Deacon Stu Dobson’s Reflection
July 9, 2021
14th Week Ordinary Time, Friday
Gn 46:1-7, 28-30; Ps 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40; Mt 10:16-23
Also Memorial of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, Martyrs
Today not only marks Friday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, it also is a Memorial to St. Augustine Zhao Rong and about 120 other martyrs from 1648 through 1930. Most of these martyrs were lay people including women, catechists, seminarians, bishops, priests, a cook, a farmer, a widow, a 79-year-old man and a child of nine. Some were martyred while taking sanctuary in a church. Many of them died during the Chinese persecutions that were taking place in the early 1900’s. While that seems a long time ago, if you put it in perspective of generations, that is only three generations away. My great-grandfather was alive during this time, and in fact, was an ambassador to Korea in the early 1900’s. I have read some of the letters he had sent home to his family, and while Korea was not China, he did mention some of the persecutions taking place against the Christians there. As an adult, I would have loved to spend time talking to him about his travels in the Far East during this time. I am sure there is much more to be said than what is in his letters.
St. Augustine Zhao Rong was originally a Chinese soldier in the early 1800’s. As a soldier, St. Augustine had to escort a French priest while he was in China. That priest made such an impression on Augustine that he decided to convert to Catholicism. After he was baptized, St. Augustine decided to enter the seminary and became Father Augustine. Once the Chinese government found out, his priestly life did not last very long. He was jailed, tortured, and left to die in prison. He was not alone, many other Christians were persecuted the same way, and Chinese men who became priests were especially vulnerable. All refused to renounce Christ and were brutally tortured.
While this seems atrocious, the Apostles had it worse. Jesus warned them, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep among the wolves,” He said. They were warned they would be handed over to the courts and would be scourged. All for the sake of knowing and following Jesus. However, Jesus tells them to not be afraid, to be bold, and the words will be given them by the Holy Spirit. Whoever perseveres will be saved.
Like the Apostles and modern-day martyrs, we, too, need to be bold. We, too, need to have the faith of our forefathers and not worry about what will happen to us. For if we persevere, the Holy Spirit will guide and protect us, giving us the words to say. Our times are not much different than when the Apostles walked the earth, or of the times of the more recent martyrs of the last century. We, too, will be mocked, ridiculed and persecuted for our faith. Keep strong and let the Holy Spirit guide you during these times. Only then will we persevere. They say being a martyr is the best way to go. While I do not will it on anyone, or myself, I do say, I’m ready Lord, use me as you will.