Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saint September 11 : St. John Gabriel Perboyre : Priest and Martyr


St. John Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)
priest, martyr of the Congregation of the Mission  

The formation years
Nothing happens by chance. Neither life, nor death, nor vocation. JOHN GABRIEL PERBOYRE was born in Montgesty, near Cahors, in southern France, on 6 January 1802 into a family which gave three missionaries of St. Vincent and two Daughters of Charity to the Church. Such an environment exuded faith, simple and healthy values, and the sense of life as gift.
The one who "calls by name" seemed to ignore him as a teenager. The call came to his younger brother Louis for entrance into the seminary. John Gabriel was asked to accompany his younger brother for a time, while waiting for him to get adjusted to the surroundings. John Gabriel's presence at the seminary, then, happened by chance and he should have left quickly. But chance revealed to the astonished eyes of the young man unexpected horizons: that in the seminary he had found his path.
The Church of France had at that time just emerged from the throes of the French Revolution with the red-colored garments of martyrdom for some, and with the pain of the apostasy of many. The panorama at the beginning of the 1800's was desolate: buildings destroyed, convents sacked, people without pastors. Thus, it was no accident that the ideal of the priesthood appeared to the young man not as a feeble arrangement for life, but as the destiny of heroes.
His parents, surprised, accepted the choice of their son and accompanied him with their encouragement. Not by chance, his paternal uncle Jacques was a missionary of St. Vincent. This explains why in 1818 the missionary ideal matured in the young John Gabriel. At that time, the missions meant principally China. But China was a faraway mirage. To leave meant never to find again the home milieu, taste its flavors, enjoy its affections. It was natural for him to choose the Congregation of the Mission founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 for the evangelization of the poor, the formation of the clergy, but above all to push those very missionaries toward holiness. The mission is not propaganda. The Church has always demanded that the proclaimers of the Word be spiritual persons, mortified, full of God and charity. In order to illuminate the darkness in people, a lamp is not sufficient if there is no oil.
John Gabriel did not think in half-measures. If he was a martyr it is because he was a saint.
From 1818 to 1835 he was a missionary in his own country. First, in his formation period, he was a model novice and student. After his priestly ordination (1826), he was charged with the formation of seminarians.
The missionary attraction
A new factor, certainly not haphazard, modified John Gabriel's life. The protagonist was once again his brother Louis. He also had entered the Congregation of the Mission and had asked to be sent to China where the sons of St. Vincent had had a new martyr in the person of Blessed Francis Regis Clet (18 February 1820). During the voyage, however, the young Louis, only 24 years of age, was called to the mission in heaven.
All that the young man had hoped for and done would have been useless if John Gabriel had not made the request to replace his brother in the breach.
John Gabriel reached China in August of 1835. At that time the Occident knew almost nothing about the Celestial Empire, and the ignorance was reciprocal. The two worlds felt a mutual attraction, but dialogue was difficult. In the countries of Europe one did not speak of a Chinese civilization, but only of superstitions, of "ridiculous" ceremonies and customs. The judgments were thus prejudices. China's appreciation of Europe and Christianity was not any better.
There was a dark gap between the two civilizations. Someone had to cross it in order to take on himself the evil of many, and to consume it with the fires of charity.
After getting acclimated in Macau, John Gabriel began the long trip in a Chinese junk, on foot, and on horseback, which brought him after eight months to Nanyang in Henan, where the obligation to learn the language imposed itself.
After five months, he was able to express himself, though with some trouble, in good Chinese, and at once threw himself into the ministry, visiting the small Christian communities. Then he was transferred to Hubei, which is part of the region of lakes formed by the Yangtze kiang (blue river). Even though he maintained an intense apostolate, he suffered much in body and spirit. In a letter he wrote: "No, I am no more of a wonder man here in China than I was in France ... ask of him first of all for my conversion and my sanctification and then the grace that I do not spoil his work too much..." (Letter 94). For one who looks at things from the outside, it was inconceivable that such a missionary should find himself in a dark night of the soul. But the Holy Spirit was preparing him in the emptiness of humility and the silence of God for the supreme testimony.
In chains for Christ
Unexpectedly in 1839 two events, apparently unrelated, clouded the horizon. The first was the renewed outbreak of persecution which flowed from the decree of the Manchurian emperor, Quinlong (1736-1795), which had proscribed the Christian religion in 1794.
The second was the outbreak of the Chinese-British War, better known as the "Opium War" (1839-1842). The closure of the Chinese frontier and the pretence of the Chinese government to require an act of dependence from the foreign ambassadors had created an explosive situation. The spark came from the confiscation of loads of opium stowed in the port of Canton; this action harmed the merchants, most of whom were English. The British flotilla intervened, and the war began.
