Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Chinese Martyrs

Deacon Greg Kandra has posted an excellent homily on the Chinese Martyrs over at his blog The Deacon's Bench. A short excerpt:
I didn’t really know
much about them until I was asked to preach this evening. But again,
as I read their stories, I found myself overwhelmed. The loss was so
great. But so was their courage. If you visit the Vatican website,
there are details about the 120 people who are counted among those martyrs we
remember tonight. Most of them died in the 19th century, persecuted during the Boxer Rebellion.
Reading about them, you’re struck by several things. First, are the ages. So
many were children. Three, four years old. One was ten
months old. Some were
teenagers, like 14-year-old Wang Anna…who refused to renounce her
faith. Moments before her death, she cried out: “The door of heaven
is open to all,” then whispered, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Seconds later, she was
beheaded. So many of them were also lay people. Mothers and fathers,
even entire families. They were people like 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who became a
Catholic at 17, and was disowned by his family. He was eventually captured and
ordered to publicly worship idols. When he refused, they cut off his right arm.
He still refused, declaring: “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood
will tell you that I am Christian.” He died by mutilation.

Here is my question: Why haven't I ever heard about this? I've gone to church on most Sundays of my life and (at least at most of the churches I've attended) we never discuss the stories of those who laid down their lives for the faith. I know I've said it before, but we Protestants are really missing something important by not discussing the Saints. It's like we have some sort of historical amnesia or something.


Desmond said...

Presumably you didn't hear about those particular martyrs because they were Catholic Christians. It must have been felt within Protestant circles that talking about such people would be tantamount to promoting Catholicism. I remember Marcus Grodi saying he never heard of the eight North American martyrs until he was a Catholic (

Desmond said...

That link:

MHL said...

I'm sure their is some truth to what you say, but I think the problem is deeper. Take the Ugandan martyrs, for example. There were both Catholic and Protestant martyrs, but I never heard of them until I read James Martin's My Life With the Saints.

I think we Protestants (at least the liberal mainline denominations I'm familiar with) don't like talking about saints or martyrdom. I think there are multiple reasons. Some is probably subtle anti-Catholicism. (Saints are a Catholic thing.) Another factor is our general lack of historical perspective. (If the world started with Martin Luther, we don't worry too much about what went on in the early centuries of the Church.

But the biggest reason, IMHO, is that stories like this make us uncomfortable. If we are really preaching universalism with a thin veneer of Christianity, we don't really know if their sacrifice was worth it. I've heard a lot of sermons in my lifetime in mainly United Methodist and Presbyterian Church USA churches and, unfortunately, that's my take on it. I hope I'm wrong.