Regardless of whether you speak Mandarin, Cantonese or just English, today is the ever-popular Chinese New Year or the new Lunar Year as today is also the first new moon of 2017. We have entered the year of the Rooster. This is doubly good news for everyone who has already broken their (solar) New Year’s resolutions – here is a new year to begin again!
Last year of the rooster (2005) brought a mixture of blessings.
- Pope John Paul II died and brought in the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
- Doctor Who returned to the BBC.
- London received the news that they would host the 2012 Olympics.
- London was re-initiated into the world of terror in the 7/7 attacks.
- That same day, my bitter divorce was finalized nearby in the city of Reading.
- I also bought first house all on my own and moved to the market town of Warminster.
What will this year of the rooster bring?
Catholicism in China
China has been an exceedingly difficult place to be Catholic for a very long time. The list of Chinese martyrs is lengthy and they have their own feast day on July the ninth. Even today, the Catholic church is barely tolerated and has no official ties to the Vatican. To quote Wikipedia:
Catholic Church in China (called Tiānzhǔ Jiào, 天主教, literally, “Religion of the Lord of Heaven”, after the term for God traditionally used in Chinese by Catholics) has a long and complicated history. Christianity has existed in China in various forms since at least the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century AD. Following the 1949 takeover by the Communist Party of China, Catholic and Protestant missionaries were expelled from the country, and the religion was vilified as a manifestation of western imperialism. In 1957, the Chinese government established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which rejects the authority of the Holy See and appoints its own bishops.
I would recommend reading the Wikipedia article rather than me trying to summarize something which is chock-full of information. But historically, China has always been suspicious of Europeans and the West… and missionaries from the 13th century to modern times have found this a difficult mission field accordingly.
The most recent mass martyrdom is known as the Boxer Persecution/Rebellion in 1900 during which between 25,000 and 30,000 Chinese Catholics plus 43 European missionaries died. This persecution was sanctioned by both the empress Tzu Chi and the local governor Yu Hsien.
“During the night of July 5, Yu Hsien’s soldiers appeared at the Franciscan mission and arrested the two bishops, two fathers and a brother, and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Five Chinese seminarians, and eight Chinese Christians who were employed at the mission were also apprehended. In prison they were joined by one more Chinese Christian who went there voluntarily.
Four days later, on July 9, 1900, all of them were taken before the tribunal of Yu Hsien, some of them being slashed with swords on the way. Yu Hsien ordered them to be killed on the spot, and an indescribable scene followed. The soldiers closed in on the prisoners, struck them at random with their swords, wounded them right and left, cut off their arms and legs and heads. Thus died the 26 martyrs of Taiyuanfu, martyrs of China”
*from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.
In total, 120 Chinese Saints have been recognized. A good list of these can be found at SaintsCatholicBlogspot.
Patron Saints of China
Our Lady of Sheshan, (佘山聖母 )Our Lady of Luck, Our Mother (or Lady) of Zosé, Mother of China.
She is represented by two different statues:
Firstly, a 1924 statue based both on Mary Help of Christians and another reported apparition known as Our Lady (Queen) of China. There is an annual procession in honor of her.
More recently, a new statue was constructed in 2000 which (thanks to Pope Benedict XVI) has become known as Our Lady of Sheshan.
St. Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier’s role in China was primarily that of encouraging missionaries in China and Japan. Both countries found fierce resistance to Christianity forcing converts “underground” to develop their own, more secretive Catholic culture. Xavier is remembered in China though he never managed to make it to mainland China, dying of a fever on 3 December 1552, awaiting a boat to the mainland.
St Joseph, foster father of Jesus is also considered a patron saint of China.
2017 – Year of the Rooster
Regardless of what this year brings for you, it is worth remembering to pray for all the Christian souls in China, for whom “freedom of religion” is still a fairy tale. Let’s pray as well that the Chinese Catholic Church may, at last, be allowed to come into full communion with the Vatican.