A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
San Gregorio Maria Grassi (St Gregory Mary Grassi OFM, Pier Luigi Grassi) (1833-1900) and Companions. Franciscan commemoration of 120 Chinese martyrs who were the victims of political manoeuvrings by other countries and Feast Day for Gregory Grassi, who was an Italian Franciscan friar ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later. In Taiyuan, he was appointed Mission Promoter, Director of the mission orphanage and Choirmaster at the seminary. In 1891, he was ordained Bishop of North Shanxi and dealt with the suffering of the local population brought about by plague and famine, which led him to enlarge the orphanage and establish several others in order to cope with the orphans left behind by these catastrophes. The governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898 and anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people. The culmination of the anti-foreigner movement was the short but bloody Boxer Rebellion, which broke out in Peking in June 1900. The Empress Dowager issued the Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers and Grassi was urged to flee but he responded: “Ever since I was twelve, I have desired and also asked God for martyrdom. Now that this longed-for hour has come, must I run away?” Fourteen Franciscan men and women, including five Friars Minor and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, and eleven members of the Third Order of St Francis, seven Chinese seminarians and Secular Franciscans and four Chinese Secular Franciscan lay men and women, and three Chinese lay men and women who were employees of the Taiyuan Mission were arrested on the orders of the governor of Shanxi province. They were imprisoned by Boxer forces and, after a false trial, the group was sentenced to death in what is known as the Taiyuan massacre. They were hacked to death on July 9 1900, the first martyrs of their congregation. After Grassi’s death, his heart was removed from his body and delivered to Chinese Buddhist monks so that they could study its alleged occult powers. By custom, Grassi’s head was severed from his corpse to be put on display in a small cage at the city entrance. What remained of his corpse, along with the corpses of all the others killed that day, was tossed over the city wall and left unburied so that dogs would eat the remains. Three other Italian Franciscans were martyred that same week in the province of Hunan. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, 5 bishops, 50 priests, 2 brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed. By 1906, there were 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China and that had grown to 303,760 by 1924, with 282 Franciscan and 174 local priests serving them. The victims of the Taiyuan massacre were among the 120 martyrs who were beatified in 1946 and canonised in 2000. After giving their lives in the service of the Chinese people, all had been martyred in China on various dates in 1900 during the Boxer Uprising. Image: en.wikipedia.org.
Prayer Martyrdom is the occupational hazard from which missionaries do not shirk. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, bishops, priests, brothers, sisters and Chinese Christians were killed. Not all of those were missionaries but they all paid the price for their faith. Despite this, the number of Catholics served by the Franciscans in China six years later doubled in less than 20 years. Great sacrifices often bring great results and we pray that we may play our part in bringing others to the true faith. Amen.
Priscilla (Πρίσκιλλα) and Aquila (Ἀκύλας). Catholic Feast Day for First Century Christian married tentmaker missionary Apostles, martyred together in Rome with Apollos (Ἀπολλώς). Aquila, a Jewish Christian from Pontus and a Bishop in Asia Minor, is listed among the Seventy Disciples and he and Priscilla, one of the earliest known Christian converts who lived in Rome and was possibly a presbyter, lived, worked and travelled with Paul to strengthen the early Christian churches and instruct Apollos, a major First Century evangelist. Jesus valued women and men equally as being made in the image of God and Priscilla was not Aquila’s property, as was customary in Greco-Roman society, but his partner in ministry and marriage. As Jews expelled from Rome in 49, they went to Corinth. Paul lived with them for over a year and took them to Ephesus on his way to Syria. Venerated in Lutheran, Catholic Churches, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. 13 February Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheran Church commemoration, the latter with Apollos. Other Orthodox Churches commemorate Saint Aquila alone as an Apostle on 14 July. Patrons of love, marriage. Image: www.johnsanidopoulos.com.
Naomh Cillian (St Kilian, Kilianus, Apostle of Franconia) (640-89). Feast Day commemorating death of noble Irish monk who was educated in Ros Ó gCairbre (Rosscarbery, the School of Ross), West Cork and Tuath Ó Siosta (Tuosist), County Kerry. He served in the monastery at Hy (Iona) and in 686 travelled with eleven companions through Gaul to Rome to receive missionary faculties from the Pope. From there, they travelled to the castle of Würzburg to meet the East Frankish Duke Gozbert von Thuringen who was, like his people, still a pagan. The original group separated, leaving Kilian as a missionary Bishop in Würzburg with two companions, to convert Duke Gozbert and many of his subjects to Christianity and use the town as the base for their missionary work in East Franconia and Thuringia. However, Kilian told the Duke that he was in violation of sacred scripture by being married to his brother’s widow, whom Kilian had failed to convert to Christianity. In the absence of the Duke, she angrily had her soldiers sent to the main square in Würzburg, where Kilian and his colleagues were preaching, and had him beheaded along with his two companions. In 752, the first Bishop of the see of Würzburg built a Cathedral on the spot where the martyrs were said to have met their deaths, had their relics unearthed and translated them to a vault in the cathedral church. Their skulls, inlaid with precious stones, have been preserved to this day. On St Kilian’s Day, a glass case containing the three skulls is removed from the crypt, paraded through the streets before large crowds and put on display in Würzburg Cathedral, which is dedicated to Kilian. The Kiliani-Volksfest runs for two weeks every July and is the main civil and religious festival in the region around Würzburg. Statues of the three saints and others line the Saints’ Bridge (Old Main Bridge) across the River Main. In Tuosist, St Killian’s Church, Lauragh and a holy well are named after him and there is an pattern (pátrún, devotions) on his Feast Day, when crowds visit the well for prayers followed by evening social events. St Kilian’s Abbey, Würzburg and St Kilian’s Church, Heilbronn are named after him, as are a basic school in Ghana and a parish church in Mission Viejo, California. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches. Patron of Paderborn, Germany, Tuosist, sufferers from rheumatism. Image: catholicfaithstore.com.