St. Jean Theophane Venard
Roman Martyrology: At Hanoi, now Vietnam, Jean Théophane Vénard, priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and martyr, who after six years of work of ministry in hiding and amid great difficulties, accepted with cheerful mood, in the time of emperor Tu Duc, being locked up in a cave and then beheaded (1861).
Canonization date: June 19, 1988 by Pope John Paul II
He was born on November 21, 1829 at Saint-Loup, diocese of Poitiers, France. Raised in a pious family; one brother became a priest, and was later curator for Theophane’s writings, and another was the bishop of Poitiers, France. Studied at the College of Doue-la-Fontaine, Montmorillon, Poitiers, and the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions. Ordained on 5 June 1852. Missionary to Southeast Asia, leaving on September 19, 1852. Worked fifteen months at Hong Kong, then transferred to West Tonkin (in modern Vietnam).
Christians in the area were being persecuted by order of the ruler Minh-Menh. Just before Theophan’s arrival, new anti–Christian orders had forced priests and bishops to go into hiding in forests and caves. Father Vénard, whose health had never been good, suffered terribly, ministering to his flock by night and, when he could find a secure location, by day for nearly four years. Betrayed by an ostensible parishioner, he was arrested on 30 November 1860. He was tried for the crime of being Christian, and was given ample opportunity to save himself by denying Christ; he declined. He was kept in a cage for several weeks prior to his execution, during which he wrote a series of joyful, consoling letters to his family. One of the Martyrs of Vietnam.
He was beheaded on February 2, 1861 at Ô Cau Giay, Hanoi, Tonkin (in modern Vietnam). His head was stuck on a pole as a warning to others, but was later recovered and preserved as a relic in Tonkin, the rest of his body was sent back to his family, and is interred in the crypt of the Missions Etrangères in Paris, France.