Sunday, July 11, 2010

Little Flower of China 中國小花

 

My article last week was about the seven martyrs of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary; their feast day was celebrated on July 9.

The example of these martyrs inspired a young nun, Sister Maria Assunta Pallotta (1878-1905) to give her life to the mission in China. She wrote to her superior, Blessed Mary of the Passion, requesting to be sent to China. The obedience of Jesus, the willingness of Mary, and the humility of Francis of Assisi are the three traits very dear to Assunta.

A brief but intense life

Blessed Assunta was born on August 20, 1878, in Italy. She was the eldest of five children of a poor family. Assunta supported her family through physical labour and housework. She was remembered as a solemn and quiet girl. She combined work with prayer in her daily life and led an austere life of fasting and mortification. Though poor herself, she had great charity towards other poor people.

In her late teens Assunta experienced the call to religious life. In 1898 she left all and entered the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Rome. Her smile and serenity brought joy to those around her.

In March 1904 Sister Assunta was sent to China. She arrived there on June 18. She was assigned to the humble task of working in the kitchen. Sister Assunta gave humble and hidden service to her community.

A few months later an epidemic of typhus broke out. Some nuns and many children were sick. Sister Assunta nursed the sick with selfless dedication, and in March 1905 she too fell ill. She requested to receive the Last Sacraments. Towards the end of her life she begged repeatedly for Holy Communion, but she was unable to receive because she could not swallow.

In her last hours Sister Assunta often repeated the names of Jesus and Mary. Her desire for Holy Communion was expressed in her last spoken word, “Centi! Centi!” (Chinese for Holy Communion). She died on April 7, 1905.

At her death, those praying in Sister Assunta’s room noticed a delightful fragrance, which lasted for three days. Eight years later, when her body was transferred, it was discovered to be incorrupt. Sister Assunta was beatified by Pope Pius XII on November 7, 1954.

Purity of intention

In January 1904, Blessed Assunta wrote to her parents about her life program: “I ask the Lord for the grace to make known to the world purity of intention, which consists in doing everything for the love of God, even the most ordinary actions.”

Assunta formed some very beautiful resolutions:

“I came to the convent to become a saint: to what purpose would I live a long time if I did not attain my goal? I will therefore not pass up anything profitable for my soul, though the whole world be given me in exchange.”

“Never will I excuse myself, never speak of myself, imitating the Most Blessed Virgin in humility and charity toward God and neighbour.”

“To do all for the love of God: I would like to write it in my blood.”

A spiritual writer, Adolphe Tanquerey, pointed out that intention is the principal element in our actions. Intention is the eye that sheds light and directs our actions. It is also the soul that animates our actions. The following three elements help to give special value to our intentions:

1. Strive to do all things out of love for God and others, for charity is the queen and the soul of all virtues.

2. It is useful to propose to ourselves several supernatural motives, and thus exercise a number of virtues at the same time. For example, an act of obedience to a parent is prompted by both charity and obedience. Another example is to pray an Act of Contrition out of love for God, a spirit of penance, and humility.

3. We must form and renew frequently our supernatural intention. In the morning we recite the Morning Offering to offer all actions to God. During the day, we should renew this intention frequently.

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上週,我提及七月九日慶祝瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會Franciscan Missionaries of Mary在華夏山西省為主殉道的七位修女,而她們英烈的精神,感動了另一位同門年輕的修女,就是真福瑪利亞.亞松大.伯樂達Bl. Maria Assunta Pallotta (1878-1905)修女。她去信修會會祖真福苦難瑪利亞Bl. Mary of the Passion,要求被派遣到中國傳教。她最喜愛的是三個效法:效法耶穌的聽命、效法聖母的樂於服務、效法聖五傷方濟各的謙遜。

短暫但熱切的生命

一八七八年八月二十日,真福亞松大生於意大利的貧窮家庭。作為五名孩子的長女,亞松大以苦工和家務支援家 計。她沉默嚴肅,寓工作於祈禱,渡齋戒和克己的樸素生活。她的清貧,並沒有減弱對貧苦大眾的愛心。及笄年華,感到修道的召叫,遂於一八九八年,毅然放下一 切,進入羅馬的瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會。她祥和的微笑,使與她共處的人感到喜悅。

一九零四年六月十八日,亞松大被派遣抵達中國,專注在廚房幹着火炊的工作,謙卑地為各方備膳燒飯。數月後, 傷寒病爆發,一些修女和很多兒童染病,亞松大修女全心照料患者,至翌年三月,自己終受傳染而病倒。病榻中,她要求領受病人聖事。彌留期間,多次要求領聖 體,可惜因病不能吞嚥而不被批准;死前頻呼耶穌、瑪利亞之聖名; 她最後的說話是用中文說: 「聖體! 聖體!」----- 顯示了她對耶穌聖體的渴望和熱愛。她於一九零五年四月七日逝世。

真福亞松大死時,滿室芬香了三天;八年後移葬其遺骸時,被發現並未腐爛。一九五四年十一月七日,教宗庇護十 二世,立她為真福品。

純真的意向

一九零四年一月,亞松大曾去信雙親寫道:「我祈求天主賞我聖寵去幫助普世眾生明白純真的意向,即為愛天主而 做一切事(包括最平凡的事)。」

真福亞松大有幾句名言:

「我進入修院是為了成聖。如果我不能成聖,長壽又有什麼意義呢?所以,我不會為了得到整個世界,而以任何裨 益靈魂的事作為交換。」

「我不會為自己設任何藉口、或為自己作任何吹噓,我要效法至聖童貞,以謙遜和愛德,對待天主和近人。」

「我願意用我的血寫下:為愛天主而做所有事情!」

靈修作家亞道夫.鄧奎利Adolphe Tanquerey指出,「意向」是我們行為的主導。「意向」是行為的「眼目」和「靈魂」, 它指引並推動行為。有三個要素能使我們的「意向」增值:

1. 力求所有事情都是為愛天主和愛人而作——皆因愛德是諸聖德的皇后和靈魂。

2. 作善事時, 嘗試在心內激發多個超性的動機,因而引發遜守其它德行。例如服從父母,源於愛和聽命之德。又如唸痛悔經時, 發出愛天主、悔改、和謙遜之德。

3. 我們要經常更新或重定超性的意向——我們在早上唸「每日奉獻誦」, 把一天的思、言、行為獻給天主; 在日間則要經常重新自己奉獻的意向。

Published at Pax Sinica column (July 12) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper