Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saints of Asia, 1500 to the Present

By Vincent J. O'Malley, Our Sunday Visitor, 221 pages.

Saints of Asia, 1500 to the Present reminds readers that the age of martyrdom never really passed for Christians. We often make the mistake of seeing Christian martyrs from Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia as the exception rather than the rule.

Yet anti-Christian violence in Asia, as in nineteenth-century China, shows another kind of martyrdom. Rather than due to madmen and their minions, it tended to be more of a slow, sometimes imperceptible grind. Christians simply had to live with the threat of martyrdom.

Sometimes years of peace and religious freedom would break out, followed of course by anti-Christian policies.

Yet countless believers not only went to their deaths, but joyfully and willingly. “Saint Lucy Wang Cheng and Companions” exemplifies this:

“The four girls were placed in a cart to be transported back to Wangla Village. Along the way, the soldiers verbally abused the girls, their Christian faith, and God. The three youngest girls felt terrified and wept profusely. Lucy encouraged them, saying, 'Don't cry. We are going to heaven soon. God has given us life; He will take it back. We should not be reluctant givers, but offer ourselves cheerfully.'”

Saints of Asia also includes paths to saintliness besides martyrdom, including those such as Thomas Kurialacherry, who was known even in his seminary days in Rome as a saintly person and who as a priest and then bishop in India focused on education, the building of physical churches, and improving the moral standards of people.

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