St. Augustine Zhao Rong, and companions, martyrs
Today, July 9, is the optional memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, priest, and companions, Chinese martyrs. Saint Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese diocesan priest who was martyred with his 119 companions in 1815.
Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China’s relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.
The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (eighty-seven) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to seventy-two. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.
The thirty-three foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
One of the martyrs was a 14-year-old girl named Ann Wang, who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion when she refused to renounce her faith. She courageously endured the threats of her torturers, and just as she was about to be decapitated, she ecstatically declared, “The door of heaven is open to all” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.
Another martyr was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who had been preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism when he was captured on the road one night and ordered to worship idols. When he refused, his right arm was cut off and he was tortured. Rather than deny his faith, he valiantly announced to his captors, before being whipped to death, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.
Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000.