St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions – 9 July

On this day, the Church celebrates the many people throughout Chinese history who have been heroic examples of Christian faith. St. Augustine Zhao Rong is one of the 122 Catholics who died for their faith as martyrs between 1648 and 1930.

In 1815, a bishop named John Gabriel Dufresse was arrested. It was against the law to practice Christianity. One of the Chinese soldiers who was guarding him was deeply impressed by the bishop’s calmness and patience under persecution. After Bishop Dufresse was put to death, the soldier asked to become a member of the Catholic Church. He was baptized, taking the name Augustine. Augustine then entered the seminary and studied to become a priest.

Soon after he was ordained, he was arrested for being a Christian. He was tortured in an attempt to try to make him give up his faith in Christ. But his sufferings only made him stronger and surer of his beliefs. He was put to death, and his name was added to the list of brave Chinese men, women, and children who sacrificed their lives in testimony to their faith.

This list of heroes includes seventy-six lay people, some of them children as young as seven years old, eight seminarians, twenty-four priests, and six bishops. Of these people, eighty-eight were Chinese and thirty-four were missionaries from other countries, who had made China their home.

They were proclaimed saints by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.