The missionaries, obviously interested only in the first event dealing with the persecution of Christians, were always on their guard. As often happens, too many alarms diminished the vigilance. And that is what happened on 15 September 1839 at Cha-yuen-ken, where Perboyre lived. On that day he was with two other European missionaries, his confrere, Baldus, and a Franciscan, Rizzolati, and a Chinese missionary, Fr. Wang. They were informed of the approach of a column of about one hundred soldiers. The missionaries underestimated the information. Perhaps the soldiers were going elsewhere. Instead of being wary, the missionaries continued enjoying a fraternal conversation. When there was no longer any doubt about the direction of the soldiers, it was late. Baldus and Rizzolati decided to flee far away. Perboyre hid himself in the surroundings because the nearby mountains were rich with bamboo forests and hidden caves. As Fr. Baldus has attested for us, however, the soldiers used threats to force a catechumen to reveal the place where the missionary was hiding. The catechumen was a weak person, but not a Judas.
Thus began the sad Calvary of John Gabriel. The prisoner had no rights, he was not protected by laws, but was at the mercy of the jailers and judges. Given that he was arrested it was presumed that he was guilty, and if guilty, he would be punished.
A series of trials began. The first was held at Kou-Ching-Hien. The replies of the martyr were heroic:
- Are you a Christian priest?
- Yes, I am a priest and I preach this religion.
- Do you wish to renounce your faith?
- No, I will never renounce the faith of Christ.
They asked him to reveal his companions in the faith and the reasons for which he had transgressed the laws of China. They wanted, in short, to make the victim the culprit. But a witness to Christ is not an informer. Therefore, he remained silent.
The prisoner was then transferred to Siang-Yang. The cross examinations were made close together. He was held for a number of hours kneeling on rusty iron chains, was hung by his thumbs and hair from a rafter (the hangtze torture), was beaten several times with bamboo canes. Greater than the physical violence, however, remained the wound of the fact that the values in which he believed were put to ridicule: the hope in eternal life, the sacraments, the faith.
The third trial was held in Wuchang. He was brought before four different tribunals and subjected to 20 interrogations. To the questioning were united tortures and the most cruel mockery. They prosecuted the missionary and abused the man. They obliged Christians to abjure, and one of them even to spit on and strike the missionary who had brought him to the faith. For not trampling on the crucifix, John Gabriel received 110 strokes of pantse.
Among the various accusations, the most terrible was the accusation that he had had immoral relations with a Chinese girl, Anna Kao, who had made a vow of virginity. The martyr defended himself. She was neither his lover nor his servant. The woman is respected not scorned in Christianity, was the sense of John Gabriel's reply. But he remained upset because they made innocents suffer for him.
During one interrogation he was obliged to put on Mass vestments. They wanted to accuse him of using the privilege of the priesthood for private interests. But the missionary, clothed in the priestly garments, impressed the bystanders, and two Christians drew near to him to ask for absolution.
The cruelest judge was the Viceroy. The missionary was by this time a shadow. The rage of this unscrupulous magistrate was vented on a ghost of a man. Blinded by his omnipotence the Viceroy wanted confessions, admissions, and accusations against others. But if the body was weak, the soul was reinforced. His hope by now rested in his meeting God, which he felt nearer each day.
When John Gabriel told him for the last time: "I would sooner die than deny my faith!," the judge pronounced his sentence. John Gabriel Perboyre was to die by strangulation.
With Christ priest and victim
Then began a period of waiting for the imperial confirmation. Perhaps John Gabriel could hope in the clemency of the sovereign. But the war with the English erased any possible gesture of good-will. Thus, on 11 September 1840, an imperial envoy arrived at full speed, bearing the decree confirming the condemnation.
With seven criminals the missionary was led up a height called the "Red Mountain." As the criminals were killed first, Perboyre reflected in prayer, to the wonderment of the bystanders.
When his turn came, the executioners stripped him of the purple tunic and tied him to a post in the form of a cross. They passed a rope around his neck and strangled him. It was the sixth hour. Like Jesus, John Gabriel became like a grain of wheat. He died, or better was born into heaven, in order to make fall on the earth the dew of God's blessing.
Many circumstances surrounding his last year of life (the betrayal, the arrest, the death on a cross, its day and hour), are similar to the Passion of Christ. In reality, all his life was that of a witness and a faithful disciple of Christ. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote: "I look for him who died for us; I yearn for him who rose for us. Behold, the moment is near in which I will be brought forth! Have compassion on me, brothers! Do not prevent me from being born to life!"
John Gabriel "was born to life" on 11 September 1840, because he always had sought "him who died for us." His body was brought back to France, but his heart remained in his adopted homeland, the land of China. There he gave his witness to the sons and daughters of St. Vincent who also wait to be born to heaven after a life spent for the gospel and for the poor.
Shared from Vatican.va

