Saturday, December 25, 2010


Merry Christmas to you and your families from the Mercedarian Friars! May the peace of the Christ-Child, Infant King, reign and dwell within your hearts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Push Onward

In these last and final days of "Sapientiatide", it is important that we continue with the same vigor and enthusiasm we had at the beginning of Advent.  However, these final days, especially tomorrow, are to be days of intensity and acute readiness for the coming Birth of Our Divine Savior.  Traditionally, Christmas Eve -- in most of Europe and the United States -- was a day of fast and abstinence.  In it this night when we have the so-called Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian) or Wigilia (Polish), or some other sort of variety of meal that is meatless.  Why?  Because the great day of rejoicing when "dawn from on High shall break upon us" is to come and we must "gird" our appetites and sacrifice, to be filled with the abundance and majesty of the Christ-Child.

If you are reading this, either by chance, or intention, and have not gone to church in a while.... GO!  Do not be afraid.  And after you go for Christmas, go every Sunday, and wait, patiently, to be imbued with the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Moreover, if you don't want to go for yourself, then go for someone else and offer your time at Mass for the intentions of another soul.

Oh, the joy of Thy coming, dear Jesus! how great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads. And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because their God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst, and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, art our way, our path, to God; and Thou art Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep: how great Thy love to come thus in search of us! To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it. No! there shall he no more weak hands, nor feeble knees, nor faint hearts; for we know that it is in love that Thou art coming to us. There is but one thing which makes us sad: our preparation is not complete. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind! We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love. -- Dom Gueranger

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holy Father speaks to the Roman Curia

Address by the Holy Father on the occasion of Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia

20 December 2010
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you, dear Members of the College of Cardinals and Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governatorato, for this traditional gathering. I extend a cordial greeting to each one of you, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his sentiments of devotion and communion and for the warm good wishes that he expressed to me on behalf of all of you. Prope est jam Dominus, venite, adoremus! As one family let us contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, God-with-us, as the Cardinal Dean has said. I gladly reciprocate his good wishes and I would like to thank all of you most sincerely, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the able and generous contribution that each of you makes to the Vicar of Christ and to the Church.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Repeatedly during the season of Advent the Church's liturgy prays in these or similar words. They are invocations that were probably formulated as the Roman Empire was in decline. The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world. Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.+Excita - the prayer recalls the cry addressed to the Lord who was sleeping in the disciples' storm-tossed boat as it was close to sinking. When his powerful word had calmed the storm, he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (cf. Mt 8:26 et par.). He wanted to say: it was your faith that was sleeping. He will say the same thing to us. Our faith too is often asleep. Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains - that is, to order justly the affairs of the world.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: amid the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year, this Advent prayer has frequently been in my mind and on my lips. We had begun the Year for Priests with great joy and, thank God, we were also able to conclude it with great gratitude, despite the fact that it unfolded so differently from the way we had expected. Among us priests and among the lay faithful, especially the young, there was a renewed awareness of what a great gift the Lord has entrusted to us in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in God's name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life; we realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration,through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lord's strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as one's life task not this or that, but simply human life itself - helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God. We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.
In this context, a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen came to my mind, a vision which describes in a shocking way what we have lived through this past year. "In the year of our Lord's incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, 'Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!'
And she continued: 'I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.
For my Bridegroom's wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men's sins continue to gape. And Christ's wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.
And I heard a voice from heaven which said: 'This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to God's people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation' (Mk 16:15)" (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).
In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn - by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing goodWe must be capable of doing penanceWe must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord's goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.
We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon - the symbol of the world's great irreligious cities - the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world - an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart - and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man's freedom and ultimately destroys it.
In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained - even within the realm of Catholic theology - that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a "better than" and a "worse than". Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Todayattention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.
As my second point, I should like to say a word about the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. This began with my journey to Cyprus, where I was able to consign the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Bishops of those countries who were assembled there. The hospitality of the Orthodox Church was unforgettable, and we experienced it with great gratitude. Even if full communion is not yet granted to us, we have nevertheless established with joy that the basic form of the ancient Church unites us profoundly with one another: the sacramental office of Bishops as the bearer of apostolic tradition, the reading of Scripture according to the hermeneutic of the Regula fidei, the understanding of Scripture in its manifold unity centred on Christ, developed under divine inspiration, and finally, our faith in the central place of the Eucharist in the Church's life. Thus we experienced a living encounter with the riches of the rites of the ancient Church that are also found within the Catholic Church. We celebrated the liturgy with Maronites and with Melchites, we celebrated in the Latin rite, we experienced moments of ecumenical prayer with the Orthodox, and we witnessed impressive manifestations of the rich Christian culture of the Christian East. But we also saw the problem of the divided country. The wrongs and the deep wounds of the past were all too evident, but so too was the desire for the peace and communion that had existed before. Everyone knows that violence does not bring progress - indeed, it gave rise to the present situation. Only in a spirit of compromise and mutual understanding can unity be re-established. To prepare the people for this attitude of peace is an essential task of pastoral ministry.
During the Synod itself, our gaze was extended over the whole of the Middle East, where the followers of different religions - as well as a variety of traditions and distinct rites - live together. As far as Christians are concerned, there are Pre-Chalcedonian as well as Chalcedonian churches; there are churches in communion with Rome and others that are outside that communion; in both cases, multiple rites exist alongside one another. In the turmoil of recent years, the tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown, with the result that we witness with increasing alarm acts of violence in which there is no longer any respect for what the other holds sacred, in which on the contrary the most elementary rules of humanity collapse. In the present situation, Christians are the most oppressed and tormented minority. For centuries they lived peacefully together with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours. During the Synod we listened to wise words from the Counsellor of the Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon against acts of violence targeting Christians. He said: when Christians are wounded, we ourselves are wounded. Unfortunately, though, this and similar voices of reason, for which we are profoundly grateful, are too weak. Here too we come up against an unholy alliance between greed for profit and ideological blindness. On the basis of the spirit of faith and its rationality, the Synod developed a grand concept of dialogue, forgiveness and mutual acceptance, a concept that we now want to proclaim to the world. The human being is one, and humanity is one. Whatever damage is done to another in any one place, ends up by damaging everyone. Thus the words and ideas of the Synod must be a clarion call, addressed to all people with political or religious responsibility, to put a stop to Christianophobia; to rise up in defence of refugees and all who are suffering, and to revitalize the spirit of reconciliation. In the final analysis, healing can only come from deep faith in God's reconciling love. Strengthening this faith, nourishing it and causing it to shine forth is the Church's principal task at this hour.+I would willingly speak in some detail of my unforgettable journey to the United Kingdom, but I will limit myself to two points that are connected with the theme of the responsibility of Christians at this time and with the Church's task to proclaim the Gospel. My thoughts go first of all to the encounter with the world of culture in Westminster Hall, an encounter in which awareness of shared responsibility at this moment in history created great attention which, in the final analysis, was directed to the question of truth and faith itself. It was evident to all that the Church has to make her own contribution to this debate. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality of which I spoke earlier. In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.
Finally I should like to recall once more the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Why was he beatified? What does he have to say to us? Many responses could be given to these questions, which were explored in the context of the beatification. I would like to highlight just two aspects which belong together and which, in the final analysis, express the same thing. The first is that we must learn from Newman's three conversions, because they were steps along a spiritual path that concerns us all. Here I would like to emphasize just the first conversion: to faith in the living God. Until that moment, Newman thought like the average men of his time and indeed like the average men of today, who do not simply exclude the existence of God, but consider it as something uncertain, something with no essential role to play in their lives. What appeared genuinely real to him, as to the men of his and our day, is the empirical, matter that can be grasped. This is the "reality" according to which one finds one's bearings. The "real" is what can be grasped, it is the things that can be calculated and taken in one's hand. In his conversion, Newman recognized that it is exactly the other way round: that God and the soul, man's spiritual identity, constitute what is genuinely real, what counts. These are much more real than objects that can be grasped. This conversion was a Copernican revolution. What had previously seemed unreal and secondary was now revealed to be the genuinely decisive element. Where such a conversion takes place, it is not just a person's theory that changes: the fundamental shape of life changes. We are all in constant need of such conversion: then we are on the right path.
The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word "conscience" signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word "conscience" expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newman's understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to thisFor him, "conscience" means man's capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life - religion and morals - a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience - man's capacity to recognize truth - thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman's conversions is a path of conscience - not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: "As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life - but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion". He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newman's concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said - should he have to propose a toast - that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, "conscience" does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.
I must refrain from speaking of my remarkable journeys to Malta, Portugal and Spain. In these it once again became evident that the faith is not a thing of the past, but an encounter with the God who lives and acts now. He challenges us and he opposes our indolence, but precisely in this way he opens the path towards true joy.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. We set out from this plea for the presence of God's power in our time and from the experience of his apparent absence. If we keep our eyes open as we look back over the year that is coming to an end, we can see clearly that God's power and goodness are also present today in many different ways. So we all have reason to thank him. Along with thanks to the Lord I renew my thanks to all my co-workers. May God grant to all of us a holy Christmas and may he accompany us with his blessings in the coming year.
I entrust these prayerful sentiments to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, and I impart to all of you and to the great family of the Roman Curia a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. Happy Christmas!

**courtesy of Communio

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pray for the Church in China

In the days leading up to the World Day of Peace, and/or Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, make a novena of prayers and supplications to Our Blessed Mother, for the suffering Church in China.  In recent days the Holy See has issued a communique regarding recent news coming out of that Communist, anti-Catholic land....

Friday, December 17, 2010

"O" Reflections

I came across this from Fr.Z.

