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and that notwithstanding all this, the Catholic religion is said to spread in the midst of these persecutions."*
Is not this the history of the ancient Church? is it not what we have always read of former times, that persecution arose against the infant Church, and that Christians were called to lay down their lives for the faith; but that, instead of religion being thereby extinguished, it rather increased and flourished the more?
Such is the state of the Christian Church in China, which, notwithstanding, is acknowledged to be comparatively flourishing. One of the most important and interesting missions of this empire, is the province of Su-Chuen, which is under the direction of a French Bishop, assisted by a large body of clergy, European and native. It is interesting from the frightful state of persecution under which it has laboured within this century, and from the firmness with which religion has withstood and overcome its fierce assaults. In 1814 the persecution commenced, and was soon distinguished by the glorious martyrdom of Dr Dufresne, bishop of Tabraca, and Vicar Apostolic of the province. He behaved in a manner worthy of the ancient confessors of the faith, and bowed his head to the executioner's axe, with a meek fortitude which drew cries of sympathy from the heathen beholders. The striking of the shepherd produced not the dispersion of the flock, but they followed him cheerfully on his thorny path. Many of the clergy were strangled, and many sent to banishment in Tartary, where they still remain. The tortures inflicted on some of the catechists, vie in cruelty with those of Dioclesian's persecution.f Of two it is recorded, that they were first scourged with thongs, then beaten with sticks; after
* Mission. Reg. ut sup. p. 43. + From the want of a sufficient number of priests, lay Catechists are employed, as in Ceylon, to instruct the people, and are of two classes. The resident are married men or widowers, chosen from the best instructed, to preside at Church in the absence of a priest, and baptize infants in danger of death. The itinerants are bound to celibacy so long as they continue in the office, and accompany the clergy.
that were kept kneeling three days and nights on chains, being prevented from even varying their position; then were hung up by the thumbs and again whipped; and after being laid all night in the stocks, had their legs crushed between rollers. The mother of one native priest allowed herself to be scourged to death, rather than betray where her son was concealed.* The seminary for ecclesiastical education was laid in ashes, and the inmates had barely time to escape with their lives.
In September 1820, the Emperor Kia-King died, and though his son was not more favourable to the Christians, circumstances led to a relaxation in the execution of the penal laws; the Church, ever unchecked in her errand of grace by the opposition
* I cannot refrain from quoting an extract of a letter, from M. Magdinier, to a friend at Lyons. It is written from the Chinese College, in Pulo Pinang, an island in the straits of Malacca.
“ I am quite delighted with being at this dear Seminary. All the students seem to burn with the love of God, and will doubtless hereafter become good and zealous missionaries, as well as confessors and martyrs. Although naturally timid, they have no dread of martyrdom. The relations of several of them have confessed and died for the faith, The father of one is now carrying the canga, and the son, I assure you, is a little saint worthy of such a father.”
“ One day, that I was walking with my dear Seminarists, I began to question them concerning the persecutions, when I learnt that a youth, whose angelic appearance had often attracted my particular notice, had lately had ten near relations suffering for the faith. Two of these have since died in prison ; six have been banished to Tartary, and his father and another are actually wearing the canga. These particulars he related in the presence of his companions with inconceivable simplicity, and he has since told me in private, that he was quite overjoyed when the above intelligence was sent to him.”
This island belongs to the English, and consequently has been visited by missionaries from different societies. A free orphan school has been established by some Anglican society, and another, with a church, has been opened by the Baptists. They have distributed Bibles in abundance, but we learn that not a single convert have they made, while the native Catholics amounted some years ago to 500; the faith having been preached there by some Chinese who fled from the persecution in their own country. M. Boucho assures us that the protestant clergyman was obliged to send for him to baptize a dying slave of his, who refused to receive that sacrament from her master, because he was not a Catholic, but an Orang-pote, or Englishman.--Annales, No. xv. p. 241. He also informs us, how, when a Methodist missionary had collected, with some pains and cost, an audience of seven persons, à catechist went among them, and after a little reasoning, brought them all to the Catholic Colleye, where they were admitted as Catechumens.—No. xx. April, 1830, p. 213.
of the world, had already provided for the vacant see, by the appointment of Mgr. Fontana, to be Vicar Apostolic, and Mgr. Perocheau to be his coadjutor; and in 1822 the ravages of the persecution began to be repaired. In two months of that year 254 adults received baptism, and 259 were admitted to instruction. In the following year, a change in the viceroyalty produced a return of the persecution, which only gave occasion for fresh displays of primitive fortitude.*
Mgr. Fontana, in a letter, dated 220 September 1824, gives the following returns:–From the preceding September there had been 335 adults baptized, and 1547 were under preparation. The total number of Catholics was 46,487.1 In another, dated 18th Sept., 1826, he gives the number of baptized adults, as 339, and of those under instruction, as 285. farther informs us, that in his district or diocese, he had twenty-seven schools for boys, and sixty-two for girls. And it has been calculated, that between 1800 and 1817, the number of adults admitted to baptism, was 22,000.