Remebering 9/11 - Years Later - RIP - Free Resources from Bishops of USA


9/11: The Catholic Church Remembers

911. For years, those numbers simply meant a call for help. Now they also remind us of September 11, 2001, the date of the worst terrorist attack on the United States of America and one of the deadliest days ever on American soil. To mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011, we gathered reflections and remembrances from clergy who ministered to victims and their families, and others who were impacted by the tragedy.
In October 2001, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution designating that every September 11th be observed as "Patriot Day."  The resolution requests that  U.S. government entities and interested organizations and individuals display the flag of the United States at half staff on Patriot Day and that the people of the United States observe a moment of silence  in honor of the individuals who lost their lives as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  
We have available updated liturgical resources for the current year's observance of Patriot Day and links to bishops' statements and other materialsfor reading and reflection.
In 2009, a presidential proclamation declared that  Patriot Day is also a "National Day of Service."  The proclamation calls on Americans to "participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, to observe this day with other ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services ... to honor the innocent victims who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."   

Free Catholic Movie : Mother Teresa - Stars Olivia Hussey - Full Film

Mother Teresa (2003) TV Movie - 110 min - Biography | Drama - 19 October 2003 (Italy)  Mother Teresa - the movie: the inspirational portrayal of Mother Teresa, a simple nun who became one of the most significant personalities of the 20th Century. Armed with a faith - she helps the poorest in India. Director: Fabrizio Costa Writers: Massimo Cerofolini, Francesco Scardamaglia Stars: Olivia Hussey, Sebastiano Somma, Ingrid Rubio | 

Pope Francis "...the Church as a Mother who teaches us the works of mercy". Text/Video Angelus