December 17

The Son is Eternal. There was never a time when He was not. Through Him all things were made. Through Him order was given to the primal chaos. Thus, the marvelous and sweet order we observe in the universe is due to the eternal wisdom of the eternal Word. That same well-ordering eternal Word is the Word made flesh, who dwell among us beginning with His coming birth at Bethlehem.
Each of the “O Antiphons” carries Old Testament biblical figures. At the same time each one carries an element of the New Covent. These two characteristics are juxtaposed and a third dimension emerges which serves as a point of meditation when considering the Incarnate Word, the Son of God made flesh.
In today’s “O Antiphon” – “O Sapientia” – we are drawn into the Old Testament’s wisdom literature. Wisdom is a divine attribute. The divine Wisdom is personified. Wisdom is the beloved daughter who was before Creation, Wisdom is the breath of God’s power, Wisdom is the shining of God’s (transforming) glory. (See Sirach 24:3 and Wisdom 8:1.)
Wisdom is also something which we deeply desire. It is also a human attribute, not just a divine attribute, though authentic human wisdom is never separated from a relationship with God. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as we learn from the psalms as well as the school of personal hard-knocks. From this convergence of awesome respect for God with the experience of learning through life’s mysterious calendar, we understand (if we are wise) that wisdom is more than mere knowledge. It is something more than love.  It is something more than just a special astuteness regarding how to get along in life, a certain kind of savoir faire. Rooted as it is in fear of the Lord, true human wisdom is both love and that knowledge of God that seeks to understand, the knowledge that is completed by faith.
The Prologue of John’s Gospel refers to the “Verbum caro factum...the Word made flesh”. He is the divine Logos… the eternal thought/word/reason. Through Him all things were made. Without Him nothing can be. So, the New Testament image in the Prologue of John brings to completion the imagery of Wisdom. He, the Word, is the archetype of the material universe. All things are ordered in and to Him.
Our lives, to be happy, need order. Our individual private lives and our collective lives in larger society must have structure and order. They must be disposed in such a way that the real and genuine good of all is fostered and promoted. Thus, in human governance we struggle to find the proper balance of exercise of power (without which governance and order is not possible) and gentle concern for the individual and community (without which there is mere imposition and tyranny and exploitation for some end material or ideological). Wisdom permits the balance of these.
This first “O Antiphon” shows us the Creator of all that is invisible and visible, the whole of  spiritual and material creation.  It is moving according to an eternally disposed plan of divine Providence toward an inexorable end: that God may be all in all. In this end the blessed elect will participate. We have had the way opened for us toward this end by the Word (divine) made flesh (human). Our humanity now sits in transformed glory at the right hand of the Father in an indestructible bond with the Son’s divinity. The risen Christ is the new Adam…the new Creation. With unspeakable sweetness He orders our salvation. With irresistible power all things exist and move according to His will. Our lives have meaning only in Him, according to His guidance, who handles us “suaviter et fortiter“.
Our Old Testament and New Testament figures and images merge into a new point of reflection for our lives which today’s “O Antiphon” underscores as “prudence” – “Come…Teach us the way of prudence!”
“Prudence” comes from the Latin “to see/look ahead”. It is one of the four “cardinal” virtues, one which other virtues depend. Prudence is a habit of the intellect that allows us to see in any circumstance what is virtuous and what is not. Prudence helps us to seek what is virtuous and avoid what is not. Prudence perfects the intellect (rather than the will) in practical decisions. It determines which course of action must be taken. It indicates what the golden mean is hic et nunc…here and now. This mean is at the core of every virtue. Without the virtue of prudence courage becomes foolhardiness… rushing in to the wrong danger in the wrong way at the wrong time. Without the governing of prudence mercy devolves into slackness and enervated weakness, spinelessness.
But this is still a kind of prudence which is merely human prudence, not looking beyond the issues of daily life.  We must also look beyond this vale of tears. In addition to the prudence which grows out of the school of hard-knocks and which becomes a sound and good habit through repeated acts, there is another prudence, an “infused” prudence. This kind of prudence is a grace given us by God out of His merciful love. This greater prudence, which governs other grace-filled virtues, cannot be separated from the life of grace. It is exercised in the state of grace.  Mortal sin is its enemy.  This higher kind of prudence helps us to determine the proper things that help us to salvation.  It helps us to avoid things that slam the door that Christ opened (mortal sin). Thus, prudence cannot be separated from charity, which is in the soul as a characteristic of sanctifying (habitual) grace.
Today in the opening “O Antiphon” we sing to Emmanuel who is coming.  We plead with Him, for He orders all things “sweetly and strongly.”  He teaches us how to avoid things that harm us, both in material concerns and in our pursuit of the happiness of heaven.  He teaches us true prudence.
Take stock: is there something going on in my life that needs to be examined in prudence? Am I doing something which is going to be an obstacle to the happiness of heaven? Christ is coming, both at Christmas as the infant King and the end of the world as the Judge and King of fearful majesty. This is a cause to rejoice.  But it is also cause to prepare prudently and well the way of the Lord and make straight His paths before He comes, as we heard about on “Gaudete” (“Rejoice!) Sunday of Advent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Satan and Abortion

Originally found at
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, December 13, 2010 ( - When Abigail Seidman’s mother had an abortion over twenty years ago, it marked the beginning of her plunge into some of the darkest places in human experience.
Seidman herself, a one-time atheist, is now a pro-life activist and shared her intimate knowledge of life inside the abortion clinic where her mother began to work as a nurse in a recent interview.
According to Seidman, her mother’s descent into the abortion culture was not motivated by the usual social talking points - to save women from dangerous back-alley abortions, or to “help” women in difficult situations - or even for the money. It was a religion – literally.
Seidman described her mother’s abortion clinic as “pervaded with occult imagery and practices.” The workers considered “abortion to be a form of sacrifice,” would perform the procedure as a sort of ritual, and worshipped deities embodying death, she said.
Sadly, as a teenager, Abigail and her unborn baby fell victim to this mentality, through an abortion that her mother encouraged, despite Seidman’s disagreement.
It’s not the sort of thing that many people like to think about, and many might even deny it is true. But Seidman is emphatic that pro-lifers must acknowledge abortion’s connection with the occult - and recognize it as a key part of pulling out the abortion industry by the roots.

“It’s not just a boogeyman,” Seidman told She said she believes “the occult believers are the ‘core’ of the pro-abortion movement, just as the born-again Christians are the ‘core’ of the pro-life movement.”
“I see no harm in striking at its heart, and informing ‘pro-choice’ people (particularly the well-meaning but misguided Christians) of who and what they are truly associating themselves with,” she said.
The mother of two does not claim that her experience is the norm for abortion clinics, saying that “many if not most” clinics are “strictly business” about abortion, and that many abortion workers are liberal Christians or atheists. But she is not alone: Seidman’s story aligns strongly with the experience of Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, an exorcist and former president of Human Life International, who has spoken for years on abortion’s connection to the occult.
Seidman says that there was ritual drug use, “sacred prostitution,” and ritual abortions performed after-hours, involving clinic staff who had intentionally become pregnant.
“I always had a ‘feeling’ that there was something ‘wrong’ or ‘dangerous’ there - almost a feeling of a presence, which I now recognize as being the exact opposite of the Presence that I feel in a church,” she said. The workers worshipped a Goddess whose “truest form” was recognized as “the Great Dragon” - a name she was later surprised to discover in the Bible.
At the same time, she gave a heartening picture of the effect of pro-life prayer, as witnessed from the other side of the battle line. In particular, she recalled her experience with one pro-life warrior - an old woman who would quietly pray for hours outside her clinic - whom she credits for her own eventual conversion.

“She was a tiny, frail, very elderly woman, who each Friday would walk to the clinic, kneel on the sidewalk at the corner (some distance away from the entrance), and pray the Rosary,” wrote Seidman on her blog. “Sometimes she would be there for hours, through any weather, with her bony knees on pavement that could be blazing hot, freezing cold, or soaking wet.

“I saw her every Friday I was there, and she always smiled at me when she arrived and again when she left, but never said a word.”
One day, after the old woman had prayed “for at least three hours, in freezing rain,” the clinic owner finally invited the little old lady inside for some tea - and attempted to convince her that her prayers were utterly wasted.

“When the owner finished speaking, the old lady put her teacup down, and said ‘God knows what I’m doing out there, and it matters to him even if it doesn’t matter to you or anyone else. My prayers have value to God. And if I can change one heart - even ONE’ - and she looked straight into my eyes as she said this - ‘then it will have all been worth it. I know God will reward me in the end.’ The clinic owner rolled her eyes, sighed, and shook her head. The old lady stood up, thanked us for the tea, and left.
“I never forgot her.” Seidman, who says she “accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in June 2010” after a period of study and reflection, is set to be received into the Catholic Church next Easter. Through her story she has proved the triumph of good over evil by rejecting the despair that gripped her post-abortive mother - and forging her dark experiences into a weapon against it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Thou art that maiden chosen by God in whom there is no sin, venial or mortal, original or actual, or any other kind. And this is why Adam was created innocent and sinless. Some, O Mother, hold that thou art stained with original sin, but what they say is erroneous and iniquitous; for, as we have already said above, before Adam was created, My Father chose thee pure and sinless, that His Son might take flesh from thee. -- St. Peter Paschasius, O. de M.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Blood of Martyrs..."

Attackers gunned down an elderly Christian couple late Sunday inside their Baghdad home, the latest in a string of religious-rooted violence that has spurred international outcry and a full-court press for justice from Iraqi authorities.
Gunmen broke into the couple's residence in Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area in eastern Baghdad, during the night and shot them dead, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
Hours earlier, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said in a press conference broadcast on state-run Iraqiya TV that 15 "Arabs" -- in Iraq, a euphemism indicating they came from outside the country -- were responsible for three deadly attacks in Baghdad in recent months, including a bloody church siege.
The spokesman for the Iraqi military command in Baghdad showed pictures of each of the men, whom he called "terrorists" and said they had entered Iraq from unidentified countries between June and August.
Ten of them had died while carrying out suicide attacks or had been killed by Iraqi security forces, Atta said. The other five remain at large, with Atta urging the public to help in tracking them down.
"According to our intelligence information, four of the five terrorists are still in Iraq and one of them has fled to Syria," he said.
While Atta did not immediately link Sunday's killings to the remaining suspects from the group of 15, he did tie the group to a deadly attack on a Christian church as well as two other incidents.
The first of the three attacks happened August 17, when suicide bombers killed at least 48 people at a military recruitment center in the Bab al-Moudham commercial area of central Baghdad. On September 5, at least eight people died in a suicide bombing at a military base in that same area.
And the deadliest attack that Atta referred to occurred October 31, when militants stormed the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, in Baghdad. Some 70 people died and 75 others, including 51 congregants and two priests, were wounded.
About a month later, Iraqi authorities announced they had arrested 12 people who had a role in either plotting or executing the operation. They included Huthaifa al-Batawi, described by Iraqi officials as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the "mastermind, direct supervisor and planner" of the attack.
That siege was among the first of many attacks in recent weeks targeting Christians, which have left scores dead and many more wounded throughout the Middle Eastern nation.
While there have been a few larger scale operations, most were more like what happened Sunday evening, with gunfire or bombs targeting a few Christians at a time.
While the issue has become more public in recent months, the threat has been real for years. Christians are among the religious minorities in a country dominated by Sunnis and Shiites, and tens of thousands have fled Iraq in recent years.
The violence had led the United States, the United Nations Security Council and an American Catholic archbishop to express concerns for Christians and other religious groups in Iraq.
Pope Benedict XVI said after the siege that he was praying "for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more ferocious in that it hit defenseless people gathered in the house of the Lord, which is home to reconciliation and love."
Cardinal Emmanuel Delly III -- the patriarch of Iraq's largest Christian community, the Chaldean Catholic Church -- urged Iraqi Christians in a televised address last month to "stand firm" within their country during these "difficult times."
On Sunday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that he pressed the need to protect Christians in conversations with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, calling it an issue "of paramount interest for my country and for me personally."
Frattini -- who also met this week with survivors of the church siege, as well as Cardinal Delly -- also said it was important that Christians felt secure in Iraq, and that they remained there.
"We shouldn't tolerate Christians leaving Iraq," the Italian minister said. "If Christians leave, the terrorists and al Qaeda would have won."
Al-Maliki gave "assurances" that those behind the violence would be "severely punished," according to the Italian cabinet minister, and that Christian leaders in Iraq would be kept up-to-date on key developments.
Frattini also said the Iraqi prime minister told him that a Christian would head a new parliamentary committee looking into how best to safeguard security for members of this religious group. Iraqis are also mulling forming police units specifically charged with protecting Christians, according to the Italian foreign minister.

From CNN

Peter Paschasius

The son of devout Mozarabs, Peter Paschasius was born in Valencia in 1227. Peter Nolasco and his brothers knew young Peter’s family and they stayed at their house near the Gate of Valldigna when they were on their way to a redemption. Peter Paschasius started his ecclesiastical career in his native city and he completed his studies at the University of Paris. Upon returning to Valencia, he was honored with the post of canon of the cathedral church.

Soon after, he left his post to join the Order of Mercy and he received the habit in the Valencia Cathedral at the hands of Arnaldo of Carcassonne in 1250. He traveled to Rome in 1296 and Pope Boniface VIII appointed him bishop of Jaén. On February 20, 1296, he was consecrated by Cardinal Mateo de Acquasparta in Saint Bartholomew’s chapel of the island on the Tiber. Later, when he was making a pastoral visit to his Jaén Diocese, he was attacked and taken captive to Granada by the Moors of that kingdom. While in jail, he wrote in Provençal: Dispute of the Bishop of Jaén with the Jews and Refutation of the Mohammedan Sect, two very interesting works with apologetic content to provide Christian captives with arguments against the proselytizing sermons of the Jews and Moslems. Peter also wrote: The Book of Gamaliel dealing with Christ’s passion and death, The Destruction of Jerusalem, Treatise against Moslem Fatalism, The Gloss on the Pater Noster and The Gloss on the Ten Commandments.
This learned Mercedarian doctor has the honor of having publicly defended the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in Paris and in his work, Life of Lazarus, written in 1295, long before any other Western theologian.
Several times, his fellow redeemers sent him the ransom money but Peter preferred to have other captives recover their freedom instead of him. The fifty years he had been wearing the Mercedarian habit had left a Mercedarian imprint on his soul. On December 6, 1300, while he was still wearing the vestments he had used to celebrate Mass, he was beheaded in his dungeon. He was buried in the place where the prison was and where he died. Christians called this place, Martyrs’ Hill. Peter’s written works constitute a valuable legacy of the Order of Mercy. Some Mercedarian writers like Manuel Mariano Ribera, 1720, Juan Interián de Ayala, 1721 and Peter Armengol Valenzuela, 1901, have defended the religious status and the Mercedarian profession of this distinguished bishop of Jaén. His works were compiled and published by Fathers Bartolomé de Anento, 1676 and Peter Armengol Valenzuela, 1905-1908.

