French missionary, b. 1829; martyred Feb. 2, 1861
Theophane Venard, BLESSED (JEAN-THEOPHANE VENARD), French missionary, b. at St-Loup, Diocese of Poitiers, 1829; martyred in Tonkin, February 2, 1861. He studied at the College of Doue-la-Fontaine, Montmorillon, Poitiers, and the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions which he entered as a sub-deacon. Ordained priest June 5, 1852, he departed for the Far East, September 19 After fifteen months at Hong Kong he arrived at his mission in West Tonkin, where the Christians had recently been tried by a series of persecutions under Minh-Menh, a monster of cruelty. Shortly after Father Venard's arrival a new royal edict was issued against Christians, and bishops and priests were obliged to seek refuge in caves, dense woods and elsewhere. Father Venard, whose constitution had always been delicate, suffered almost constantly, but continued to exercise his ministry at night, and, more boldly in broad day. On November 30, 1860, he was betrayed and captured. Tried before a mandarin, he refused to apostatize and was sentenced to be beheaded. He remained a captive until February 2, and during this interval lived in a cage, from which he wrote to his family beautiful and consoling letters, joyful in anticipation of his crown. His bishop, Msgr. Retord, wrote of him at this time: "Though in chains, he is as gay as a little bird".
On the way to martyrdom Father Venard chanted psalms and hymns. To his executioner, who coveted his clothing and asked what he would give to be killed promptly, he answered: "The longer it lasts the better it will be". His head, after exposure at the top of a pole, was secured by the Christians and is now venerated in Tonkin. The body rests in the crypt at the Missions Etrangeres, Paris. Other precious relics are in the hands of the martyr's brother, Canon Eusebius Venard, cure of Assais Deux Sevres, France, who possesses, also, most of the martyr's letters, including those written from the cage. In a letter addressed to his father, Theophane refers thus to his approaching sacrifice: "A slight sabre-cut will separate my head from my body, like the spring flower which the Master of the garden gathers for His pleasure. We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in His own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later...Father and son may we meet in Paradise. I, poor little moth, go first. Adieu". The cause of his beatification was introduced at Rome in 1879, and he was declared Blessed, May 2, 1909. The beatification ceremony brought a large delegation from France, including the Bishop of Poitiers and the martyr's only surviving brother. Theophane Venard was beatified in company with thirty-three other martyrs, most of whom were natives of Tonkin, Cochin-China, or China.
JAMES ANTHONY WALSH