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Nov 02, 2020 642 Shalom Tidings
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Martyred on a Cross in Wuhan

Wuhan, China is notable for more than being the epicenter of today’s Covid-19 pandemic. It is also the site of the martyrdom of China’s first canonized Saint who died by suffocation while hanging from a cross in Wuhan. Many missionaries traveled to China in the 19th century with the knowledge that they would never return. Among them was Father Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, a Vincentian missionary from France. In a letter he composed during his journey to China he wrote, “I don’t know what awaits me on the path that opens before me: without a doubt the Cross, which is the daily bread of the missionary. What can we hope for better, going to preach a crucified God?”

He soon joined the Vincentians helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and educate them in the Catholic faith. He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity. Tortured and interrogated for months, in 1840 he was finally tied to a wooden cross and suffocated to death.

He was beatified in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux had a special devotion to Father Perboyre and kept a holy card dedicated to him in her personal prayer book. Saint Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

Among the torments endured by Saint Perboyre were beatings on his lower back and kneeling on broken glass. But this Holy man died because hanging from a cross made it impossible for him to breathe. How fitting it is to seek intercession for those suffering from Covid-19 from one who experienced some of the agonies associated with the disease.

Here is a prayer written by Saint Jean Gabriel Perboyre shortly before his death:

“O my Divine Savior, Transform me into Yourself. Grant that I may live but in You, by You, and for You So that I may truly say, with Saint Paul, “’I live—now not I—But Christ lives in me.’”

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