On this day, the Friars, Tertiaries, and those associated with our Confraternities have the opportunity, under the usual conditions, of gaining a plenary indulgence.

Happy Feast Day!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Martyrdom and Resolute FAITH

I came across this story from another blog...

33 Martyrs of Yang Kia Ping

By Theresa Marie Moreau

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
.............................– Tertullian, from the “Apologeticus”

Father Chrysostomus Chang plumbed the depths of his human will for a supernatural strength. With only a few minutes remaining of his life in the material world, he lifted his thoughts to the spiritual. Through screams from the mob, he addressed his confreres at his side one last time, to prepare them not for death, but for life, everlasting life.
“We’re going to die for God. Let us lift our hearts one more time, in offering our total beings,” he said.
Helpless, the six Trappist monks stood handcuffed and chained on a makeshift platform, targets of a frenzied hatred that surged toward them. The blood-encrusted, lice-infested men, wearing rags caked in their own filth, had nowhere to run, no one to help them. After six months of mind-bending interrogations and body-rending torture, it was over. It was all over.
The verdict had just been read by a Chinese Communist officer: Death. To be carried out immediately.
Hundreds of crazed peasants, with fists raised, with contorted faces, with spit-covered lips, screamed rehearsed slogans of approval for the approaching slaughter. Executioners – reliable Party henchmen – rushed to ready their rifles to exterminate the Roman Catholic monks, believers in the superstitious cult, lovers of the God on the Cross imported from the Imperialist West.
And so it happened on January 28, 1948, in the dead of winter in Pan Pu Tsun, an unmapped village, a frigid heathen hell in the Mongolian mountains, somewhere in the frost-covered north of the Republic of China.
Just over the ridge from the pandemonium staged by the soulless Chinese Communists – believers in the materialistic cult, lovers of the god of death and destruction – lay the charred ruins of Our Lady of Consolation, the once-majestic abbey the monks had called home.
Jostled in the madness, the monks fell to their knees. With their swollen hands tied and chained behind their backs, they couldn’t even cross themselves – In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost – a final time.
The death squad – Communist soldiers at the ready – loaded their rifles with fresh rounds of ammo.
Shots rang out. One, then the next, followed by the next, the monks collapsed upon the blood-splashed, frozen ground. Their lifeless bodies, dragged to a nearby sewage ditch and dumped into a heap, one on top of the other. Alerted by the shots, wild dogs, roaming the village’s dirt roads, scavenging for scraps, hurried over to the bodies to investigate. Sniffing, they lapped up the warm blood, steaming in the icy air.
It was all over. Our Lady of Consolation was no more.
The tragic tale of Our Lady of Consolation began 64 years earlier on June 16, 1883. On that glorious day, as the hot summer wind from the Gobi Desert carried its golden dust eastward, and the cicada nymphs emerged reborn, buzzing in celebration of their emergence into new life from their old shell of death, Father Ephrem Seignol, a Trappist monk stood on a ledge, in the shadow of West Soul Mountain. Atop a ridge nearly 10,000 feet high, that much closer to God, he glimpsed for the first time at the valley of Yang Kia Ping (translation: Yang Family Land). Before his eyes lay the birthplace of the Trappist Community in China.
With him, Father Ephrem brought little else except his dreams, his duties of state, God’s will and the name of the future abbey. Before he had departed from his priory in Tamie, France, for China, from the West for the East, from the Occident for the Orient, he visited his close friend Father John Bosco, in Turin, Italy. The future saint suggested that the abbey be christened with the same name as the chapel in which they were sitting: Our Lady of Consolation. And so it would be.
The Trappists had answered a call from Roman Catholics in the village of Fan Shan. Desperate for Mass and the sacraments on a regular basis, the Chinese natives had enticed the monks with an offer to sell to the religious order an immense valley of rocky, untilled, virgin land in Chahar province (now Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Hebei province).
Yang Kia Ping, approximately 60 square miles in size, about 75 miles – as the Mongolian ring-necked pheasant flies – northwest of Peking (old form of Beijing), the northern capital of what was at that time Imperial China, where Empress Dowager Cixi ruled from the Inner Palace of the Forbidden City.
Travel to the site of the future abbey was measured in days, not hours.
Back in 1883, when Father Ephrem arrived in the valley, the Imperial Peking-Kalgan Railway didn’t exist. Construction wouldn’t even begin until 1905, with its completion in October 1909. The fastest, smoothest form of travel consisted of jostling atop a mule, along narrow dirtways through the fields and plains. To reach the stony plateau in the Taihang Mountains in Huailai County, a traveler had to be on alert through the heavily wooded areas, on the lookout for bandits and bears. Along the death-defying paths, one had to rely on a trustworthy mule that tested the rock-strewn trails with its hoof before putting its weight down, hugging close to towers of sheer rock reaching skyward to avoid falling straight down the ravine on the other side.
To form a Trappist religious Community from a valley of rocks seemed intimidating, but not impossible. With religious recruits from Europe and from the local villages, despite a slow start, eventually, on those rocks, they built their church, Our Lady of Consolation, an impressive replica of the architectural beauty at Mount St. Bernard Abbey. Pilgrims arriving for the first time and looking down upon the abbey from any ridge high in the surrounding mountains, saw a Community so large inside its enclosure, it appeared like any village in the hills. The church was encircled by several single-story buildings and three courtyards. A vegetable garden sprouted up in the middle of the valley, along with its blossoming fruit trees and, of course, a luscious vineyard, where Brother Ireneus Wang, the self-taught viticulturist, tenderly coaxed the grapes, harvested for the Mass wine.

