Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Christian believers from all traditions in China through the centuries.
On 15 January 1648, the Manchu Tartars, having invaded the region of Fujian and shown themselves hostile to the Christian religion, killed St Francis Fernández de Capillas, a Dominican priest. After having imprisoned and tortured him, they beheaded him while he recited with others the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. St Francis Fernández de Capillas has been recognized as the Protomartyr of China.
Christianity continued to grow in China through the 18th and 19th centuries as trade with the west increased. During this time many missionaries where martyred all over China along with many Chinese who had converted to Christianity. Many where killed either because of rural superstitions or Chinese nationalism, which viewed Christians as the agents of western aggression.
Things came to a head during the Boxer War when Chinese secret societies hostile to foreign expansion murdered as many Christians (men, women and children) as they could find (an exact number is not known). Tales of the survivors make for some heart-wrenching reading.
Persecution of Christians slowed during the first half of the 20th century until the take-over by the Communists. During the early years of the Communist era all foreign missionaries had been expelled and it is uncertain how many Chinese Christians may have been murdered during subsequent purges.
Today there is still persecution of Christians in China (except in the government controlled Churches)though it is less frequent and violent, yet Christians are still martyred for their faith.
Propers for the Martyrs of China
Almighty God who hast brought glory unto thy holy martyrs, we thank thee for the growth of the Church in China as it was bought with their faith and blood and seek the strengthening and protection of all those who profess the name of Jesus Christ in the face of persecution and martyrdom. This we ask in the name of thy only begotten Son, who with thee and the Holy Ghost reigneth now and forever. Amen.
The Epistle - Wisdom 5:15-19.
But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them. He shall take to him his jealousy for complete armour, and make the creature his weapon for the revenge of his enemies. He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of an helmet. He shall take holiness for an invincible shield.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 24: 3-13.
(Jesus) sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
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