Taiyuan Massacre Anniversary

In July of 1900, the “Boxer” rebels in China killed Christians by the thousands. On July 9, during the Taiyuan Massacre, the rebels beheaded bishops, priests, and laypeople.

Today’s Memorial Mass, however, recalls not just the martyrs of that month, but all the martyrs of China, throughout the history of evangelization there, which stretches back over a millennium and a half.

Boxer Rebellion ColliersAugustin Zhao Rong, a Chinese soldier, witnessed the calm suffering of a French missionary priest martyr in 1815. Augustin requested baptism and then studied and became a priest. He was himself martyred almost immediately.

Anyone ever heard of Fr. Matteo Ricci? He traveled to China during the great Age of Exploration, the sixteenth century. He inaugurated the “modern” era of evangelization in China. He is one of my most beloved personal heroes.

Everything noble, beautiful, religious, and impressive about the ancient Chinese way of life, Fr. Ricci respected. Everything interesting, insightful, and helpful that he had in his own mind and way of life, he offered freely to the Chinese with whom he made friends. Because he loved Christ so much, Fr. Ricci became as Chinese as the Chinese, so that he could invite them to become Christians.

The Boxers of China hated all foreigners and believed that celestial spirits guided them in their murderous massacres. It seems ironic how a lot of people who hate the Church tend to regard us as a strange foreign novelty, which is totally behind the times. In other words, too new-fangled and too old-fashioned, all at the same time. No surprise that the Church which is both ever-ancient and ever-new would be despised in this irrational way.

Anyway, I wish I knew a lot more about the Chinese martyrs and Chinese missionary history. But one lesson I think we can learn is: If we love Jesus Christ above all things, and if we love everything good and wholesome in our neighbors, we just might have the good fortune to die as martyrs ourselves.

Learning Wisdom in South Philly

philadelphia shrine rita of cascia

Many God-fearing mid-Atlantic Catholics regard Philadelphia as the center of the known world. Not sure about that.

But the shrine of St. Rita on Broad Street may in fact be the spiritual center of the western hemisphere.

It is good to stop in a beautiful church to pray. It is even better to stop in a beautiful church to pray, and then, after you said your prayers, walk down Federal Street and get a south-Philly cheesesteak at either Geno’s or Pat’s.

St. Rita died 556 years ago today. Pope Leo XIII canonized her 113 years ago, and Pope John Paul II received her relics at St. Peter’s 13 years ago, saying,

If we ask St Rita for the secret to [her] work of social and spiritual renewal, she replies: fidelity to the Love that was crucified.

The Pope went on to refer to St. Rita’s ‘feminine genius.’ Like the feminine genius of God, about which we read in the first reading of today’s Mass:

Wisdom breathes life into her children
and admonishes those who seek her.
He who loves her loves life;
those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord. (Sirach 4:11-12)

The first part of the book of Sirach teaches us how to learn the ways of God. We must fear Him; we must submit to Him; we must keep the commandments, honor our elders, and search diligently for the truth.

Today’s reading from chapter four goes on to point out that the search for true wisdom involves confusion and struggle:

She walks with him as a stranger
and at first she puts him to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon him
and tries him with her discipline
until she try him by her laws and trust his soul. (4:17)

Two chapters later we read an even more provocative metaphor. Seeking divine wisdom is like submitting to slavery:

Put your feet into her fetters,
and your neck under her yoke.
Bend your shoulders and carry her
and do not be irked at her bonds. (6:24-25)

St. Rita with stigmata“Put your neck under her yoke; carry her…” Sounds difficult. But it also sounds like another sentence of Holy Scripture.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

Tornadoes may come. Loved ones may pass away. The world may seem to be filled with nothing but ads, nonsense, junk, and noise–in that order.

But it is not as hard as all that.

When we keep in mind that Christ has conquered death.

St. Rita loved the King of Peace and received the gift of the stigmata, but in a unique way: one prick of a thorn in her forehead.

The confusion and struggle of life pricks us like a single thorn. And Christ rescues us like a tornado of eternal love.


…Your humble servant read with delight the news that the cause for canonization of Fr. Matteo Ricci has actually ‘advanced.’

Summer reading suggestion for you: Generation of Giants by George Dunne, SJ.

Hoyas’ Season Clickin’ + New Evangelization

This past week, the Georgetown Hoyas got some nice wins over Memphis and Ooey Pooey. Next up: Crimson Tide! (Tomorrow 9:30 p.m. EST) Plus, the Redskins actually won a football game!