From the Chinese countryside, and even from the highly cultured, international port city of Shanghai, many boys and men had felt the call to the Trappist austere way of life, with its silence and solitude, prayer and penance. The abbey had been blessed with vocations: oblates, postulants and novices. So many joined the Community, that Pope Pius XI, in his 1926 encyclical “Rerum Ecclesiae,” lauded the monks for their exceptional work in the missions and of winning vocations by bringing pagans to the Church. Two years later, on April 29, 1928, the abbey opened a daughterhouse, Our Lady of Joy, with 95 Community members, about 3 miles from Chengtingfu (old form of Zhengding), in the province of Hopei (old form of Hebei).
By the time Christmas 1936 rolled around, Our Lady of Consolation was at its height, with the Community numbering around 120 monks, mostly Chinese natives, who had attended Mass in the abbey’s chapel built for the faithful from the surrounding villages. The first, built in 1909, at Gate No. 2, marked the entrance and exit in the second enclosure wall. A larger chapel was built in 1934, at Gate No. 1, during the construction of the third, outermost wall, which stood 12 feet high and spanned more than 2 miles. Along its western partition, the wall was dotted with loopholes, narrow slits that were never used for its intended purpose – rifles, but instead as peepholes to peer out at the ever-flowing Pei Ho river.
Even though majestic, the abbey reflected the austere nature of any cloister of Trappists, the common name for the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, an offshoot of the Order of St. Benedict. The new order, established in 1664 at the Abbey of La Trappe, aimed to follow more closely the literal translation of “The Rule of St. Benedict” and focused on the penitential aspect of monasticism: little food, no meat, hard manual labor and strict silence.
Life inside the abbey’s walls, peaceful; however, life outside, complete turmoil.
The Republican Revolution of 1911 ended the centuries-long dynastic rule and made way for the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), which became China’s official government, formed by a number of Republican cliques that had ousted the traditional rulers. Then the Communists in Moscow, the Red capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, sent some of its cogs in the Communist International machine to Shanghai, where the Comintern successfully established the Communist Party, in 1921.
Communists successfully penetrated into the Nationalist political organization by clandestine means. But in 1927, the Nationalists – headed by Generalissimo Kai-Shek Chiang – uncovered and ousted its Red contingent, because of its incitement and sadistic fondness of mob violence – especially at the encouragement of its ringleader Tse-Tung Mao. That ejection in 1927 ignited the highly volatile, on-again-off-again Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists, between Chiang and Mao, which ravaged China for more than two decades.
Also a factor was the Empire of Japan, which saw the fractures in China’s infrastructure as an opportunity to make land grabs. In an attempt to establish their own political and economic domination, in 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria, a region in northeast China, where they wanted to get their hands on China’s natural resources of coal, iron, gold and giant forests. Six years later, on July 7, 1937 (referred to as 7-7-7), the Second Chinese-Japanese War began when the Imperial Japanese Army marched victoriously into Peking, then into Shanghai and on and on throughout China.
As the Japanese advanced, the Nationalists withdrew from Peking and northern China. The Japanese could not fill all the holes left by the Nationalists in their retreat, and the areas left vacant and vulnerable were taken over by the Communists – the party opposing the Nationalists.
In October 1937, only a few months after the outbreak of the Second Chinese-Japanese War, the Communists reached Huailai County and the valley of Yang Kia Ping. Our Lady of Consolation found itself between the two forces. Japanese soldiers to the north and the east. To the south and the west, Chinese Communist soldiers.
But a peace existed, tentatively, but it existed.
The Japanese had not been hostile to the abbey; to the contrary, they had been respectful, out of reverence for the spiritual nature of the Community.
So, too, the Communists treated the monks with respect, face to face, but their non-aggressive actions were not sincere. Avowed atheists, Communists consider religion to be one of the evils of the traditional, feudal, “old” world – a declared enemy in Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” published in 1848. Also, because the abbey had been established by Europeans, the monks were considered Western invaders, imperialistic enemies of the Chinese Marxists, who disregarded the fact that Marxism was, yet, another European import.
For two years, the Reds, experts at gathering and using information as power, continued their faux friendship, as they secretly reconned intelligence from the Community. When it was learned that the monks had a cache of weapons, the Communists made a move to get their hands on the firearms. Politely, they asked to borrow the guns, claiming they were needed to fight the Japanese. Politely, the monks refused. But, Communists have never liked refusals.
On October 15, 1939, around noon, the oblates – the youngest members of the abbey’s Community – headed outside the enclosure for their usual Sunday walk in the mountains, where they liked to climb sections of the Great Wall. When they reached Gate No. 1, at the third enclosure wall, the young monks-in-training found hundreds of Communist soldiers blocking their exit. Not permitted to leave, the youths notified the porter, who notified more monks, who notified the superior.
It was an official visit, the Reds claimed, as per the orders of Long Ho and Te Chu, the commanders-in-chief of their army. The officers wanted all weapons to be handed over – immediately. Several hours of unsuccessful negotiations passed between the Trappists and the Communists, both inflexible.
At a stalemate, the monks met off to the side, out of earshot of the Reds and discussed what to do. Some believed they should not comply; others felt they should; both wanted to avoid a possible unpleasant circumstance in the future. Finally, a decision was reached. The monks opened the gate and stepped out of the way as the troops entered the compound. The Trappists willingly surrendered all their weapons – all 28 rifles, which French authorities in Peking had sent after the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, so the monks could protect themselves.
But those 28 rifles weren’t good enough. The Communists demanded the monks also hand over what they had hidden in their arsenal. When the monks responded that they didn’t have any weapons secretly stashed, the Communists refused to accept that answer.
They grabbed Father Antonius Fan, the prior, and dragged him out to the orchard, where they drew a rope over his chest and under his arms tied behind his back, then strung him up on a tree. For three hours, he dangled, with his toes just a breath away from touching the ground, until he was cut loose.
At the same time, the Communist henchmen cornered and questioned Brother Alexius Liu. What that short monk lacked in height, he more than made up for in personal strength as he was physically tortured. When that failed to garner information, the Reds tried to scare him into talking.
Shots were fired out in the orchard.
“Do you hear those shots?” they asked him. “Those are the executions of the monks who didn’t want to talk! That’s the road you’re going to march down, if you don’t declare where the rest of the guns are hidden.”
“Even if you kill me, I have nothing more to say! There are no more!” Brother Alexius answered.
More shots fired.
“Do you hear those? That’s to warn you that you can either talk or be shot.”
“I’m not afraid of dying. Kill me, if you want to.”
They ordered him to step before his executioners.
With fear searing through his blood, Brother Alexius shook uncontrollably as he stepped forward. An order was shouted. A shot, fired. A single bullet passed, just grazing the monk’s head.
“Talk now, clearly and without evasion and tricks. Where are the other guns and ammunition hidden?”
“To tell you the truth,” he answered, “according to the dictates of my conscience, and for the well being of the abbey, I will once again tell you that there are no more arms, other than the ones you have already seized. No more!”
Exasperated, the soldiers decided to let him go.
For five days, the Communists searched every inch of the abbey, inside and out, moving furniture, probing cupboards, lifting floorboards, digging in the gardens and excavating the storage caves. After the futile search turned up nothing more, the soldiers withdrew from the abbey on Friday, October 20, apologizing profusely for any trouble they had caused.
However, the Reds left behind their goons: the kan pu, the cadres, the Party’s unofficial police – the muscle, the enforcers of the dictates of the Communist Party. They were to slowly put the squeeze on the monks. After the rifles, it was food that was demanded. Since the monks had no weapons to protect themselves or their property, they could do nothing as the Reds confidently walked in with empty arms and walked out with armloads of food. Next, the squeals of pigs could be heard as they were slaughtered, then cows. After food, it was money the Reds demanded, then more money, in ever increasing increments.
Completely under the Red thumbs of the Communists, the monks secretly made plans to get out.
On April 4, 1940, the exodus began. In the first group, five oblates sneaked by the cadres and made their way over the mountains to the abbey’s daughterhouse, Our Lady of Joy, in Hopei province, about 190 miles southwest of Peking. In the following months, by dribs and drabs, 25 more members of the Community – including novices, simple professed and young priests – successfully reached the house of refuge. In a final disappearing act, 12 oblates walked all the way to the Marist Brothers residence a few miles outside the walls of Peking.
When the cadres noticed the dwindling numbers in the Community, the two-faced Party goons decided they had to do something. Hiding their true faces behind their smiling faces, the cadres met with the monks, begged forgiveness for their greedy behavior and promised to be nicer and less demanding in the future. For six months, the abbey had no trouble from the Communists, so thinking the Reds had truly changed their ways, it was decided that those members of the Community who had been sent away would be called back home.
Around March 1941, by the time most of the young men had been recalled to the abbey, the Communists pulled back their masks and revealed their true faces when they placed the whole Community under house arrest. Under constant surveillance, every move was watched. Nothing could be done by the monks without permission of the Communists. No one went in; no one went out unless authorized.
At the time, politically, strategically, the Communists were very busy building up their military strength and setting up their own administrative system in northern China, including the areas around the abbey. For, during World War II, the Communists had tricked the Nationalists into a civil-war truce, feigning the two could join forces to fight the Japanese. However, the Reds had no intentions of keeping the truce, but used it as an opportunity to make sure the Nationalists were worn down by the war against the Japanese.
With the end of World War II, on August 15, 1945, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Japanese forces retreated from their positions around the world, thus withdrawing from China. The end of the war also ended the so-called truce between Mao’s Communists and Chiang’s Nationalists. The all-out civil war between the two ensued in a brutal fight, with Mao chomping down on Chiang, eventually hounding him all the way to Formosa (old Portuguese name of Taiwan).
But the Nationalists weren’t the only targets during the civil war. The Communists also started targeting other enemies: counterrevolutionaries, religious believers and landlords.
The Trappists were all three.
The Communists wanted to destroy the abbey and its Community, but to legitimize their destruction of the abbey, the Communists needed to produce evidence that the monks committed some sort of crime.
In August 1945, during the hottest days of the summer, the Communists began turning up the heat even more. For health reasons, supposedly, a Communist general, a commissioner of the People, and his assistant stopped off at the abbey for a bit of a rest. It was not all that unusual for travelers to lodge for short periods in Yang Kia Ping, what all the locals called Our Lady of Consolation. However, ever wary of the Communists, the abbot, Father Alexis Baillon, assigned Brother Adrianus Wang, the sub-guest master, to keep an eye on the two guests during their stay, which coincided with a burial inside the enclosure.
The general’s assistant attended the funeral and, later, expressed his admiration for the solemnity and beauty of the ceremony, to Brother Adrianus.
“The funeral was so beautiful. At home, we are buried like dogs,” the assistant said, adding, “The general treats me like a dog. If I could, I would try to kill him.”
“Don’t do it here,” Brother Adrianus said.
A few days later, the general went for a little walk, but as soon as he returned, he abruptly left the abbey without any explanation. Weeks later, Communist soldiers arrived at the abbey and arrested Brother Adrianus, claiming that the officer’s assistant had revealed under torture that the monk had suggested the general be assassinated. The Brother’s room was searched, and there soldiers found a notebook with the following entry, a quote from the abbot, Father Alexis: “Pray God to destroy the Communists.”
On the suspicion of plotting the general’s death, soldiers next arrested the abbot, Father Alexis, and Father Maurus Bougon, who had been the guest master during the general’s stay. Devastated and inconsolable for believing that he was the cause of so much trouble, Brother Adrianus, fell to his knees, pounded his chest (Trappist sign language for expressing sorrow) and sobbed uncontrollably, calling himself Judas, for the betrayal he believed that he had committed against the Community.
On October 25, 1945, all arrested were hauled off to Huang An, a village about 20 miles from the abbey, where they were imprisoned in a small room, without furniture, without heat. Father Alexis and Father Maurus had their feet shackled to the floor with irons, all winter long, until March, when the abbey received a notice: Send the mules to fetch the abbot and the other prisoners. On March 17, 1946, all were returned to the abbey and set free except the abbot, Father Alexis, who was ordered to leave China. On May 12, he headed back to France.
On December 1, 1946, an announcement was made in the Chapter Room, where the monks met daily for the reading of a chapter from “The Rule of St. Benedict.” In the absence of a father abbot, Father Michaelus Hsu was to be the superior of the Community.

Intelligent and highly cultured, Father Michaelus had been born in the Tsing-Pu district of Shanghai on March 18, 1901, into a family with an aristocratic background. He was a direct descendant (12th generation) of Prime Minister Kuang-Chi “Paul” Hsu – a member of Empress Dowager Cixi’s Imperial Court, guardian and tutor of the sons of the Imperial House and chancellor of the National Institute. After his death in 1633, the prime minister was buried with great honors. But, perhaps, most importantly, he had been converted to the Faith by Father Matteo Ricci (Society of Jesus), an Italian and one of the founding fathers of the Jesuit mission in China.
As for Father Maurus, upon his return from imprisonment, his religious superiors in Europe gave him an ultimatum: Return to France, or minister a parish in China. He chose to remain in China and was appointed a parish priest in Peimong, south of Peking.
As the abbey restructured its hierarchy, the local Communists continued to set up and strategize for the upcoming “struggle” against the monks.
In the “Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Marx’s philosophy of the “struggle,” later coined dialectical materialism, can be understood in a formula: Thesis plus antithesis equals synthesis. To make it even simpler and to apply it to the Chinese Communist agenda: Minor enemies pitted against major enemy equals new minor enemies pitted against new major enemy.
The struggle was a form of elimination that – when enacted by Mao and his henchmen – eliminated political enemies – minor and major.
To prepare for the proper political struggle nationally, Communists began establishing neighborhood associations in China’s cities and peasant associations in the villages. The associations held mandatory-attendance political meetings, brainwashing sessions organized to push the Party’s particular struggle against whomever the current political enemy was.
At times, when a particular enemy was to be targeted and “struggled” against, the enemy could be attacked at either a small struggle session (attended by members of a single association) or at a large struggle rally (attended by members of several neighboring associations). Attendance by members, always mandatory. At a large struggle rally, the targets were usually placed on a raised platform, before hundreds and hundreds of members, who screamed rehearsed slogans as cadres walked through the crowds, agitating and inciting acts of rage. Violence – often sadistic and fatal – was encouraged and regarded as legitimate acts of revenge by the oppressed People against their oppressors.
The Trappists of Our Lady of Consolation were considered oppressors. They were also considered major enemies.
In the province of Chahar, there was one Communist official who wanted the abbey destroyed and its members “liquidated.” A bitter fanatic, he searched for someone with a like mind, and eventually he found the perfect Party man for the job and appointed him to take care of the extermination. That man was an ambitious man, who hated everything having to do with God and loved everything having to do with the Communist Party. That man was an intelligent man, who had attended a university in Peking, where he passed his law exams. That man, like Mao, was from a family of landowners (considered oppressors, enemies of the People), and, also like Mao, he renounced his family.
That man was Tui-Shih Li.
The struggle against the abbey began in April 1947, when, at the peasant association meetings in the villages surrounding the Trappist Community, the Communists began agitating the peasants, turning them against the monks. The cadres told the peasants that all the land the monks possessed actually belonged to the People, that the monks were trying to be lords over the peasants, that the monks were the oppressors and that the peasants were the oppressed People.
For two months, the Communists agitated the peasants. Then they struck the abbey.
On July 1, 1947, two monks were tending some livestock on the abbey’s property in Hsing Chuang, about 1 mile north of the enclosure wall, when they were confronted and hauled before a People’s Court, a staged mass struggle meeting orchestrated by the Communists. Charged and declared guilty of oppressing the People, the lay brothers were ordered to hand over some of the abbey’s goats and cows to the People.
The next day, July 2, 1947, the Communists made their big push on the monks.
Two messengers arrived at the abbey and ordered Father Seraphinus Hsih and Father Chrysostomus Chang to stand trial before a People’s Court. Under guard, the monks were marched about 1.5 miles south of the abbey, down to a dry riverbed in the village of Li Chia Wan Tze. Forced onto a platform, the two stood before a gathering of peasants, assembled from many villages in the surrounding areas.
Accused of alleged offenses that had occurred almost 50 years before, the two had to answer to charges that included: During the time of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, foreign troops had oppressed the People of north China and that Our Lady of Consolation had been built with indemnities exacted from the Chinese government by the foreign powers.
“These monks are guilty,” shouted cadres. “Do you agree or disagree?”
“We agree!” the peasants shouted back.
Unexpectedly, a young villager stepped forward and complained that during the time of the Boxer Rebellion, a Christian had killed a goat belonging to his grandfather, then sought refuge in the abbey.
Quickly, the chief judge tabulated the damages: One goat has two baby goats two times a year. After 48 years the total number would be 192 baby goats.
“The will of the People must be fulfilled. For this, the abbey must give property to the People,” the judge ruled. “Are you with us or not?”
“With you!” screamed the peasants, the same peasants who had sought refuge in the abbey in times of danger, had sought food in the abbey in times of famine, had sought relief in the abbey in times of stress. It was those same peasants, who had bestowed the abbey with several memorial tablets, as gifts of appreciation for the years of selfless aid.
Released temporarily, Father Seraphinus and Father Chrysostomus made several trips back and forth from the village to the abbey back to the village to declare whatever goods and property the abbey possessed. Finally, a decision was made. The abbey was to hand over the farm property in Hsing Chuang to the grandson, to make up for the damages allegedly suffered by his grandfather 47 years before. And to the peasants, the abbey would give 50 blankets.
On July 7, the two priests returned to the abbey with a group of men from the village, who were to collect the blankets. Within hours, word had spread from village to village that the peasants of Li Chia Wan Tze were taking all of the abbey’s goods. Afraid of missing out on the loot, villagers rushed to the Yang Kia Ping, en masse. At the stroke of midnight, on July 8, 1947, peasants from an estimated 30 villages gathered outside the wall, pounding on Gate No. 1.
Wakened, the abbey’s porter went to check on all the noise. As soon as he opened the gate, he was beaten, and the peasants with torches rushed onto the property, pushing through the monks who had also wakened and attempted to calm down the mob who ran to the dormitory. The peasants grabbed mattresses right out from under the sick, and emptied the straw from the serge cloth – a rarity in those parts. They snatched quilts, linens, blankets. They ripped down curtains. Anything they could get their hands on, they dragged off.
By 2 a.m., the looting, the madness was over.
Usually, at that time in the morning, the appointed bell ringer would light the passages, open the church doors and awaken the sleeping monks by ringing the dormitory bell for the space of a Miserere. But that morning, it was not necessary. The monks, heartbroken that the peasants had turned on them, had already made their way to the church of Our Lady of Consolation, where they sought consolation with their pre-dawn routine of mental prayer, Canonical Office, the Angelus and private masses.
By morning’s light, around 7 a.m., the roar of the mob, with its shouts and screams heard from a great distance, approached quickly. The monks rushed to the Tabernacle, to rescue and consume the remaining Hosts, before the second wave of looters, armed with the military backup, swarmed through the abbey, demanding and taking more.
The library was destroyed. Valuable leather covers were ripped from the binding of the books by the illiterate peasants who threw up the loose-leaf pages that went flying, destroying a lifetime of work by Father Simon Hsu, the abbey’s talented bookbinder. Some of the villagers dashed into the refectory, where members of the Community were eating, and snatched the napkins and utensils from the monks’ hands. The storerooms were broken into, and the contents – beans, corn, millet, sorghum, lentils, nuts, honey, salt, and cheese made from their goats’ milk – were confiscated, not for the peasants, but for the Communist soldiers. From the tool house, the shoe shop, the blacksmith shop everything ransacked and looted. In the tailor shop, three of the five sewing machines destroyed; the other two carted away for the Communists. In the church, the mob tied up the sacristan, stole his keys and proceeded to carry off the chalices, vestments and other sacred objects. One of the peasants was seen with a priest’s stole tied around his waist.
Once the abbey had been gutted of all material possessions, the Reds turned on the monks and arrested all 75, of which only five were foreigners. The rest were native Chinese. Locked up in the Chapter Room, which no longer had any furniture after the looting, the monks were forced to sleep on the stone floor, under the low-vaulted ceiling. In that same room, many of the men, as postulants had received the holy habit. As novices, many had made their temporary professions.
Father Michaelus, the superior, embraced from the very beginning a tragic ending.
“We will all die together,” he predicted.
For two days and two nights the prisoners waited. Outside the windows, in those mountains of northern China, the buzzing of the cicadas pierced the air, as the resurrected insects emerged from their nymph-shell tombs.
On July 10, the door swung open, and the men were rounded up and herded, two-by-two, through the cloister, through the gardens, through the gates and led to a level field outside the third enclosure wall. On the side of a mountain, hundreds and hundreds of peasants, from about 30 villages, raised their fists, screamed slogans. Banners, splashed with large Chinese characters, snapped in the hot wind from the west. The largest flag, displayed in blood-red: the trial of yang kia ping by all villages.
A struggle rally was about to begin.
Three priests were singled out. Again, Father Seraphinus and Father Chrysostomus, but when officials called for the superior of the abbey, Father Augustinus Faure, a much-loved, old Frenchman, stepped forward to spare the superior, Father Michaelus. The rest of the monks, ordered to stand near the table where the judges sat, baked in the heat. Soldiers, at the command, ripped the habits from some of the monks, stripping them, baring their torsos, to sizzle under the blazing mid-day sun.
Chief judge Chu-Jan Su presided.
Father Seraphinus was called first.

