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.
“Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered, will be uncovered and everything now hidden will be made clear.”
Fear is an emotional instrument that can be deployed to cause, or trigger, an alert in sensing a perceived threat; it draws from the feeling of concern and can elevate or downgrade reasoning. Fear could be a survival mechanism but if it exists in persistence, it creates negative impacts. Fear could generate a stimulus that could trigger a strong physical reaction in the human body. On the other hand, fear could turn a person into a foggy state, making it difficult to make good decisions, or even think clearly. This fear is hinged on the trappings of this world.
There is another form of fear — fear of God and of the Lord; it is having respect for God, obeying Him, and keeping His commandments. There is an inbuilt content here, a string of connections between fear of God, serving Him, and obeying His commandments. This is clearly indicated as follows: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deu 10:12). When this position is accomplished, the fear that is hinged on the trappings of the world is conquered; fear of God sets the beacons of wisdom.
Early in June this year, in a state in Southwest Nigeria, two Catholic priests and two attendants in the parish were kidnapped and taken away by gunmen, now described as bandits. The trauma and inhuman treatments the four suffered could be likened to a prisoner-of-war scenario, the captors were happy kidnapping Catholic priests, revealing that it is a project targeted at stiffening the voice of Christianity. The priests were undaunted, relying on total commitment to God in prayer and sharing of comfort in God’s will. If the target is to kill the voice of Christianity, it will not come to pass — the priests prayed throughout the days of torture. After 32 days in captivity, the four were released unharmed. God intervened in calming their fear, revealing an unholy agenda against the Church and placing safety on their path.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Julius Otusorochukwu Dike, KSJI, KSG, JP)
Prayer: Lord, please help us to remove fear attendant to world worries and concerns, and enrich us with fear of God and the will and desire to abide by God’s love and commandments. We dearly hope in you and pray you to deliver us from fear sustained by inordinate world attractions and guide our path in our determination to follow your rules and commandments. We believe in you, Lord. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, we thank you for guiding us against fears induced by worldly attractions and for guiding us to live by the way of fear of the Lord, for it is the only sustaining route to salvation. Thank you, Lord, Amen.