against fire; against torture; difficult situations; fire prevention; firefighters; hunters, hunting, huntsmen; torture victims; family troubles; trappers; in Italy; Acquaviva delle Fonti, diocese of Altamura–Gravina–Acquaviva delle Fonti, Cacciatori, Poli, Tocco da Casauria; Madrid, Spain.

Symbols and Representation: bull; oven; crucifix; stag; oven; white stag on a rock, with a crucifix between antlers; boar spear; hunter's horn; lion; Roman armor; bear, wolf or dog; wicker basket; brazen bull with a fire under it.

Highlights and Things To Do:

Autumn Embertide: Ember Wednesday
The Ember days of Autumn are days of thanksgiving for the completed harvest of fruits and grapes. The pre-1962 liturgy connects the Ember Days with the solemn commemoration of the Jewish New Year’s celebration of the Old Testament (Rosh Hashanah) and the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). These Ember days, therefore, have become days of thanksgiving and atonement. There are four focal points for the September Embertide:

  1. Days of Thanksgiving. The Autumn Ember Days days of thanksgiving for the completed harvests of fruits and particularly grapes. The former liturgy connected the Ember Days with are outside the main liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) but are closest to the Fall Equinox. We are giving special thanks to God for the gifts of the fall harvest, particularly the grapes, which give us the gift of wine for the Eucharist.
  2. Days of Atonement, Spiritual Renewal and Refreshment. Holy Mother Church provides us with yet another opportunity to redirect, refresh and renew.
  3. Prayer for Priests. The Church no longer regularly ordains priests during the Quarterly Ember Days, but this is a special time, particularly Ember Saturday, to pray for priests and for seminarians, particularly the ones who are about to be ordained within the year.
  4. Reflecting on the Spirit of the Season.. Each set of Ember Days reflect the season of the Liturgical Year in which they occur. The Ember Days in September are outside the main liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) and are closest to the Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, when the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. September is harvesting time, and a time of preparation for winter. It is a busier time for most, and not just because of agrarian needs. September marks a time of transition with the beginning of the academic year.

Wednesday of Ember week was traditionally devoted to our Lady and in imitation of her it was a day of reflection and spiritual orientation. All four Ember Wednesdays were celebrated in the station church of St. Mary Major.

September Ember Wednesday Meditation
This excerpt from Pius Parsch is based on the 1962 Missal. The current Missal doesn't have special propers and readings for Ember Days.

Wednesday of Ember week is always “Mary’s Day”’ hence at Rome the divine liturgy is celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Hardly any other Ember Mass brings us as much of the spirit of the olden Ember festivals as this. The opening words put us immediately in a joyous mood. And at the climax of the celebration we proclaim with the Church, “The joy of the Lord is our true strength.” It is an idea worth remembering. Christian does not seek to lame the vital forces of life but to purify and ennoble them. Where there is life, there must be feeling, spirit, joy. One should not think that such expressions of life are questionable or proper only to the children of the world. Nor must joy confine itself to the supernatural, over the natural too we may be happy. Ember week provides a splendid occasion to show joyous gratitude for the gifts and fruits of nature.

Now a few observations on the three Lessons, for in striking graduation they bring to our attention three primary Ember blessings: bodily food—spiritual nourishment—fasting.

First Lesson, Amos 9:13-15. Amos, the shepherd-prophet, projects the prosperity of the Holy Land after the return from exile. He is, we know, describing in prophetical perspective the spiritual well-being of God’s kingdom upon earth and the blessedness of the “new heaven and the new earth” hereafter. The early Church, however, would adapt in adopting and used the text to score the produce of nature presently being harvested. We are being urged to show a most sincere gratitude to the Father and Source of whatever comes from field, orchard, or garden. Let nature be a big picture-book illustrating the good and great God on every page. It is the warmth of His love that is ripening autumn’s baskets of vegetables, grain, and fruit.

Second Lesson, 2 Esdras 8:1-10 or Nehemiah 8:1-10. Alongside these baskets of food for our bodies, the liturgy places supernatural nourishment, the word of God. For the Lord once said: “Not from bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” On few occasions in history was the word of God more highly esteemed than that recorded in the second Lesson. Esdras read from the inspired scroll; with holy reverence the people listened before worshipping God present in His words, exultingly joyous over the divine revelation. These then are the two principal blessings of the past quarter-year, bread for the body and the word of God for the soul. They have come to us in abundance. And we are grateful.

Third Lesson, Mark 9:16-28. How does fasting fit into the picture? Human nature is subject to the curse of original sin; like the boy in the Gospel we come under the devil’s influence, and his power cannot be counteracted with the usual tools. Extraordinary tools are necessary, like “prayer and fasting.” A good reason, surely, for the quarterly Ember days. With thankful hearts we may enjoy the fruits of earth, praising the good God; the inspired words of holy Scripture may bring untold spiritual blessings; nevertheless, more is needed. to tame proud and stubborn nature the mighty levers of prayer and fasting must be brought into action, not merely our own individual praying and fasting, but that of Christ too, viz., the oblation of His whole life as it comes to us through Mass and holy Communion.
—Excerpted from Pius Parsch, Year of Grace, Volume 5.

September Ember Wednesday
Station with Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major):

We humbly ask today's great patroness, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to obtain for us a true ember spirit and to accompany us as we approach the holy Table "to eat fat meats, and drink sweet wine, and send portions to them that have not prepared for themselves; because it is the holy (ember) day of the Lord; be not sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength." (Msgr. Martin Hellriegel)

For more on Santa Maria Maggiore, see:

For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.