Again, he had to answer to charges, not against himself, but against the abbey. Charges included that the abbey had been responsible for the suppression of the Boxers by foreign powers, that the abbey had received weapons from the French government to use against the People of the region, and that the abbey had hid precious treasures in the hills, to keep them from the People.
Then a new charge was lodged against him. Because he was the cellarer, the person in charge of the farms and buildings, he was accused of usurping the best land in the region and living off the People by keeping for the monks the produce of the fertile acres.
After each accusation, he claimed innocence, for which he was brutally clubbed.
Then Father Chrysostomus was called.

Chu-Jan Su announced, “We have found Seraphinus Hsih guilty of crimes against the People. If you do not agree with our verdict and confess them yourself, you are as good as dead. Is it true, yes or no?”
“No! It is not true!” Father Chrysostomus answered.
Torturers at his side were given a signal. They raised their clubs and pounded away on him.
Then Father Augustinus was called. He stepped forward and tried to reason with Chu-Jan Su, but his calm demeanor only infuriated the Communist judge, who ordered that the old priest receive the same treatment as the other two.
After the accusations, after the beatings, Chu-Jan Su announced that the abbey should reimburse the People for any and all losses and damages.
Father Augustinus said, “To give you what you ask, even though guiltless of what you say, 10 Yang Kia Pings would not suffice.”

The Party goons rushed to the old man, clubbing him down for his statement.
The actual superior, Father Michaelus, felt so guilt ridden that the old Frenchman had assumed the position of the superior and had taken the beatings for him, that he shook uncontrollably and had to be held up by monks standing near him, as they were rounded up and led back to the abbey. At first, locked up in the church, they were later moved to the dormitory, where they were watched, beaten and given little to eat.
On the morning of July 23, 1947, the soldiers swung open the doors, rounding up the men, kicking them out of the dormitory. Herded toward the church, the monks – the old and infirm as well as the young and strong – were shoved into the lower choral seats. Red soldiers sat in the choir stalls, where the priests once stood, chanting the Divine Office. Peasants filled the rest of the church.
A desk for the judges had been placed underneath the extinguished sanctuary lamp in the presbytery, where each day the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary had been offered. Flanked by his assistants, the head judge sat in the middle.
It was Tui-Shih Li.
From his seat, he looked at the monks and bit down on the lit cigarette sticking out from between his teeth.
Father Guglielmus Cambourieu, gifted with a very sensitive nature, whispered to his confreres, “We’re all going to die martyrs. Let’s make a general Act of Contrition.”

They were to be tried before another People’s Court.
Again, Father Seraphinus was called first.
The court accused him of traveling from village to village, spying among the peasants to gather information for the Japanese during the Second Chinese-Japanese War that ended with the end of World War II.
Father Seraphinus denied the charge and rejected the accusation as absurd.
With a simple order, Li’s men relentlessly clubbed the monk.
“Show a little mercy! Show a little mercy!” Father Seraphinus cried out.
“Now is not the time for mercy,” Li said, puffing away on his cigarette, surrounded in a cloud of smoke. “Now is the time for revenge.”
Village catechist Maria Chang, from the Yihsien district, was called forward. Abandoned as a child, she had been raised by the Daughters of Charity. Told what was expected of her, she was to be a witness for the prosecution.
“It was not Father Seraphinus Hsih who came to our village!” she testified. “It was Father Maurus Bougon. And he did not come to seek information for the Japanese; he came to bring the sacraments to the sick and dying!”
Livid that she went against orders and testified in favor of the accused, Li ordered her tied to a granite pillar and clubbed. Repeatedly, the goons hit her on the head and back.
From the lower choral seats, where the monks sat, a voice cried out.
“It’s inhuman to savagely beat a woman!”
It was Brother Isidorus Ying.
When Maria Chang slumped to the floor, her attackers yanked down a hanging banner and tossed it over her limp body. Then they went over to her defender, Brother Isidorus, grabbed him and beat him as they had beaten the catechist.
Next, Father Chrysostomus was called.
From his seat, Li boasted that he was going to make Father Chrysostomus confess everything. But Li didn’t know who he was dealing with.
As an oblate accepted into the abbey, the young Chrysostomus had been quarrelsome and stubborn, downright unpleasant at times. But as he matured, he harnessed his faults. With his mind and with his will, he persevered to control his weak, contentious human nature, until he changed so much he became highly regarded by the others in the Community as a man of great virtue. That’s who Li was dealing with.
Father Chrysostomus was questioned. Accused. Beaten. But he bore all in silence, with a calm that infuriated Li. The more the monk remained silent, the more the torturers attacked him. He fell to the floor, taking the hits where he lay, when a fat, old, good-natured monk, Brother Paulus Pan, who had taught the young Chrysostomus from the age of 6 to 12, rushed to the priest and crouched down at his side, trying to block the blows with his own body. He was pulled off, thrown out of the way, and the beating of Father Chrysostomus continued.
With a signal from Li, the trial ended.
“These criminals are all guilty! What is your opinion?” he called out to those assembled.
“We agree! We agree!” the peasants responded.
“What is your verdict?” the judges asked the peasants.
“They must die! Hand them over to us! We will take stones and kill them!” they screamed.
“We can only take the People’s decision as our decision, for the Communist government is the People’s Government. But, we raise one question. Do you, People, want all the monks to suffer or only the more responsible?”
“They deserve to die! All of them!” they screamed.
“To avoid a general slaughter, we will ask the governor to take the cause in his own hands, and only those guilty will be punished,” Li concluded.
Immediately, soldiers ordered eight of the monks deemed most guilty over to the presbytery step, where most had prostrated themselves before making their solemn professions years before. One-by-one, they were shackled hand and foot. They and all the others had their black, knee-length scapulars pulled off from over their white-wool religious habits, which were then chopped off at the knees. All belts, rosaries, medals and other precious objects were confiscated. Those with eyeglasses had them taken away. All monks were locked up in the refectory, but later divided into smaller groups and placed in different rooms throughout the abbey. Some were placed in solitary confinement. All were kept under strict guard day and night.
Impatiently, Li waited for the go-ahead for the executions from the officials at Communist district headquarters in Kalgan (old form of Zhangjiakou), the capital city of Chahar province.
During the wait, all the monks were forced to write “confessions,” autobiographies with pages and pages and pages filled with all the minutiae of daily life, excruciating details about family, friends, studies, the religious life, even about the sacred vessels and precious religious objects.
To extract information, Li continued the interrogations, pacing back and forth, chomping down on his cigarettes during the sessions. So furious at times, he foamed at the mouth, ranted, screamed death threats. After each question from Li, his goons beat the monk, no matter how old or how sick. At first, the blows were only on the lower half of the body, but then the torture became so severe, frequently the men lost consciousness. One of the monks, Father Benedictus-Josephus Labre Hou fainted three times during one session.
The torturers also employed different techniques. At one point, Father Michaelus, the superior, was forced on top of the abbey’s mill to push the grindstone, intended to serve as an example to scare and motivate his nephew, Brother Eligius Hsu, who had accompanied his uncle to the abbey in the summer of 1937 and joined the Community a year later. Instead of frightening his nephew, he encouraged him to be strong under torture.

From atop the grist mill next to the cow barn, Father Michaelus yelled to his nephew, “Look, sooner or later I will die. To me, it is of little importance. But you, if you obey the Communists, how will you save your soul?”
Word about Li’s sadistic cruelties endured by the monks made its way to the ears of Tso-Yi Fu, a Nationalist general HQ’d in Peking. So furious was he to hear what the Trappists had endured, that he vowed to march to Yang Kia Ping and liberate the monks of Our Lady of Consolation from the blood-drenched hands of the Communists. He ordered his troops to grab their gear and hop aboard the Imperial Peking-Kalgan Railway train. ASAP.
However, Li learned of the planned rescue march and hurriedly made his own plans to evacuate his prisoners to a hideout in the mountains.
During the night of August 12, Li assembled the monks.
“You have been blinded by your religious superiors and by your life behind the cloistered walls,” Li told them. “You should see how life in China has changed under the Communists.”
That night, packs filled with food – mostly for the soldiers – were strapped onto the backs of the monks, many with their hands cuffed behind their backs and their ankles weighed down with chains. The soldiers herded their prisoners outdoors, through Gate No. 1 at the outermost enclosure wall, and toward the mountain trails. Whipped and beaten with sticks like mules, the monks stumbled along, up incredibly dark mountain paths nearly invisible under the waxing crescent moon.
Without rest, the marchers continued until after noon the next day, when they reached Chang Ko Chuang, Li’s immediate destination. The village was a Communist outpost already picked clean by the Reds. The procession veered toward a once-beautiful home, confiscated from a landlord, an enemy of the People. Given to the People, the residence had been trashed by the People. Herded into sectioned-off rooms, the monks collapsed onto the floors, exhausted from too much walking and too little food.

