Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of Ss. Ignatius and Dominic, Bishops, and their Companions, Martyrs. From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
Of the glorious band of seventy-seven martyrs beatified by Pope Leo XIII. on May 27, in the holy year of Jubilee, 1900, twenty-six are assigned in the Apostolic Brief to the Order of Preachers, nineteen by actual profession, and the remaining seven by their connection with the Dominican mission of Eastern Tonquin. They are often spoken of as the Martyrs of the Annamite Church, the name of Annam having been formerly applied to a larger extent of country than at the present day; and they suffered in the persecution which raged during the years 1838, 1839, and 1840.
The leaders of the heroic company were two Dominican prelates, Blessed Ignatius Delgado, Bishop of Melipotamus and Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Tonquin, and his coadjutor, Blessed Dominic Henares, Bishop of Fesseita and Pro-Vicar Apostolic of the same district. Both were Spaniards by birth, and both had laboured in Tonquin for nearly half a century, having arrived there in 1790 and been invested with the Episcopal dignity shortly afterwards. At the outbreak of the persecution in 1838, the two venerable prelates were on the point of concealing themselves in a large cavern which had been arranged as a hiding-place, when they were betrayed into the hands of the soldiers who had been sent in search of them. Blessed Dominic managed on that occasion to escape; but Blessed Ignatius, who was very infirm, was seized and carried away in a cage, which was so small that it was impossible for him to stand upright in it. On approaching the city of Nam-Dinh, where a great concourse of people awaited his arrival, he beheld a crucifix laid across the entrance to be trampled on by all who passed through the gates. Pierced with grief at the sight, he insisted so earnestly on its removal that he was obeyed; but, as soon as his cage had been borne into the city, the sacred image was replaced on the ground, so that the faithful who were following their Bishop in great numbers on his way of sorrows were unable to enter.
Meanwhile Blessed Dominic had also been captured and imprisoned in a cage; and he was now brought, together with his faithful catechist, Blessed Francis Chien or Chieu, to the same city. For a few moments the two holy Bishops and the Blessed Father Joseph Fernandez, Vicar-Provincial of the Order in Tonquin, who had also been seized, were confronted with each other and able to exchange a few words in their native tongue. Blessed Dominic and his catechist were the first to suffer martyrdom, being beheaded June 25, 1838. On the following July 12, Blessed Ignatius died in his cage of hunger and thirst and exposure to the rays of a burning sun. The inhuman governor caused the sentence of decapitation, which had already been pronounced on the venerable old man, to be executed on his lifeless body.
There suffered also in this same persecution eight native priests of the Order, who appear to have made their noviciate in the Philippine Islands, and eight devout Tertiaries, of whom four were catechists, one was a doctor, another a tailor, and two were peasants. Faithful to their vocation, these holy members of the Third Order whilst in prison converted and baptized a hundred of their fellow-captives. Some of these native martyrs were subjected to the most horrible torments that oriental cruelty could devise; and one of the catechists, the Blessed Thomas Toan, naturally of a weak and irresolute character, when put to the torture, twice renounced the faith, and twice returned to it. After his second apostasy his remorse bordered on despair; but happily for him, there was in the same prison a priest (probably the Blessed Joseph Hien, O.P., afterwards a martyr) who consoled and absolved him. From that moment Blessed Thomas was filled with heroic courage, and at every fresh insult and torment did but repeat: "I have sinned against my God; He has forgiven me; henceforth I must be for ever faithful to Him." He was starved to death in prison, passing to his reward June 27, 1840.
To these we must add three native secular priests belonging to the Vicariate and three soldiers. The soldiers, after having courageously undergone many sufferings for the faith for the space of a whole year, at length miserably consented to trample on the cross. There are some grounds for believing that they were not wholly responsible for the act, which was committed, so it is said, under the influence of a potion which had been administered to them. Be this as it may, the poor men were broken-hearted when they realised what they had done; and, as the governor refused to accept their retractation, two of them made their way to the king at Hue, boldly declared themselves to be Christians, and by his command were sawn asunder on board a ship. The third, who was too ill to travel, sent a written retractation by the hands of his comrades, and by the royal orders was strangled.