How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)

Catholics tend to have an ingrained aversion to proselytizing people. We do not practice the hard sell with our religion.

For good reason. The hard sell doesn’t work. Conversion to the truth does not happen in a moment of high-pressure enthusiasm. It takes a lifetime. We work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. God forbid that we would presume to have it all figured out.


Anybody ever heard of the “New Evanglization?”

Evangelization began when the Lord said to Peter and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.”

At that particular moment, most of the sons and daughters of the earth had never heard of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world.

Someone had to tell them about Him.

Christ beckoned, and an enterprise ensued, the likes of which the world has never seen. The Apostles fanned-out, traversed seas, offered their lives in sacrifice for the mission.

Now a 130-foot statue of the carpenter of Nazareth towers over a bay 6,000 miles away from the Sea of Galilee. The Peoples Republic of China publishes a postage stamp with a picture of a Jesuit priest on it. The good news of Christ has reached the ends of the earth.

But still we must fish for men.

People do not come into this world knowing what we know about Jesus Christ. Many of us learned about the Lord by coming to church with our parents week after week when we were young. But what about the people who grew up without anyone to “church” them?

What about all the people who got somewhat “churched”—but then un-churched themselves out of laziness and/or confusion? Doesn’t this number include plenty of people near and dear to us?

Aren’t we supposed to fish for all these people’s souls? After all, we read in Holy Writ: the Lord wills that all be saved.

In every case, to every person, the Lord longs to declare His love. He operates like a relentless suitor. His plan for getting down on His knees and proposing to every human soul involves us in some mysterious way.

We believe that God took our human nature to Himself and willingly died so that we could live forever with Him. He rose again and conquered every evil. All He asks for in return is humble love and fidelity.

We can deliver this message, the gospel of Jesus. We can help people believe by giving them the word of truth.

Every case of evangelization is unique. Our job is to maintain constant vigilance for good opportunities to lift high the cross of Christ and say to someone, ‘I love you,’ on Almighty God’s behalf.

The supreme goodness of Him who controls heaven and earth

As you may recall, this year is the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of Father Matteo Ricci.

Father Ricci advanced the Kingdom of Christ in China. He was probably the most brilliant and creative missionary ever.

One thing he did to teach the Chinese the truth about God was to prepare a map of the world for them.

The Library of Congress has been displaying this map. I wish I could tell you to hustle down and see it. But your foolish servant waited until the last day of the exhibition to see it himself.

Let me tell you this: It is an impressive work.

It is particularly interesting in this way: The most accurate parts of the map depict those areas of the world where Father Ricci’s Jesuit brethren had traveled. For instance, the map of Brazil is precise and realistic.

The problem is this: The Library of Congress did not do a good job of displaying this map. It is in a poorly lit room. This afternoon, two of the five bulbs that should have been illuminating the map were burnt out. Not good. Plus, the display offered no translation of all the interesting Chinese legends on the map.

Hopefully some day this amazing evangelical map will be back in Washington, presented by someone who cares enough to display it in a worthy manner.

Altogether Under

That time, Alex Ovechkin knocked everything else, other than the kitchen sink, into the crease.

This is what Steve Kolbe said about Ovechkin’s disallowed goal in the second period this evening. Will the streak end? Caps are clawing back from a 5-2 deficit right now.

…I am not trying to be a priss. But to call our mid-Atlantic snowbound situation an “apocalypse” is really a sacrilege.

The Apocalypse will occur when the Lord Jesus Christ appears again in glory. If we are not ready for it, it will be a great deal more unpleasant than four feet of snow.

I think Mike Wise described our situation better in his column:

We have run out of bread and milk. We can’t move our vehicles. We can’t move our muscles.

We are snowed in until June, people. June!

We are trapped in a Ukranian hamlet, huddled around a bonfire trying to thaw, comforted by just three things: grain alcohol, the thought of global warming and our money-in-the-bank hockey team — Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and the boys, winners of 14 consecutive games.

Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J.
We are fed up. We are freezing. We are “Dr. Zhivago” with a Target.

All we have left is the Caps. C-A-P-S! Caps! Caps! Caps!

…Don’t forget that it is only three months until the 400th anniversary of the death of Fr. Matteo Ricci.

Fr. Ricci was a Jesuit missionary in China. He is one of the most excellent men who has ever lived. He died on May 11, 1610.