9 July – Memorial for St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest, & Companions
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 (87) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or labourers, ranging from nine years of age to 72. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.
The 33 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 solider 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.
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings: two to cover its face, two to cover its feet, and two for flying.
And they cried out to one another in this way,
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’
The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:
‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:
‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:
‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’
I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’
Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master. It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?
‘Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.
‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.
‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
As I was reflecting on today’s readings, I am reminded of how Rolf Harris was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison for indecently assaulting young women and girls. One of his victims was his daughter’s best friend, who gave a statement during his trial. In her statement she said that the attacks made her feel “dirty, grubby and disgusting”. It affected her childhood, relationships, and her aspirations in a negative way and it wasn’t until she was much older that she was able to tell someone about it. She described how she fought anxiety, alcoholism and abuse. Her statement ended on a positive note: “I can now live my life with no fear and anxiety, and can concentrate on building my life.”
For someone who had suffered for so many years, this lady was very brave to have spoken up about someone who had literally ruined her life. What is more admirable is that she was brave enough to recognize that she could rebuild her life to something better and look forward, not backwards. It is very easy to say forgive and forget, but in a situation like this, even if she would be able to forgive sometime in the future, it is unlikely that she would be able to forget the whole terrible experience; it is likely to have scarred her for life. But the positivity that she exudes, well that is encouraging, and I do wish her the very best of luck in her future.
We may be hurt at some point in our lives by something that someone did or said, which may have affected us badly. Prolonged abuse like that can have lasting effects psychologically and emotionally: we are made to feel and believe that we are really as weak as our ‘abusers’ make us out to be. It makes us see things very differently in life. Coming out of a psychological hole can be very, very hard. Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. I have learnt that if we let that happen, then we are digging ourselves deeper and deeper into that hole.
We have nothing to fear but God Himself. God sees and hears everything, He is everywhere. He dictates what grows and what dies, what stays and what goes. He determines our future, He charts our paths. God is within us as long as we remain in Him. God breathed life into us and counted each and every one of us as His child. He knows us by name and knows our hearts, way better than we know ourselves. There might be someone out there who is hurting us now, but if we pray and believe that God will deliver us from the pain and hurt, we will find that that person can do whatever he/she wants, but they can never take away our soul, our will to live, our faith in God. Pray fervently and believe that God will rescue us, and pray for the strength that He will deliver us. Pray to forgive, and pray to forget… forget all the pain, so that we can move forward. Don’t give in to hopelessness, because with God there is always hope. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the helpless and those who have lost hope. Hear our hearts when we are beyond words to form a prayer. We pray for a helping hand to pull us out of our hole of despair.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for hearing our prayers and for the comfort that the Holy Spirit brings. Thank you for helping us see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With your help, we can look forward to the future.