The march had been too much for one man. As soon as the pack had been lifted from the back of Brother Bruno Fu (b. 1868), the 79-year-old fell to the floor, never to rise again. Two days later, on August 15, 1947, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he should have been celebrating the golden jubilee of his solemn and final vows. Instead, the kindhearted old man lay dead. The proto-martyr of the Trappist monks of Our Lady of Consolation, had been born in Hopei province, part of Ho Kiang Hsien, but the charitable and pious monk would never return to his home; his body was dumped without ceremony in a shallow grave.
After hearing that the abbey had been abandoned by the Communists, the Nationalist general, Tso-Yi Fu, cancelled the mission, abandoned his rescue plans and ordered his troops to turn around.
Li had successfully avoided a showdown. On August 18, he decided to return everyone back to the abbey. Another black night, and the monks marched down the mountain paths toward Yang Kia Ping. By the time the prisoners filed through Gate No 1, slogged toward their cells, two more neared death. By August 20, both were dead. Without ceremony, but inside the enclosure, they were buried.

Brother Philippus Liu (b. 1877), a horticulturist for most of his life, was from the district of Feng Tai Hsien, a little south of Peking in Hopei province.

Brother Clemens Kao (b. 1899), physically handicapped, had been born in Chahar province, in the Yu Chow Hsien district, where many Trappist vocations blossomed.

Within days of the Communists’ return, again, Nationalist General Tso-Yi Fu gave the order to gear up and head out. Destination: abbey. And, again, Li determined his best defense was distance, so he planned another transfer of all prisoners and supplies to a hideout in the mountains that offered more protection.
Soldiers rounded up the prisoners, and those with their arms and legs free were soon restrained with cuffs until those ran out, then piano wire was twisted and knotted around wrists. Packs were strapped onto their backs. In the thick of the night, Li ordered the march to begin, heading to their ultimate destination: the Communist-held village of Mu Chia Chwang, located an estimated 65 miles from the abbey.
August 28, 1947. Under a waning gibbous moon, the Death March began, the final march for many.
The caravan of prisoners left Our Lady of Consolation and headed south. Bent over from the heavy supplies, and with their hands restrained behind their backs, the monks stumbled forward, with the chains around their bleeding ankles clanking along the rough and stony paths. The pace, frantic and frenetic. Rest, forbidden, the soldiers kept the prisoners moving with threats and whips, shouts and sticks.
Soldiers taunted, “You believe in God! If your God exists, why doesn’t He help you? Why doesn’t He get you out of here?”
After a grueling 20-mile march through the night and into the morning, Li halted everyone at Ta Lung Men, in Hopei province, near a branch of the Great Wall. But the stay was only brief before orders were given to get up and get moving. They veered southeast, headed for a breach between two steep mountains.
During the summer months, torrential downpours often arrived unannounced. So, too, during the march, when even the weather seemed against the monks. Sudden, unforgiving rains dropped down like weights. Around noon, as the prisoners and their torturers crossed over a crest, they headed into a freezing deluge that soaked the monks, in their thin summer clothing and cotton shoes.
Brutalized and humiliated, the monks lacked food, they lacked clothing, but there was no lack of beatings from the Reds. Some of the Trappists, so old and so weak, could not walk another step on their own, so along the way, the strongest picked up a few small trees and branches, which they fixed into litters to carry the fallen.
On August 31, they reached the village of Tai Ping Tsun, and the prisoners were herded into pig pens, where they briefly rested in rain-soaked pig dung until forced up and out once again.
Along the way, on the night of September 6, somewhere in the district of La Hsun Hsien, those carrying the litter of Father Guglielmus Cambourieu, slipped and lost their grip. The old priest, originally with the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, tumbled onto the ground, where he bashed his head against a rock. Although bleeding profusely, his gaping wound went undetected in the black night, until the marchers stopped in the little village of Ma Lai Tsun, high in the mountains of Hopei province. In the dark, last rites were secretly administered, with urgency, and Father Guglielmus (b. 1874) died shortly after. He had been the one who had predicted during the trial in the church that they were going to die martyrs. Without ceremony, he was quickly buried, and the marchers continued. He would never return to his native homeland of Auvergne, France.

By the time the marchers arrived in Teng Chia Yu, on September 8, the monks who carried the litter of Father Stephanus Maury (b. 1886) knew that the priest, originally a French Lazarist with the Congregation of the Mission, didn’t have long to live. At some point he had felt death approaching and signaled that he wanted to make his last confession. In a narrow bend along the path, Father Sebastianus Pian, carrying the right front corner nodded for others to delay on a turn. There, he bent over, listened to the dying man’s final words and pronounced absolution.

Lagging behind, Brother Damianus Hwang finally reached the village. With his arms bound behind his back, he could only crawl forward on his knees. Years earlier, he had suffered frostbite on his feet and, subsequently, walked with great difficulty. After his feet gave out on the march, he fell to his knees and could only drag himself along. The soldiers whipped him, kicked him, punched him, then threw him into a pigsty alongside the pigs.

Rain continued. Wind continued. Without light in their cells, they spent all their hours in the dark. Without heat, only the fire of Christ in their hearts warmed them. Without quilts, frost blanketed them in the early morning. Without water to cleanse their bodies, only lice flowed freely on their flesh. Without solid food, only diarrhea blasted through their bowels, usually where they sat, without permission to relieve themselves properly. Without winter clothing, only their summer clothing, soaked in their own filth, covered them.
All the while, interrogations continued. Li, always biting down on a cigarette between his teeth, paced back and forth under a cloud of silver-gray smoke. Stomping his feet. Slamming down his fist. Screaming. Taunting the glorious rising of the Communist Party and the destruction of the Catholic Church. It all thrilled him.
“Yang Kia Ping has been destroyed to its foundation, and it will never rise again,” he taunted. “Before too long, there will be no more Catholic Church in all of China!”
To prove his point, Li sent Father Theodorus Yuan and Brother Alexius Liu, under a heavy guard, to return to the abbey to see for themselves.
They arrived at dawn, and stood on a ledge, in the shadows of West Soul Mountain. They looked down at Yang Kia Ping, at their former home, Our Lady of Consolation. It had been destroyed. The two were marched back to their cells, to their chains, and reported back to the others that, indeed, their former home was nothing but smoking ruins. Only the mule stables remained standing, seemingly a visual testament to the stubborn nature of the animal. The rest, rubble amid ashes.
Li had planned to win Father Seraphinus Hsih over to his side. It had happened before with others. Others too weak to withstand the emotional, physical and mental torture had succumbed.
But Father Seraphinus was not like the others. He was not like those too weak to withstand the torture. He was strong. His mental strength held him up, held him together. A master orator and rhetorician, a native of the Paoting (old form of Baoding) diocese in Hopei province, he surpassed all in the abbey, even the elegant and much-educated superior, Father Michaelus Hsu. The most brilliant of the brilliant men at the abbey, there had been big plans for Father Seraphinus. He was to be the first, the very first native Chinese abbot.
No, he was most definitely not like the others.
The more he refused Li’s encouragement and enticement of apostasy, the more the Communists pounded away on him, beating him, clubbing him, kicking him without stopping. The more he remained constant in his faith, the more the Communists resented him, loathed him, hated him. With each passing day, the brutality of his torturers increased. His hands were bound behind his back by tying his thumbs together with wire, then his big toes were bound together with wire, and, finally, his legs were pulled behind him so that his toes and thumbs were joined by a short wire, so short that he could only kneel or lie on his side at all times. He remained hogtied for several weeks, and the beatings continued.
“We know that you don’t fear death, but we will beat and torture you continuously so that you will never possess more than half of your life. Thus being half alive and half dead, you will agree with what we say,” the torturers taunted.
When Father Seraphinus returned to his place among the other prisoners after interrogations, he never complained. He merely lay with his body quivering from pain; only, occasionally, a sob would escape.
But Father Seraphinus never gave in.
Father Chrysostomus was kept in solitary confinement at all times in a filth-laden sty while at Teng Chia Yu, alongside the pigs. During interrogations, he was frequently tortured by being suspended from the ceiling. His inner and outer strength seemed supernatural. Like the others, he endured all in silence, but once, during one of the interrogations, he asked for a blanket.
“You don’t think right,” his interrogator answered. “Or if you do, you don’t speak what you think. It is only proper that you should sleep with pigs.”
Never-ending suffering for some, but for others, the suffering ended.
At Teng Chia Yu, Father Alphonsus L’Heureux (b. 1894) had been separated from the others. A missionary with the Society of Jesus, he switched to the Trappist monastery late in life. A French Canadian, strong in body and will. When he worked in the fields, he put all his heart and soul into it, and could do the same work in one afternoon that three Chinese men did in two days. Strong in faith and will, as soon as he returned from the fields, without fail, he headed straight to the church for the Stations of the Cross, then kneeled before the altar of the Sacred Heart for contemplation. Every day, he went to the Sacrament of Penance.
With that strength of will, he faced his interrogators and their taunts.
“Ha! If He’s a God who does not care to help you, or one who cannot help you, you can have Him,” guards taunted. “For our part, we don’t believe in God.”
Backed with scholarship of the pre-Vatican II Jesuits, Father Alphonsus refuted vigorously their arguments, for which he was brutally tortured, until he could only lay on the ground, in solitary confinement, barely alive, without a blanket or even a rag to cover his body in the cold. Suffering from dysentery, his feces, like white mucus, encrusted his trousers that were never removed or cleaned. When he lay dying, his hands, bound with steel wire behind his back since the trial on July 23, were finally freed, but the wrists had swelled, nearly unrecognizable with red, gaping wounds that resembled opened, toothless mouths screaming.
On Friday, September 12, the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, rain poured steadily in the Chinese village of Teng Chia Yu. Autumn, the most beautiful season in the Taihang Mountains, with the explosion of blood red from the Chinese maples dotting the landscape with its blood red on the slopes.
Father Alphonsus called out from his cell.

Close by, in Father Sebastianus Pian’s cell, a young Red soldier, less cruel than the others, heard, but couldn’t understand the priest’s cries.
“That foreigner is calling out. Go and see what he wants,” the soldier told Father Sebastianus, who approached and kneeled at the side of the dying priest.
“I want this,” he said, raising his filthy, wounded right hand and painfully tracing with it the sign of the cross.
Father Alphonsus wanted to make his confession. From his spot on the bare floor, in his soiled trousers, crawling with lice, he whispered his confession, and as he said his Act of Contrition, Father Sebastianus pronounced the absolution.
“Amen,” Father Alphonsus said, himself, then asked for a cup of water. Between sips, he looked up and smiled.
“In a short time, I will go to Heaven,” he said.
“We will meet again in Heaven, then,” Father Sebastianus answered.
“I shall die tomorrow – Mary’s day. I’ll be very happy to die. In Heaven, I shall pray for all of you. Be brave.”
The young, Red soldier approached Father Alphonsus and said, “Old Father, are you still alive?”
“I will die soon. I thank you for all you have done for me. You have been very good to me.”
The next morning, September 13, 1947, the cook brought food for Father Alphonsus. As he opened the door, he called to the priest. But there was no answer. When he touched the cold body, he knew he was dead.
The young, Red soldier, less cruel than the others, approached the monks. In a reverential whisper, he described the priest’s death.
“That man died very peacefully. He looked just like the other man in your figure-10 frame at Yang Kia Ping.”
Instantly, the monks understood the profound meaning. In written Chinese, the character for the number 10 is an upright cross, which is referred to as a figure-10 frame. At Yang Kia Ping, where their abbey stood, the soldier had seen a crucifix.
It was true.
Brother Marcellus Chang, Father Sebastianus Pian and two other monks were ordered to bury the body of Father Alphonsus.
As Brother Marcellus looked down, he saw his dead confrere’s legs were crossed, with his shrunken right foot resting above the left. His hands, with bones sticking out at the wrists, were folded atop his breast. Upon his face, a peaceful, serene beauty.
Looking upon the smiling face, Father Sebastianus thought, He does not look like a corpse, at all.
The monks placed the body of Father Alphonsus upon a stretcher. Lifting the bier, the monks genuflected, praying in their hearts as they walked to a nearby mountain slope, where the reticent gravediggers began their sorrowful task far from the abbey, where they should be celebrating the eternal life with the austere beauty of a Trappist burial.
Back at the abbey, when Father Alphonsus approached the end, he would have been tenderly placed on the floor, atop a serge cloth, under which would have been spread some straw over a cross of blessed ashes, with his confreres praying around him. After the agony, his face, hands and feet would have been washed, then he would have been clothed in his choir dress, with the hood pulled just slightly over his face. Only when his body was placed in its final resting place, without box, would the hood have been pulled down completely.
With shouts and cracks of their whips, the soldiers broke the meditations of the burial party, mid-dig, when the hole was less than a foot deep. Impatient because of the rain, the Reds forced the monks to stop shoveling and to dump Father Alphonsus into his shallow grave, with only a thin covering of loose earth, which quickly washed away.

