Jul 9 – 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.
It is the Lord who speaks:
I am going to lure her
and lead her out into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.
I am going to give her back her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a gateway of hope.
There she will respond to me as she did when she was young,
as she did when she came out of the land of Egypt.
When that day comes – it is the Lord who speaks –
she will call me, ‘My husband’,
no longer will she call me, ‘My Baal.’
I will betroth you to myself for ever,
betroth you with integrity and justice,
with tenderness and love;
I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness,
and you will come to know the Lord.
While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.
When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.
…your faith has restored you to health.
If only I had just a smidgen of the faith which the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak had, perhaps my spiritual life would not be so topsy-turvy. I have been struggling of late, not attending daily mass (not even bothering to try) and struggling to lead worship during our weekly practice sessions whenever I am assigned to do it. Just last week, there was even a fleeting thought of taking a sabbatical just to see where it would lead me.
But then I managed to catch myself and say ‘No’. I told myself that for whatever spiritual dryness I am going through now, all the Lord wants in my state is for me to desire to be restored to health. Then I ask, “Whose cloak am I going to touch?” After all, Jesus no longer walks the earth. Or does He?
At a recent Friday growth service at CSC, I was on the violin during communion and we sang ‘O God You Search Me’. As I began the intro to the hymn, I could feel His presence among the congregation and as I switched from verse to chorus and back, improvising the tune along the way, I started to tear up. As the spirit led and as the choir ended the song, our worship leader encouraged me to keep playing. I closed my eyes and kept on going. Then, as He walked past me back out of the auditorium, I felt Him reaching out to me. When I eventually stopped, I fell to my knees and started to cry. It was then that I knew Jesus indeed had been present with us as we all partook of His flesh. That night, I left the centre with an unmistakeable glow in my heart – one of joy. However, since then, I have been struggling to find it again.
Perhaps I have been letting work wear me down; perhaps it is those around me, who I have been finding tiresome and a chore to be with. Or perhaps I have simply lost the passion and zeal for His word. Then last week after another practice, I asked 3 of my ministry members out for a drink so that we could let our hair down and enjoy some fellowship. The 90 minutes we had together were some of the most real and intense sharings I had heard in a long while and, amidst the stories of hardship and personal challenges, I found hope and joy as we encouraged each other along our respective faith journeys.
Brothers and sisters, we all struggle at various points in our life. During those times, aside from spending time in the adoration room with Christ, who do you have that you can rely on to pour out your woes and to ‘touch their cloak’? Conversely, are you someone whose cloak a loved one wants to touch? Are we there for our fellow brothers and sisters when they need some form of healing? As we search for Christ in our lives, how can we be Christ to others?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father, help us to desire You when we find ourselves drying up spiritually or tempted by sin. Let us not succumb to the snares of the evil one.
Thanksgiving: We thank you, Lord, for being a constant presence in our lives.