ST. AUGUSTINE ZHAO RONG, PRIEST, AND COMPANIONS, MARTYRS OF CHINA.
The feast commemorates the martyrdom of the Saints of China, and in particular the one of Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions. The 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries, from the mid-17th century to 1930, were martyred because of their ministry and, in some cases, for their refusal to apostatize. Many died in the Boxer Rebellion, in which xenophobic peasants slaughtered 30,000 Chinese converts to Christianity along with missionaries and other foreigners.
HOMILY OF ST. JOHN PAUL II DURING THEIR CANONIZATION
The blood of martyrs gives witness to Christian faith
“Your word is truth; sanctify us in your love”. This invocation, an echo of Christ’s prayer to the Father after the Last Supper, seems to rise from the host of saints and Blesseds whom the Spirit of God continues to raise up in his Church from generation to generation. Today, 2,000 years since the beginning of Redemption, we make these words our own, while we have before us as models of holiness Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions, martyrs in China. God the Father “sanctified them in his love”, granting the request of the Son, who “opened his arms on the Cross, put an end to death and revealed the resurrection, in order to win for the Father a holy people”. The other 85 Chinese men and women of every age and state, priests, religious and lay people, showed the same conviction and joy, sealing their unfailing fidelity to Christ and the Church with the gift of their lives. This occurred over the course of several centuries and in a complex and difficult era of the history of the Church in China. Resplendent in this host of martyrs are also the 33 missionaries who left their land and sought to immerse themselves in the Chinese world, lovingly assimilating its features in the desire to proclaim Christ and to serve those people. Their tombs are there as if to signify their definitive belonging to China, which they deeply loved, although with their human limitations, and for which they spent all their energies. “We never wronged anyone”, Bishop Francis Fogolla replied to the governor who was preparing to strike him with his sword. “On the contrary, we have done good to many”.
The Church is grateful to her Lord, who blesses her and bathes her in light with the radiant holiness of these sons and daughters of China. Young Ann Wang, a 14-year-old girl, withstood the threats of the torturers who invited her to apostatise. Ready for her beheading, she declared with a radiant face: “The door of heaven is open to all”, three times murmuring: “Jesus”. And 18-year-old Xi Guizi, cried out fearlessly 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”.
O God, who in your wonderful providence have strengthened your Church through the confession of the Martyrs Saints Augustine Zhao and companions, grant that your people, faithful to the mission entrusted to it, may enjoy ever greater freedom and witness to the truth before the world. Through our Lord…
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