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Great Dominicans: Six Stories, Six Martyrs

Friday, January 15, 2016
Today is the day of six stories. Stories of the lives of six men who had a lot in common. They were all Spanish. They were all Dominicans. They all lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were all missionaries to China, and they were all killed there between 1648 and 1748. Today is the day that we remember these six Dominican martyrs of China. 

They preached the Gospel, mainly among the poor in China, often with the simplest of methods, travelling around with just a breviary and a cross to tell people about the God who loves us so much that he gave his life for us. Being a foreigner in these years in China was a dangerous thing. There is a moving letter of John Alcober, one of these six brothers, writing to his provincial, telling him how he has to flee from place to place, hoping that a Christian family might hide and feed him for a while, and writing about the rare moments when he gets to meet a Dominican brother in secret and grieve together over each other’s sorrows. 

There were many waves of anti-foreign sentiments rolling over China. During the persecution of Christians in 1648 Francis de Capillas was murdered. Five other brothers lost their lives during anti-foreign persecutions in 1747 and 1748: Peter Sans, Francis Serrano, Joachim Royo, John Alcober, and Francis Diaz. Amidst the often horrific stories of their martyrdoms there are deeply moving stories as well, like the story of five Chinese converts who followed the chained Dominican brothers on their way to prison, the converts themselves in chains in solidarity with the prisoners. 

On a day like this it is hard not to think of our brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith in China today. Just like in the 17th and 18th centuries the hatred these Chinese Christians suffer often is a consequence of xenophobia. Today, xenophobic members of the Chinese communist party still use the pejorative expression yang jiao to designate Christianity. It translates as "foreign teaching".

Today is the day of six stories of Dominicans who preached Christ crucified in China, and followed Christ in his passion. Today is the day to remember their names and thank God for their faith, their courage and their generosity. Today is the day to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China, stigmatised as ‘foreigners’, and for the people who suffer under that same stigmatisation in our own countries, trusting that the six Dominican martyrs of China in heaven are united with us in prayer.

Br Stefan Mangnus O.P.



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