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Sep 22, 2021 74 Shalom Tidings
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Mother Courage: The Brave Stand of Mary Zhu-Wu

As a gentle and kind-hearted woman, Mary Zhu Wu was esteemed for her exemplary faith.

She was a mother of four and lived with her husband Zhu Dianxuan, a village leader in Zhujiahe village in the Hebei Province of China towards the middle of the 1800s.

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out and Christians and foreign missionaries were massacred, the tiny village took in about 3000 Catholic refugees from neighboring villages. The parish priest, Father Léon Ignace Mangin, and fellow Jesuit, Father Paul Denn, offered daily Mass and heard confessions throughout the day during that troublesome time. On July 17, about 4,500 members of the Boxers and the imperial army attacked the village. Zhu Dianxuan gathered about 1000 men to defend the village and led them in battle. They fought bravely for two days but Zhu died when the cannon they had captured backfired. All those who were able, fled the village in terror.

By the third day, the soldiers gained entry into the village and killed hundreds of women and children. Around 1000 Catholics had already taken refuge in the church where the priests gave them general absolution and prepared for a final Mass. Although grieving for her husband, Mary Zhu Wu remained calm and exhorted those gathered to trust God and pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the soldiers finally broke down the church door and started firing randomly, Mary Zhu-Wu rose with amazing courage. She positioned herself with outstretched arms in front of Father Mangin to shield him with her body. Soon, she was struck by a bullet and fell at the altar. The Boxers then surrounded the church and set it on fire to kill the survivors, with Fathers Mangin and Denn burning to death as the church roof finally collapsed.

Until her last breath, Mary Zhu Wu had continued to strengthen the faith of fellow believers and bolstered their courage. Her words spurred them to overcome fear and embrace martyrdom. Because of her powerful leadership, only two of the Christians of Zhujiahe apostatized. In 1955, Pope Pius XII declared her Blessed, together with the two Jesuits and several other martyrs. They were all canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

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