"Love One Another!" 18/2011 → A testimony
The following account was written by a Catholic missionary priest in China who both witnessed and participated in the events described. As a record of exceptional brutality, it is a shocking tale. At the same time, it delights and edifies by the extraordinary power of faith, to which it bears witness.
Kneeling down in front of the altar, I began to pray, waiting to see what would happen next. Each time I heard a noise in the church or some peremptory shout in the street, I expected a brush with death. But nothing happened that day. The next day I had an unexpected visit. “The police!” I said to myself and felt the shivers run down my spine. But no. It was only an officer, who spoke perfect Chinese. He gave me the following caution: “Please go on with what you were doing.” I offered him a cigar. He bowed and left. Nothing happened over the course of the next few days either. The soldiers treated me with reserve and watched me curiously as I walked down the street.
The months passed, and I was growing used to the communist regime. But this did not go on indefinitely. One summer afternoon, the police inspector arrived at the school accompanied by four armed soldiers. They entered the classroom without knocking.
“Times have changed for China,” said the inspector loudly. “All these devotional articles are destined for the fire. Come on, boys. Get to work!”
After a while he joined the soldiers in tearing down pictures, the crucifix, and statues from the walls and piling them on the desks. Next, he ordered the children to put the articles in cardboard boxes and take them to the lavatory. The terrified children sat motionless.
“Move!” yelled the Inspector. “Or I’ll have to use my revolver!”
But the children put up the same resistance. At the very back of the class, biting her lips, was a little girl. Arms folded, she sat still as a statue.
“You back there!” bellowed the inspector, going toward her.
Threatening and berating her with obscene curses, he tried to force her to carry out his order. The girl only lowered her eyes and remained still. The other children sat frozen with terror. A deathly silence ensued. Suddenly, one of the soldiers pulled out his revolver and fired at the window. The children screamed and burst into tears; meanwhile, alarmed by the noise, townsfolk began gathering around the school. The inspector went on terrorizing the girl with his shouts, but she never budged from her seat. A large tear ran down her cheek. Then, seeing the crowd of people outside, he barked:
“Bring me her father, then assemble everyone in the church!”
They brought in the girl’s father with his hands bound behind his back; meanwhile, the church was filling up. The father was told to stand to the right by the balusters, so he could clearly see his daughter, whom they had brought to the front of the altar. The inspector muttered something under his breath, then spoke out aloud:
“You have been taught God is all-powerful and resides in the tabernacle. Now I’m going to show you how duped you have been. He can do absolutely nothing! We’re going to crush him under our boots and he won’t even squeal!”
The soldiers blew off the tabernacle doors with a single salvo. A stony silence ensued. The inspector seized the ciborium, opened it, and scattered the hosts on the sanctuary floor.
“Trample on their God!” he yelled to the soldiers, who promptly proceeded to carry out his order.
“What do you say now?” he asked the onlookers. No one dared breathe.
“Do you still believe what the priests tell you?” he said, turning to the girl’s father. “Answer me!”
“Yes, I still believe,” replied the father calmly.
“Bring him here to me!” roared the inspector in fit of rage.
But at that moment a subordinate officer came up and whispered something in his ear.
“Everyone leave the church!” ordered the inspector, clearly swayed by what he had heard. “The child stays behind!”
They locked me in the church closet where we stored our coal. The keyhole gave me a clear view of the sanctuary. I could see the scattered hosts and the terror-stricken girl. After a while, a woman entered the church. She was richly dressed and wore bracelets and rings. Smiling, arms flung out, she went up to the girl, saying:
“What are these people doing to you? Come, I won’t harm you.”
The girl burst into sobs and threw herself in the stranger’s arms. After a while they left the church together.
In the darkness of my prison I lost all sense of time. I prayed, slept, suffered hunger and pains to my head. Around me reigned a deathly silence. It must have been morning when suddenly I heard a door being quietly opened. Whom did I see through the keyhole but my little girl. She made hesitant steps toward the sanctuary. Stopping warily, she looked around, took a few more steps, then, kneeling down, bent over and reverently raised a host with her tongue and consumed it. Upon straightening up, she joined her hands and prayed with closed eyes. Then she rose to her feet and vanished. The same scene repeated itself every morning. It was my one solace in that dark hiding place. I looked forward to the morning when the girl would again come to consume another host. The beauty of her profile, her shining eyes and timid steps delighted me. How many more times would I see her? Then one morning, while she was praying after consuming the Eucharist, the church doors crashed suddenly open. I heard a savage cry and then a gunshot. The girl, leaning on her hands, slumped slowly to the floor. Summoning her last reserves of strength, she took another of the profaned hosts in her tongue. The soldier stood over her and watched her keenly. One more time she tried to straighten up and join her hands in prayer, but then collapsed. The dull thud of her head hitting the floor echoed throughout the church. After taking a look at the dead body and the scattered hosts, the soldier left the church with heavy steps.
While I was still contemplating the body of the young martyr, the closet door suddenly opened. The soldier who had just shot the girl told me I was free to go. Surprised, I thanked him and went right over to the sanctuary. I had scarcely knelt down by the dead body when the soldier, standing over me, said: “If every place had such a girl, there wouldn’t be a single soldier fighting for the communist side.”
As soon as I had buried the little martyr’s body, a man came up, took me to a car, and drove me to the border, where he promptly deposited me.
Andrzej Trojanowski SChr
The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in August 2016.
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