Pope Francis arrives in St Peter's Square for his general audience
10/09/


(Vatican Radio) Mother Church teaches us works mercy are essential for our salvation, said Pope Francis at his general audience on Wednesday , but “it is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better we must do good to those who are unable to reciprocate, as the Father did with us, in giving us Jesus".
And once again he had a special thought for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. In his greeting to Arabic speaking pilgrims and in particular to those from Syria and Iraq, Francis said that "the Church, following the example of his Master, is a teacher of mercy: She faces hatred with love, defeats violence with forgiveness; responds to weapons with  prayer! May the Lord reward your fidelity, instill courage in your fight against the forces of evil and open the eyes of those who are blinded by evil, so they may soon see the light of truth and repent for their mistakes. May the Lord bless you and protect you always”.
Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims who crowded St Peter’s Square for the appointment, the Pope said the Church does not teach us about mercy through theoretic lectures but through the actions of the saints who have visited those in prison, of mothers who teach their children to share what they have with those in need, through women like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who held the hand of the abandoned so they would not die alone.  “This is how the Mother Church teaches her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, she learned that this is essential for salvation”.
The Pope was continuing his catechesis on our Mother Church. "In our previous catechesis, we reflected on the Church as a Mother who nurtures us in the faith, guides us on the way of salvation, and protects us from evil. Today, I wish to reflect on the Church as a Mother who teaches us the works of mercy".
"A good teacher does not get lost in the details, but points to what is essential so that the child or student can find meaning and joy in life. It is the truth. For the Gospel, what is essential is mercy God sent his Son, God became man to save us, that is, to give us His mercy. Jesus clearly says, summing up His teaching to His disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Can there be a Christian who is not merciful? No. The Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is the heart of the Gospel. And true to this teaching, the Church can only repeat the same thing to her children: "Be merciful," as the Father is, and as Jesus was. Mercy”.
He continued: "And so the Church acts like Jesus. She does not give lectures on love, on mercy. She does not spread a philosophy, a path of wisdom throughout the world. ... Of course, Christianity is all this, but as a consequence, in reflection. The Mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example, and uses words to illuminate the meaning of her gestures. The Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, to clothe the naked. And how does she do this? With the example of many saints who have done this in an exemplary manner; but she also does so with the example of so many mothers and fathers who teach their children that they must give what they do not need to those who lack even the basic necessities. It is important to know this. Even in the simplest of Christian families rule of hospitality has always been held sacred: may there always be a place at the table and a spare bed for those who need it".
Moving from his scripted speech, the Pope added: "Once a mother told me, in the other dioceses, that she wanted to teach this to her children and told them to help and give food to the hungry. She had three. And one day at lunch – the father was out at work, she was with her three children, little ones, 7,5,4 years or so – and there was a knock on the door and a gentleman was there who asked to eat, and the mother said: ‘Wait a minute'. And she went back in and told her children: 'There is a gentleman out there who is asking for something to eat, what should we do? '-'Give him some, Mom, give him some! '. Each of the children has a steak and fries on their plate: 'Very well, each of you take half of your dinner and give it to him'- ‘Ah, no, Mom, that’s not fair!'-'That’s the way it is you have to give him what you have’. And so this mother taught their children to give of their own food. This is a fine example that has helped me so much. 'But, I haven’t got any extra – ‘No you have to give some of what you have! '. This is what Mother Church teaches us.  And you, all of you mothers here today you know what you have to do so that your children learn to share their things with those in need”.
"The Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are sick. How many saints served Jesus in this way! And how many ordinary men and women, every day, put into practice this work of mercy in a hospital room, or in a nursing home, or in their own home, assisting a sick person. The Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are in prison".
Again the Pope added speaking off the cuff: "'But, Father, no, this is dangerous, these are bad people'. Each one of us is capable of this. Listen well: each of us is capable of doing the same thing as the man or woman who is in prison. We all have the capacity to sin and to do the same, to make mistakes in life. They are no worse than you or I".
"Mercy - he continued – overcomes every obstacle, knocks down every wall and brings you to always seek the face of the man, the person. And it is mercy that changes hearts and lives, that can regenerate a person and allow them to reintegrate themselves in society. "
"The Mother Church teaches us to stay close to those who are abandoned and die alone. This is what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did on the streets of Calcutta.  This is what many Christians are doing and have done when they are not afraid to shake hands with those who are about to leave this world. And even here, mercy gives peace to those who leave and those who remain, making us feel that God is greater than death, and that by abiding in Him even the final farewell is simply ‘until we meet again’…
Pope Francis added: "Blessed Teresa really understood this. Although they used to say to her, 'Mother, this is wasting time'. She would look for people dying on the street, people whose bodies were being eaten by rats and she would take them home so that they could die clean, in tranquility, with a caress in peace. She bid them farewell, all of these people! And many men and women have done this like her. They are waiting for them there, at the door, to open the gate of Heaven for them. Helping people to die well, in peace. "
"Dear brothers and sisters, this is how the Mother Church teaches her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, she learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. Jesus says that pagans do this. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better we must do good to those who unable to reciprocate, as the Father did with us, in giving us Jesus. "
The Pope looking away from his text asked: "How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing, it’s all free! Doing good without waiting for something in return, doing a good turn. This is what our Father did for us and so we must to the same. So go on and do some good! How nice it is to live in the Church, our Mother Church teaches us that these things that Jesus taught us. "
Pope Francis concluded: "We thank the Lord, who gives us the grace to have the Church as mother, she teaches us the path of mercy, which is the path of life. We thank the Lord. " (Emer McCarthy)

Today's Mass Readings : Wednesday September 10, 2014


Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 439

Reading 11 COR 7:25-31

Brothers and sisters:
In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,
but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.
So this is what I think best because of the present distress:
that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation.
Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.
If you marry, however, you do not sin,
nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries;
but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life,
and I would like to spare you that.

I tell you, brothers, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

Responsorial Psalm PS 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17

R. (11) Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father’s house.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord, and you must worship him.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters;
her raiment is threaded with spun gold.
In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king;
behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
The place of your fathers your sons shall have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.

Gospel LK 6:20-26

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”