Saint Dominic was born in Caleruega, Spain in 1170. His parents were members of the Spanish nobility and related to the ruling family. His father was Felix Guzman, and was the royal warden of the village. His mother, Bl. Joan of Aza, was a holy woman in her own right.
According to one legend, his mother made a pilgrimage to an abbey at Silos. Legend says there were many signs of the great child she would bear. One of the most common legends says that during the pilgrimage, Joan had a dream of a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth. The animal "seemed to set the earth on fire." His parents named him Dominic a play on the words Domini canis, meaning the Lord's dog in Latin. An alternative, and possibly more likely story says he was named after St. Dominic de Silos, a Spanish monk who lived a century before.
It is known that Dominic was educated in Palencia, and he concentrated on theology and the arts. He spent six years studying theology and four the arts. He was widely acclaimed as an exemplary student by his professors. In 1191, a famine left many people desolate and homeless across Spain. Dominic sold everything he had, including his furniture and clothes and bought food for the poor. When he sold his manuscripts, required for study, he replied, "Would you have me study from these dead skins when people are dying of hunger?"
John the Baptist was born through the intercession of God to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was otherwise too old to bear children. According to scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Elizabeth and Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.
When Elizabeth was pregnant with John, she was visited by Mary, and John leapt in her womb. This revealed to Elizabeth that the child Mary carried was to be the Son of God.
John began public ministry around 30 AD, and was known for attracting large crowds across the province of Judaea and around the Jordan River. When Jesus came to him to be baptized, John recognized him and said, "It is I who need baptism from you."
Jesus told John to baptize Him anyway, which he did, whereupon the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God was seen like a dove. The voice of God spoke, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Vietnam received its first missionaries of the Catholic Church in the 1500s. These missionaries were predominantly Portuguese in the 16th century, with French Jesuits and the Dominicans coming in the 17th century.
Throughout the following centuries the priests and missionaries suffered excruciating tortures and martyrdom. When the Communists captured northern Vietnam, Catholics fled to the south and the country was partitioned. When the south was also captured, many fled the country, and those who remained were persecuted. Today Catholic religious orders are flourishing, more Catholic schools and institutions are opening, and the number of professed Catholics is increasing.
The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, as we have heard so many times. The first martyr of Vietnamese descent was Vicente Liem de la Paz, a man who achieved many “firsts” as a Vietnamese Catholic. He was the first Vietnamese accepted into St. John Lateran in the Philippines and he was the first Vietnamese martyr. He died in 1773 when the government authorities sought to eradicate the Christians from their soil.
Liem was born in Tra Lu village, Phu Nhai, in the Nam Dinh Province, Tonkin (present-day northern Vietnam). Nam Dinh was located on the northern coast of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Anton and his wife, Monica Thieu Dao, baptized Liem on the day of his birth in 1732. Presumably, he was sickly at birth, necessitating his speedy initiation into the Catholic Church.
The couple was devout and gave the child the name Vicente at his birth. They initiated his education, though little is known of it until he was 12 years old. In 1744, Vicente entered the Luc Thuy seminary. He put his gifts of intellect and piety to great use excelling in both areas at the seminary. Fr. Espinosa Huy, a Dominican priest, encouraged Vicente to go to the Philippines so that he could further his studies at St. John Lateran in Manila.