New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Thursday, July 9, 2009

St. Augustine Zhao Rong - 9th July 2009

Saint Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese diocesan priest who was martyred with his 119 companions in 1815. Among their number was an eighteen year old boy, Chi Zhuzi, who cried out to those who had just cut off his right arm and were preparing to flay him alive: "Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian." This optional memorial is new to the USA liturgical calendar and will be inscribed on July 9.

Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China's relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (eighty-seven) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to seventy-two. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

If you visit the Vatican website, there are details about the 120 people who are counted among those martyrs we remember tonight. Most of them died in the 19th century, persecuted during the Boxer Rebellion. Reading about them, you’re struck by several things.

First, are the ages. So many were children. Three, four years old. One was ten months old. Some were teenagers, like 14-year-old Wang Anna…who refused to renounce her faith. Moments before her death, she cried out: “The door of heaven is open to all,” then whispered, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Seconds later, she was beheaded.

So many of them were also lay people. Mothers and fathers, even entire families. They were people like 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who became a Catholic at 17, and was disowned by his family. He was eventually captured and ordered to publicly worship idols. When he refused, they cut off his right arm. He still refused, declaring: “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.” He died by mutilation.

And about a quarter of the martyrs weren’t from China. While 87 of them were native Chinese – the first ever to be canonized -- 33 of them were missionaries, from France, or Germany, or Italy, who went to China to proclaim the Kingdom of God…and met bloodshed

The thirty-three foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815. Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000.

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