Théophane Vénard studied at the College of Doué-la-Fontaine, Montmorillon, Poitiers, and at the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions which he entered as a sub-deacon. Ordained a priest on 5 June 1852, he departed for the Far East on 19 Sept. After fifteen months at Hong Kong he arrived at his mission in West Tonkin (northern Vietnam). At the time, it was illegal to proselytise in Vietnam.
Shortly after Father Vénard’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 Vénard continued to exercise his ministry at night, and, more boldly, in broad day. On 30 November 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 2 February, 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, Monsignor Retord, wrote of him at this time: “Though in chains, he is as gay as a little bird”.
On the way to martyrdom Father Vénard 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 motherhouse of the Paris Foreign Mission Society in Paris, France.
The cause of his beatification was introduced at Rome in 1879, and he was declared Blessed, 2 May 1909. He was canonized on 19 June 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
“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.”
~Saint Theophane in a letter to his father just before his martyrdom