Father Alphonsus was soon joined by another, Father Emilius Ying (b. 1886). A native of the province of Shantung (old form of Shandong), he had been a rather cantankerous priest, who angered easily, especially against the foreigners, the Western invaders in his beloved China. But when he died in Teng Chia Yu, on September 23, it was said that he died of a broken heart. Despite his enduring strength and health, it proved too much for him that his very torturers were not foreigners, but his fellow Chinese.

Then for five more, the suffering ended at Teng Chia Yu.

Brother Bartholomeus Chin (b. 1893), one of several vocations from the Jesuit mission Sien Hsien, in Hopei province.

Brother Ludovicus Gonzaga Jen (b. 1872), who was from the Suanhwafu diocese.

Brother Hieronymus Li (b. 1873), who was from the district of Yu Chow Hsien, in Chahar province.

Brother Marcus Li (b. 1885), another vocation from Sien Hsien, in Hopei province.

Brother Conradus Ma (b. 1872), born in Peking, who was sickly, old and infirm.

At the announcement of each death, Li could barely contain his glee.
“Wonderful! We have saved one more bullet!” he cheered.
After each death, four monks, escorted by weapon-ready soldiers, carried each body, where they would be forced to dump their confrere in a slightly dug hole, then covered over with a powdering of dirt. At night, the smell of death lured the wolves and wild dogs that unearthed the decaying bodies, tearing off legs and arms, gnawing on the flesh and muscle. What wasn’t devoured was left lying on the ground, visible. Only when the villagers of Teng Chia Yu complained, were the dead reburied, with the mauled remains re-interred in a grave slightly deeper, or just deep enough.
But in the midst of the macabre, at times, there was beauty.
One of the few Europeans from Our Lady of Consolation, Father Aelredus Drost, born in Amsterdam, had been gifted with a beautiful singing voice. After the soldiers learned of his talent, they often demanded that he entertain them with songs from his native country. Covered in filth, in chains, from the dark, from the cold, from the rain-drenched jail cell, the humble monk obeyed his captors, and the Taihang Mountains of northern China resounded with the beautiful songs of the Netherlands.
In September, Li gained a little victory, when, somehow, he was able to stitch together bits of stretched truth obtained during interrogations, creating a lie that suited his needs. He claimed that a prayer offered by some of the monks for the conversion of China was actually a pro-Nationalist prayer for the eradication of Communism. He named Father Maurus Bougon as the instigator, and, immediately, he launched a mandate of judgment against the monk, who had transferred to the parish of Peimong, south of Peking in 1946, after he had been accused of plotting the assassination of a Red general.
But at the same time, Li suffered a huge defeat. Because of the international uproar over the religious persecution committed by the Communists, officials in Kalgan refused his request to execute the monks.
Li had to do something. In Teng Chia Yu, food was getting scarce. Communist soldiers, who stole their food from the locals, decided it was time to move on to the next village. On October 10, the Reds forced everyone to march to Mu Chia Chuang, a village a little more than 6 miles to the north. But still, Li had too many mouths to feed. He had to do something to get the prisoners off his hands.
With winter setting in and supplies slim, Li decided to thin his herd of prisoners. He started by sending small groups of lay brothers, choir brethren and students back to the homes of their relatives. But before he released them, their “confessions” that they had made during their interrogations were read back to them, and they were ordered to sign a document, a statement of guilt that they would repent of their crimes and never enter another abbey.
And like always, threats followed.
“You are not so much to blame as the old fathers. They have deceived you. They have taught you to think incorrectly. And that is the whole trouble with you people. You do not think straight. But now, perhaps, you have learned some sense,” they were told. “Do not make the mistake of entering another monastery or seminary, and don’t get yourselves made into priests. We will soon have the whole of north China under our control. We have your photos and your fingerprints, and if we come to some city and find that you are in another monastery or that you have made yourselves priests, we won’t be so gentle with you next time. We will kill you.”
On Monday, October 13, the first group, soon to be followed by others, was freed. They headed for Peking, where they hoped to find refuge in the Trappist provisional house or with the Marist Brothers 10 miles outside the city wall. Given torture, deprivation and sub-nutrition, many could scarcely walk.
For a couple of those who remained behind, there was another plan.

On that same October 13, Father Antonius Fan (b. 1885), prior of the community, ate what was given to him for the evening meal. From the beginning of the Death March, despite the no-talking orders, despite the beatings, he recited vocal prayers without pause. His Ave Marias succeeded his Pater Nosters. His hands had been locked behind his back, with the cuffs squeezed so tightly closed around his wrists that his hands and arms swelled until gangrene set in and attacked his flesh, baring the bones in his forearms. Despite the pain, despite the cuffs, despite the leg irons, during the march to Mu Chia Chwang three days earlier he had helped carry weaker monks to the new location.
But that night of October 13, almost immediately after he ate, he complained of a violent thirst. Fever and delirium soon followed.
In a few hours, he was dead.
He was not the only one. Five days later, on October 18, Father Augustinus Faure (b. 1873), originally with the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, a master of the novices and much loved by others in the Community, also ate what was given to him. Delirium, fever, thirst soon followed. He begged for a drink of water.
One of the guards mocked, “All your life you have served God, and now He is not able to give you a drop of water to drink.”
Father Augustinus sighed his final, dying words, “I thirst.”
Deaths continued.

On November 1, 1947, All Saints Day, Brother Malachias Chao (b. 1872), from the Jesuit mission Sien Hsien, and Brother Amadeus Liu (b. 1899) died slow agonizing deaths, in the darkness of their cells.

But as November saw the departure of some, it also brought the arrival of Father Maurus Bougon. He had heard about the warrant issued for his arrest issued in September, and he had thought about escape, but then he thought about the sufferings of his confreres, and he decided not to run. At his church, he was surrounded and taken into custody by Communist soldiers, in the beginning of November, and for the next few weeks, he was kept under strict guard as they made their way – on foot.

Soldiers and their prisoner arrived at Mu Chia Chwang on November 23, the same day Li transferred to Shih Kia Chuang, very near the Trappist abbey Our Lady of Joy, which was the daughterhouse of Our Lady of Consolation. He was on his way to a new mission, but the chain-smoking Party goon couldn’t help himself. He wanted to get in one last dig, reminding the monks that he had given them ample opportunity to leave the Church and join forces with the Communist Party.
“Even if you had apostatized, it would have availed you nothing,” he scoffed.
And to his underlings, he ordered that they execute a few of the prisoners, publicly, to save face, to save their reputations.
Father Maurus was immediately placed into solitary confinement and because he saw no other monks, he thought he was all alone.

Interrogations, accompanied with torture, soon began, and always began the same way:
“Do you know why you are here?”
“I was told that you had questions to ask me, and I have come to listen to you,” Father Maurus answered.
“You have already been arrested. You have not said a hundredth of the truth. You need to say the rest.”
Already accustomed to Marxist “confessions,” Father Maurus accused himself of small “crimes,” such as being an imperialist and being anti-Communist, but denied any allegations of espionage for the Nationalists. But, the new judge was not happy with the monk’s answers. He wanted acknowledgement of activities against the Communists, which would be enough evidence to warrant an execution.
Deathly afraid that his interrogators would lead him to say things that could be harmful to others, Father Maurus looked for an opportunity to flee.
In the beginning of December, soldiers and prisoners transferred to Huang Hua Kou, and seizing the opportunity, on December 3, Father Maurus attempted an escape.
A boy, who saw him leave his hut and hobble toward the woods, yelled, “The foreigner is running away!”
Father Maurus was immediately caught. As a punishment, the Reds cuffed his arms behind his back and suspended him from a rafter for 18 hours, straight. When he was finally cut down, he was thrown into a small, cold hut for 20 days, with his arms still cuffed, making it impossible to cover himself. As a result, his feet froze until they turned black. As soon as he learned his confreres were at the same compound, he promised his captors that he would never attempt another escape.
In Huang Hua Kou, Father Aelredus Drost, after all the beatings during interrogations, lost his ability to move. During the marches, he had developed colic and grew so weak that his pace slacked behind the others, which infuriated the Communists who clubbed him and hit him with rocks. His legs swelled until the skin split, opening sores that developed into ulcers, which, going uncared for, grew deeper until the white of his bones showed through. Afflicted with dysentery, he needed to go out often, but rarely given permission, he frequently soiled his trousers – his only pair – and would wash them in the bitter cold then put them back on – wet.

Of all the monks, he had been the one who always knew if it were a Sunday or a feast day, and each day he recited his breviary by heart.
But finally unable to do anything for himself, his brethren tried to aid him, as he slept restlessly, muttering in Dutch, his native language. At the abbey, he had been master of novices, and because of his serene, patient and sweet character, he was much loved and tenderly nursed in captivity.
“Leave him alone!” shouted one of the guards. “Don’t help that foreign dog!”
On December 5, Father Aelredus Drost (b. 1912) died. He had been the last European survivor of the Death March. Far from his family, he had been one of seven boys. Four became priests – two Trappists.

Two days later, on December 7, Father Odilius Chang (b. 1897), from the Manchurian diocese of Kirin, died in his dark cell, exhausted. He had embodied the spirit of St. Benedict: contemplation and piety. During the Death March and all the interrogations and tortures, he had never complained. At the abbey, he had been confessor and director of the oblates and postulants, and on all first Fridays, he always had directed a retreat and preached a conference. Pious, modest, reserved and humble, Father Odilius was considered an extraordinary preacher. With a burning zeal, his words, with a simple elegance, flowed like a fire from his heart into the hearts of his listeners, encouraging many vocations.

The next day, December 8, Father Bonaventura Chao (b. 1902) died. Like Father Antonius Fan, the wounds caused by the handcuffs got infected and putrefied, exposing the bones in his forearms. He was born in Hopei province, the vicariate of Peking, near the abbey. Intelligent and pious, he had taught Latin in the abbey. He was very musical and was the official cantor of the monastic choir that he led to angelic heights.

The three men, Father Aelredus, Father Odilius and Father Bonaventura, were buried together – their bodies to be forever entwined – in a shallow grave, a trench that the Communist soldiers had used as a latrine.
On December 13, Father Michaelus Hsu (b. 1901) died. During captivity, he had suffered much more because of his being the abbey’s superior, causing him to be a target of the Reds. He was chained with irons on July 23, which he had to carry throughout his captivity. From the very beginning he had anticipated the tragic end, but he had accepted with entire submission the divine will. All the monks shared the profound belief of living under the vow of obedience, even until their last breath. When his death neared, Father Michaelus named Father Chrysostomus as superior, an honor respected by all.
As those still held struggled and died, five monks maliciously rumored to be released were actually transferred elsewhere and died alone, without their confreres:

Brother Gabrielus Tien (b. 1861), born near the abbey, died on November 2.

