Today, July 9, is the Feast of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, Martyrs of China between 1648 and 1930. These 120 martyrs included Chinese priests, laypersons, a missionary bishop and missionary priests and religious. They were canonized as a group by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000.
Emperor Kia-Kin (1796-1821) published a number of decrees opposing Christianity in China. Two edicts published in 1811 targeted men who were studying for the priesthood and priests who were teaching others the Christian faith. John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, MEP, who was a missionary bishop, was arrested by government authorities on May 18, 1815. Augustine Zhao Rong accompanied him while he was in custody and transferred from Chengdu to Beijing. Augustine Zhao Rong was so impressed with Bishop Dufresse’s composure during his persecution that he requested to become a neophyte. After he was baptized, Augustine entered seminary, was ordained a priest, and also suffered arrest and torture. Both Dufresse and Zhao Rong were executed in 1815.
Today we pray for the Church in China, which has enjoyed growth and freedom under some governments over the centuries since being introduced in China by missionaries from Syria in the 7th century, but has suffered persecution and martyrdom since the Communist victory in 1949. Now, the Church in Hong Kong is threatened by the tightening grip of the Chinese Communist Party. A good many of the human rights activists who have been arrested in Hong Kong for opposing the CCP’s crackdown on liberty are Catholic.
St. Augustine Zhao Rong and St. John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, pray for us and for the Church in China and Hong Kong.
All powerful and ever-living God, turn our weakness into strength. As you gave the martyrs Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions the courage to suffer death for Christ, give us the courage to live in faithful witness to you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. (from The Liturgy of the Hours, Common of Several Martyrs).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.