Besides this mission of Su-Chuen, there are French missions in two other provinces, Yunnam, and Kouei-Tcheou; the Italian Franciscans have the provinces of Chensi, Kansiu, and Kaukouan; the Spanish Dominicans, those of Fokien and Kiansi; and the Portuguese, Canton, and Kouansi. According to returns, published by the Dominican order, at Rome, in 1824, it appears that in their province alone there were 40,000 native Catholics.
Besides China, there is another empire in the farthest east, in which the preachers and professors of Christianity are called upon to give testimony to their faith through bonds, and even unto death, and which, consequently, is exclusively in the hands of Catholics. I allude to the united empire of
* This narrative has been, in a great measure, taken from a condensed view of the reports in the Annales, published in the Catholic Magazine for 1833.
† Annales No. xi. Aug. 1827, p. 257. In 1767 the number of Catholics was under 7000. | Ibid. p. 269.
§ Annales, No. xiii. p. 5.
Tonkin and Cochin-China. And first I must premise that the mission of Tonkin is divided into two portions, the eastern, which is under the direction of the Spanish Dominicans, with an Apostolic Vicar or Bishop of that order, and the western, which is governed by a French Bishop, aided by a few priests of his own nation, and upwards of eighty native clergy.
Now, in the first, or Spanish district of the mission, there were, in 1827, not fewer than 780 churches, eighty-seven monasteries or nunneries, and 170,000 native Catholics.* In the French district we have up to that period, returns no less satisfactory, as will appear from the following comparative table for the
Public Baptism of Children of Christians
165,064 177,456 165,943 Communicants
75,467 78,692 81,070 The entire number of Christians was estimated at 200,000, for the persecution, of which I will say something presently, prevented many parts from being visited. This district possesses also an ecclesiastical seminary, in which are, or rather were, 200 students, two colleges, and several monastic establishments, in which 700 religious lived. ||
The province of Cochin-China presents a no less flourishing appearance; though I cannot give you such a minute account of its condition. Suffice it to say, that in 1826, in spite of the cruel persecution, 106 converts were received, and baptism was administered to 2,955 infants, which, according to the ordinary method of calculation, would give about 88,650 native Christians.
I will now proceed to give you a few slight details of the
*“ Piano che rappresenta il numero delle anime che la provincia del SSm. Rosario del' ordine de' Predicatori tiene a carico suo." + Annales, No. x. April, 1817, P
195. I No. xvii. May, 1829, p. 443. No. xxi. July, 1830. p. 319.
|| No. 2. p. 194.
persecution in that country. The emperor Minh-Menh, has always been hostile to the Christians, but for many years had abstained from shedding their blood, in consequence it is said of a promise which he made to his dying father, Gia-long, whose throne and life had been saved by Mgr. Pigneau, the vicar apostolic. Still he has for many years persecuted the Catholics, by every means short of taking away their lives. As early as 1825, the clergy were dispersed, for there was an order that all the foreign missionaries should be sent to the capital, under excuse that the emperor wanted their services, and that all native priests and catechists should be pressed into the army. An interesting account of this first stage of the persecution, in a letter from the bishop, appeared at Madrid in 1826.* A still fuller account was sent by the same venerable prelate to the congregation of the Propaganda at Rome, which I had the happiness of seeing. From this it appeared, that he had been living for upwards of a year, if I remember right, in a cavern, with no light but what was admitted through a
Cartas; la una del Illmo y Rmo Señor D. Fr. Ign. Delgado, vic. ap. en al Tunkin, y la otra del coadjutor de dicho Senior Obispo, ambas relativas a la persecucion que contra la religion Cristiana acaba de estallar en los Reinos de Cochinchina y Tunkin.” Nothing can be more beautiful than the truly heroic spirit displayed in these letters [In the year 1838, this venerable bishop, 76 years of age, after 40 years of an arduous episcopacy, as well as bishop Dominick Henares for 38 years his coadjutor, and then in his 73d year, was arrested and imprisoned. The coadjutor was beheaded ; but the venerable Vicar apostolic died in his cage of hardship and cruel infliction, the night before the day fixed for his execution. His dead body was beheaded, and the head cast into the river. Both heads were recovered by the same Christian fisherman, entire, after long immersion in the river in a tropical climate ; the bishop's after four months. On the 19th of June 1840, the Pope derogated from the length of time regularly appointed to elapse before a process of beatification and canonization can be introduced, and gave permission for the introduction of the cause of these two bishops, and the other martyrs mentioned in this Lecture, and of many more omitted in it, and bestowed upon them the preliminary title of venerable servants of God. By the death of bishop Delgado, the title which he occupied in partibus infidelium as bishop of Melipotamus became vacant; and the writer having, a few days before the above cited decree, been named coadjutor bishop in England, petitioned for, and obtained the reversion of the title ; not that he deemed himself worthy to succeed to so glorious a martyr, but that he hoped to have thus in the last martyr bishop who had glorified the Church, a patron and a model, one in whose intercession and example he might humbly hope to possess a personal interest.)