St. Augustine Zhao Rong and companions

Beloved in Christ, today we honor St. Augustine Zhao Rong, and 120 others who were martyred in China.
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The Catholic Faith arrived in China as early as the 600’s, but it remained very small for centuries. Then, in 1601, the Jesuits established a mission there. They demonstrated western knowledge to the leaders, teaching them about astronomy and technology. Their efforts began an opening, and so the leaders could be introduced to Christ. The Jesuits came to be connected with the leadership of China. The ruling families had Jesuit astronomers, painters, musicians, instrument makers, and mechanics. It was an interesting missionary effort.
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Now the Dominicans were also trying to make efforts in China, and as too often happens in the Church, internal debates between the Jesuits and the Dominicans saw a diminishment in this missionary effort. Influence of the Faith waned, and for centuries persecution was not uncommon – many gave their lives for Christ.
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Today we honor 120 martyrs who died there between 1648 and 1930. 87 of these martyrs were Chinese by birth, the others, missionaries. Children, catechists, and parents, ranging in age from 9 years old to 72 gave their life for Christ.
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Augustine Zhao was a Chinese soldier, who accompanied Bishop Dufresse to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized, and not long after, was ordained a priest. He was martyred in 1815.
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In China today, there is the True Church, loyal to Rome, which operates in secret, and there is also the Government-Sponsored Catholic Church, controlled and manipulated by the Communist Government. It is estimated that there are 8 million Catholics following the underground church, risking their lives in loyalty to the True Faith.
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People say, we have good relations with China. I know a business man who will tell you that everything is great in China when he goes there. He’s treated like a king. But has he gone to Mass in the True Church there? No. He does not want to risk his neck. He is pretending that everything is ok. The Roman Catholic Church is illegal in China today. Priests, bishops, and others loyal to the Pope are in jail.
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We should reflect on the commitment so many have had to the Faith. At the time of those 120 martyrs, there was an 18 year old Catholic boy, named Chi Zhuzi. When his tormenters cut off his right arm, and were preparing to flay him alive, he said: “Every piece of my flesh and every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
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This is what we must be able to say: That our whole life is Christian, that we belong entirely to Jesus Christ.

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