Brother Hugo Fan (b. 1881), an acolyte, died in a village police station in Che Chia Tai in December. He was never able to receive the Holy Orders of the priesthood because of his health.

Brother Ireneus Wang (b. 1884) died on December 5, at Wo Yang Tai, of blood poisoning caused by the festering wounds in his hands, which had been tied with wire. His specialty had been in viticulture – growing grapes, which he had taught himself. He also worked with peach trees. Both crops had helped add economically to the financially strapped abbey.

Father Simon Hsu (b. 1897) died of hunger and cold on December 19, near Yuhsien, after enduring forced labor. Born in the northern province of Chahar, Father Simon had been an excellent bookbinder, blessed with an artistic ability that resulted in much success in the binding of books of the abbey, especially the large choral books.

Brother Martinus Hsu (b. 1899) died of tuberculosis, aggravated by forced labor and harsh circumstances, on December 20, at Cha Tao Ho.

There was very little to celebrate that Christmas.
Finally, on January 5, 1948, Father Maurus Bougon was reunited with his confreres.
“How do you see the future of the Trappists?” Father Chrysostomus asked him.
“The future looks very black. I fear the worst,” Father Maurus answered.
Indeed, it was.
On January 18, 1948, Brother Basilius Keng (b. 1915) died. Made a sub-deacon only the year before, he was a native of the city of Haimen, north of the delta of the Blue River. Brother Basilius was a man without defects, with a gentle character. Always smiling, he was liked by all. No one ever had difficulties with him. Not a natural scholar, he excelled in piety.
Father Chrysostomus gave Brother Basilius absolution, and he was buried right away.
Then, on January 20, 1948, six monks were rounded up. They were Father Chrysostomus, Father Seraphinus, Brother Alexius, Brother Eligius, Brother Joannes Maria and Brother Damianus.
“You are going to be freed,” the soldiers told them.
Before leaving, they all embraced Father Maurus, asking for his blessing and his prayers.
Father Chrysostomus, who sensed the soldiers were not telling the truth, said a special good bye to everyone, telling them they would see one another again in Heaven. He asked for their prayers for the final battle he faced in life, and he gave a final, fraternal, affectionate hug to Father Maurus. Then, sensing the end, he turned to Father Benedictus-Josephus Labre Hou and named him superior. Both young men, the two had been ordained together in 1945.
The six monks were taken to Pan Pu Tsun, nearby to Yang Kia Ping.
They left behind Father Maurus Bougon, Father Benedictus-Josephus Labre, Brother Rochus Fan and Brother Adrianus Wang, who would all eventually be freed, if only for a short time.

They also left behind Father Theodorus Yuan (b. 1916), who would die from tuberculosis three months later, in April, alone, in a dark cell, a prisoner till death. Father Theodorus was not the first martyr in his family. The first had been butchered in the Boxer Rebellion. He had a photographic memory and could recite complete passages from a book after reading it once. He and Father Chrysostomus had been novices together, pulling boyish pranks, gathering the wheat together then pulling the cart rather than yoking the cows. The two were opposite in disposition.

The novice Theodorus would poke fun at the novice Chrysostomus for being too slow and too calm.
The novice Chrysostomus would respond, “Why be impatient or rush, when we have eternity in front of us?”
On January 20, Father Chrysostomus faced his eternity, as he and the others were taken to Pan Pu Tsun, just a short distance from Our Lady of Consolation. The Communists wanted to make certain that the monks were “liquidated” near the abbey, to use them as an example, as a warning to others. As Li had ordered, it was time to save face; it was time to save their reputation, execution style.
In the village, large character posters were displayed announcing a meeting of the People’s Court. The names of the monks had been written in red ink – a symbol of death.
Twice the men were hauled before the People’s Court. Before the multitude, the manacled, handcuffed were accused. They had to listen to the wild, brutal screams of the accusations against the abbey and against themselves. They denied the guilt. They refused to surrender.
At the second trial, the death order was delivered, and they were to be executed immediately.
They had lived together; they would die together, as they stood together.

Brother Alexius Liu (b. 1897), from Paoting, Hopei province, was esteemed and respected by all. What he had lacked in height, since he was small in stature, he had made up for in his great virtues.

Brother Joannes Maria Miao (b. 1919) was from the vicariate of Chengting, south of Peking, in Hopei province.

Brother Eligius Hsu (b. 1918), originally from the chi-chi city of Shanghai, was the nephew of Father Michaelus Hsu, the superior. He was obedient, pious, and relished spiritual poverty, meaning he had no attachments to worldly things. Even though he came from a very wealthy family, he preferred to dress in old clothing covered with patches. Reserved and timid, as an oblate, he was permitted to talk, but he rarely did, preferring to keep to himself. A very rare character, his virtues were obedience, piety, poverty.

Brother Damianus Hwang (b. 1893) was born north of the Great Wall, in Jehol province (now Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Hebei and Liaoning provinces), in the district of Chao Yang Hsien, with the missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Scheut. His specialty was the catechesis. How he loved to teach doctrine. A very passionate man, burning with a passion for the Church, even bubbling on occasion, yet some of the reserved or melancholy residents criticized him harshly. He was a second-generation martyr, following his father whose blood was spilled when he was hacked to death with a scimitar and knives by the Boxers in 1900.
Father Seraphinus Hsih (b. 1909) was born in the Paoting diocese, in Hopei province. He had been expected to be the first Chinese abbot. His paternal uncle was Father Vicentius Hsih, superior of the Trappists in Gni Pa To. Father Seraphinus had served as vice-principal of the novices, then was named cellarer of the abbey. His kind and open demeanor earned him many friendships among the peasants, who considered him a great man.
Father Chrysostomus Chang had been born in Peking on January 16, 1917 to an old Catholic family, and he had just turned 31 a few days before his execution was ordered. A young monk, cultured and strong, he concluded his days, and all the months of patience, suffering, strength in the dungeons with a characteristic, peculiar to his temperament. A paternal uncle, Father Gerardus Chang had died in November 1941 in Yang Kia Ping after a long cloistered life. During the Death March and its inflicted tortures, it was evident that Father Chrysostomus had a supernatural strength. He had been one of those beaten more than the others and had worn irons around his limbs since July. He had endured the torture of suspension, hanging from the ceiling. He had been locked up in a narrow pigsty. And during all the torments, he showed a miraculous bravery. Though the other religious also endured in silence with admirable endurance, none did so as Father Chrysostomus. He was gifted intellectually. As a child, he had been irritable and quarrelsome, but triumphed over his temperament and became generous and kind-hearted.
Father Chrysostomus Chang plumbed the depths of his human will for a supernatural strength. With only a few minutes remaining of his life in the material world, he lifted his thoughts to the spiritual. Through screams from the mob, he addressed his confreres at his side one last time, to prepare them not for death, but for life, everlasting life.
“We’re going to die for God. Let us lift our hearts one more time, in offering our total beings,” he said.
Helpless, the six Trappist monks stood handcuffed and chained on a makeshift platform, targets of a frenzied hatred that surged toward them. The blood-encrusted, lice-infested men, wearing rags caked in their own filth, had nowhere to run, no one to help them. After six months of mind-bending interrogations and body-rending torture, it was over. It was all over.
The verdict had just been read by a Chinese Communist officer: Death. To be carried out immediately.
Hundreds of crazed peasants, with fists raised, with contorted faces, with spit-covered lips, screamed rehearsed slogans of approval for the approaching slaughter. Executioners – reliable Party henchmen – rushed to ready their rifles to exterminate the Roman Catholic monks, believers in the superstitious cult, lovers of the God on the Cross imported from the Imperialist West.
And so it happened on January 28, 1948, in the dead of winter in Pan Pu Tsun, an unmapped village, a frigid heathen hell in the Mongolian mountains, somewhere in the frost-covered north of the Republic of China.
Just over the ridge from the pandemonium staged by the soulless Chinese Communists – believers in the materialistic cult, lovers of the god of death and destruction – lay the charred ruins of Our Lady of Consolation, the once-majestic abbey the monks had called home.
Jostled in the madness, the monks fell to their knees. With their swollen hands tied and chained behind their backs, they couldn’t even cross themselves – In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost – a final time.
The death squad – Communist soldiers at the ready – loaded their rifles with fresh rounds of ammo.
Shots rang out. One, then the next, followed by the next, the monks collapsed upon the blood-splashed, frozen ground. Their lifeless bodies, dragged to a nearby sewage ditch and dumped into a heap, one on top of the other. Alerted by the shots, wild dogs, roaming the village’s dirt roads, scavenging for scraps, hurried over to the bodies to investigate. Sniffing, they lapped up the warm blood, steaming in the icy air.
It was all over. Our Lady of Consolation was no more.

Father Guglielmus Cambourieu (b. 1874)
Father Chrysostomus Chang (b. 1917)
Father Odilius Chang (b. 1897)
Father Bonaventura Chao (b. 1902)
Brother Malachias Chao (b. 1872)
Brother Bartholomeus Chin (b. 1893)
Father Aelredus Drost (b. 1912)
Father Antonius Fan (b. 1885)
Brother Hugo Fan (b. 1881)
Father Augustinus Faure (b. 1873)
Brother Bruno Fu (b. 1868)
Father Alphonsus L'Heureux (b. 1894)
Father Seraphinus Hsih (b. 1909)
Brother Eligius Hsu (b. 1918)
Brother Martinus Hsu (b. 1899)
Father Michaelus Hsu (b. 1901)
Father Simon Hsu (b. 1897)
Brother Damianus Hwang (b. 1893)
Brother Ludovicus Gonzaga Jen (b. 1872)
Brother Clemens Kao (b. 1899)
Brother Basilius Keng (b. 1915)
Brother Hieronymus Li (b. 1873)
Brother Marcus Li (b. 1885)
Brother Alexius Liu (b. 1897)
Brother Amadeus Liu (b. 1899)
Brother Philippus Liu (b. 1877)
Brother Conradus Ma (b. 1872)
Father Stephanus Maury (b. 1886)
Brother Joannes Maria Miao (b. 1919)
Brother Gabrielus Tien (b. 1861)
Brother Ireneus Wang (b. 1884)
Father Emilius Ying (b. 1886)
Father Theodorus Yuan (b. 1916)

POSTSCRIPT I: This tale – perhaps, one of the most well-known, unknown stories of martyrdom in Communist China – is a tale told from the grave, a reconstruction from written accounts by witnesses, survivors and hearsay. At times, information from one source conflicted with information from one or more sources; at such times, a choice was made, based on logical determination. Facts were pulled from the following consulted works:
“The History of Our Lady of Consolation,” by Father Stanislaus Jen, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OSCO)
“The History of Our Lady of Joy,” by Father Stanislaus Jen, OCSO
“Les Martyrs de N. D. de Consolation et de N. D. de Liesse: Témoins Cisterciens de Notre Temps,” by Irénée Henriot and Joseph Dong
“Los Monjes Blancos,” by Father Eusebio Arnaiz Alvarez,Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (CSsR)
“Monaci nella Tormenta: La Passio dei monaci trappisti di Yan-Kia-Ping e di Liesse testimony della fede nella Cina di Mao-Tze-Tung,” by Father Paolino Beltrame Quattrocchi, OCSO
“Regulations of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance,” published by the General Chapter of 1926
“Stars in the Sky,” by Father Patrick J. Scanlan, OCSO
“Trappists, the Reds and You,” by Father M. Raymond Flanagan, OCSO

POSTSCRIPT II: For several years, I periodically attempted to make contact, via e-mails and telephone calls, with the Trappists (in Asia, Europe and the United States), as I was very interested in writing the story of the 33 martyrs. I had no success until the spring of 2010, when I luckily reached 84-year-old Father Bernard Johnson (former abbot of the Abbey of New Clairvaux), who just happened to be working the switchboard that day. I want to personally thank Father Bernard for all his help, without which, this story would have not been possible.

ENDNOTE: All Chinese names have been written in a manner to avoid confusion and to remain consistent with the English standard of writing proper names: given name first, family name last. In Chinese, names are traditionally written with family name first, given name last.

Theresa Marie Moreau can be reached at