Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600’s. 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 remembered today on the Church’s calendar died between 1648 and 1930. Eighty-seven of them were born in China, and were children, parents, catechists, or laborers, ranging in age from nine years to 72. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests (including Fr. Augustine Zhao Rong). The 33 foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious from a variety of Religious Orders. These martyrs born outside China often tried to distance themselves from European political struggles relating to China, but their persecutors saw them as Westerners and therefore, by definition, anti-Chinese. Fr. Augustine Zhao Rong, who had previously been a soldier, accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Mission Society to his martyrdom in Beijing in 1815.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is intended to benefit all peoples; today’s martyrs knew that. May we live in such a way that all people will be attracted to hear that Good News and embrace it.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we give you thanks for choosing many of the Chinese faithful to witness for Christ by giving up their lives. We especially thank you for bestowing on all of them your abundant grace. We beg you, through their intercession, that you will help us follow their example by remaining strong in faith, hope, and love, by overcoming fear of hardship and sacrifice, and by boldly proclaiming our faith.
May the Gospel of Jesus Christ be spread throughout China and throughout the world so that the light of faith and the grace to follow Christ each day will be known far and wide. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.