Thirteen years after Pope John Paul II canonized 120 Catholic saints who were martyred in China, Beijing’s Communist authorities still prohibit Mainland publications on their lives. This means that what most Chinese Catholics hear about their own saints is learned second hand, and by word of mouth.
To help reach Mainland Catholics, the Chinese Fathers of the Salesians of Don Bosco (visit their Chinese website) have worked with Dr. Anthony E. Clark, associate professor of Chinese history at Whitworth University and contributor to CWR, to prepare a Chinese-language book on the saints of China. Based on recent research at the Vatican’s archives, and the European archives of of the Franciscans, Jesuits, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Paris Foreign Mission, Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and the Congregation of the Mission, Dr. Clark’s new Chinese book contains a large number of newly discovered photographs of China’s martyr saints.
Fr. Pedro Leong Chi-choi, SDB, directed the project, and Dr. Clark, who conducted the research and writing, collaborated with Zhang Meina to finalize the Chinese text. The Salesians of Don Bosco, who are active missionaries and educators in Hong Kong, hope that this new Chinese book reaches Mainland Catholics who continue to request works in their own language on the lives of China’s saints, especially books that include historic photographs, most of which were destroyed during China’s Maoist era, 1949-1976.
Two Salesians were canonized by John Paul II in 2000: St. Luigi Versiglia, SDB, and St. Callisto Caravario, SDB. Both were killed in 1930 by Chinese Communist bandits because they defended young Catholic women who the Communists wanted to take away. After both men refused to allow the women to be taken, they were beaten brutally, and dragged into a bamboo grove where they were shot. St. Versiglia directed his life under the advice of St. John Bosco, who said a Christian should “Willingly suffer a bit for God Who suffered so much for you.”
The new book is entitled, Zhonghua xundao jianshi 中華殉道聖人簡史 (A Concise History of Catholic Martyrdom in China), and is now available at the Salesian Hong Kong press, Ciyouhui chubanshe 慈幼會出版社. For those who read Chinese, it can be acquired through the Salesian webpage.
“The faith of China’s saints provide a powerful testimony of China’s Catholic history,” says Dr. Clark. “When St. Anna Wang was ordered to deny her faith in Christ, she refused to abandon her God. On her knees St. Wang prayed out loud and looked toward the sky. A soldier commanded, ‘Give up your faith and you will live.’ She made no reply. She pleaded with her captors, ‘Do not touch me; I am a Christian. I prefer to die rather than give up my faith.’ St. Wang’s tormentors cut off her right arm and repeated the question: ‘Do you deny your religion?’ She remained silent. One solder continued to beat her. At last Anna exclaimed, ‘The door of heaven is open to me,’ and she whispered the name of ‘Jesus’ three times as she lowered her head. She was then beheaded and went to heaven.”
Dr. Clark’s two most recent pieces for CWR provide a history of persecution under Mao: “China’s Modern Martyr’s: From Mao to Now” (June 13, 2013) and “China’s Modern Martyrs: From Mao to Now (Part 2)” (Sept. 13, 2013).