Thought for the Day – 11 September – – Wednesday of the Twenty-third week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 6:20–26 and The Memorial of St John Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840) Martyr of the Congregation of the Mission
“Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for so their fathers did to the prophets. ... Luke 6:22-23
A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired St John Gabriel to become a missionary in China. There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.
Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest. He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.
He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavours in 1835. After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China. In one early letter, written to his community in Paris, he described himself as a curious sight – “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”
He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith. He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity. He was tortured and interrogated for months. Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.
Saint Jean-Gabriel was Canonised by St Pope John Paul II in 1996. Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.
So many saints seem to have lived centuries ago. Jean-Gabriel is far more recent and we can identify better with his life and circumstances. His life and death speak to us of living the faith in our own times and places, for these are times of great persecution and endurance for the Son of man!