10 July 1970 is not a date that is etched on my memory, not even the year. I had to research online to check it. This morning at Mass I told the people it was 1976. But I distinctly remember the gospel at Mass the following day, Mt 10:16-23, and what I spoke about in my homily in a church somewhere in the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York. Verses 18 -20 read: You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Bishop James E. Walsh, a Maryknoll Missioner, was quietly released by the Chinese Communist authorities on 10 July 1970 after having served almost twelve years of a twenty-year sentence for the 'crime' of being a Catholic missionary. He never spoke a word of bitterness or anger about those who had jailed him and lived the rest of his life prayerfully and quietly in Maryknoll, New York. I cannot imagine a more appropriate gospel text than that read after the bishop's release.
This great missionary priest, who became a bishop at the age of 36, once said, Missionaries go where they are needed but not wanted, and stay until they are wanted, but no longer needed.
That same gospel reading happily coincided today with the memorial of St Augustine Zhao Rung and compnions, 120 martyrs of China, both Chinese and foreign, canonized in 200. They were killed in various persecutions down the years. St Augustine, a diocesan priest and former soldier, was martyred in 1815.
In his homily at the canonizations on 1 October 2000 Pope John Paull II reminded us, Young Ann Wang, a 14-year-old, withstood the threats of the torturers who invited her to apostatize. Ready for her beheading, she declared with a radiant face: 'The door of heaven is open to all', three times murmuring: 'Jesus'. And 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, cried out fearlessly to those who had just cut off his right arm and were preparing to flay him alive: 'Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian'.
Pray for the Church in China which is still suffering.