July 9 is the feast of the Chinese Martyrs. One hundred and ten years ago (on July 9, 1900) seven sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) were martyred with bishops, priests, seminarians, and lay faithful in Shanxi, China. The giving of oneself is at the core of the vocation of an FMM sister.
The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were founded by Blessed Mary of the Passion in 1877. As a young woman, Blessed Mary experienced the call of God to lead a life of total consecration and to offer herself as a victim soul for the Church and the Pope. As Superior of the Institute, Blessed Mary exhorted her sisters to live a life of holiness and fraternal union. She invited the sisters to live in this thought: “I am consecrated to God, my end is Love.”
In 1898, the future martyr, St. Francisco Fagolla (Coadjutor Bishop of Shanxi) went to Rome and wanted to have a community of religious sister in his diocese. St. Francisco met with Blessed Mary and made known his need to have sisters to organize a small hospital, to serve in an orphanage, and to educate women.
Blessed Mary accepted the invitation. She formed a group of seven sisters of different nationalities and sent them to China. After a hard long journey, the sisters arrived at Taiyuan, Shanxi, on May 4, 1899. From the day of their arrival the sisters dedicated themselves to the service of 200 little girls in the orphanage. They also worked to improve the quality of life for all people.
In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, many Christians were put to death for refusal to deny their faith. Fully aware of the dangers, the sisters chose to remain at Taiyuan. Their leader, Sister Marie Hermine, told the bishops, “We came here to exercise charity and to shed our blood for the love of Jesus Christ if need be.”
On July 5, bishops, priests, seminarians, lay faithful, and the seven sisters were imprisoned. On July 9 at around 4 p.m. they were dragged through the streets to the tribunal, where they were massacred by the order of the governor.
Self-giving love expressed in writings
On Sept. 22, 1900, Blessed Mary of the Passion received the news of the martyrdom of the seven sisters. She was filled with great emotion. It was a great sorrow to be separated with her beloved sisters, but it was also a great joy to have seven protomartyrs in her community. She said, “I can say with St. Francis: now I have seven true Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.”
In her circular letter to the Institute on 29 Sept. 1900, Blessed Mary wrote, “The martyrdom of our sisters speaks for itself. They were a holocaust right to the end.”
Letters from the seven sisters express their spirit of self-giving. Here are excerpts (one from each sister) from their letters:
“All is possible to those who love.” – Marie-Hermine de Jesus, French, martyred at age 34, superior of the community.
“I put all my good will in my works. I do not always succeed but I am always happy.” – Marie de Sainte Nathalie, French, martyred at age 36.
“Patience! Ever onward! Let us serve Jesus with all our heart!” – Maria Chiara, Italian, martyred at age 28.
“All that we do through love of God is great in God’s eyes.” – Marie de Saint Just, French, martyred at age 34.
“Life is short. We must live fervently these short days of our earthly pilgrimage.” – Marie Adolphine, Dutch, martyred at age 34.
“My only consolation is Jesus! I am so happy when I am near Him; I wish never to leave Him.” – Maria della Pace, Italian, martyred at age 25.
“Jesus, how can I thank you for casting Your glance on me? I have nothing except my life, my heart, my soul, my work, my song ... in joy or in sorrow, reign until death takes me!” – Maria Amandina, Belgian, martyred at age 28.
七月九日是中華諸殉道聖人瞻禮：一百一十年前（公元一九零零年七月九日），七位瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會 Franciscan Missionaries of Mary的修女，在中國山西省，與一些主教、神父、修士和平信徒，同為主耶穌獻出了自己寶貴的生命。瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會的聖召核心是「奉獻自己」。
一八七七年，真福苦難瑪利亞Bl. Mary of the Passion創辦瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會。真福年青時認識到天主的召叫，要她渡完全獻身的生活，並為聖教會和教宗奉獻自己作犧牲。作為修會的長上，真福勸 勉修女們要渡聖善和共融的生活。她也要修女們緊記「自己是被祝聖於天主，要以愛為終向」。
一八九八年，山西省的輔理主教(未來的殉道者)聖富格辣St. Francisco Fagolla在羅馬見到真福苦難瑪利亞修女，道出殷切需要修女團體協助的意願，在其山西教區設立小型醫院、照顧孤兒，和教育婦女。真福應其所請，派遣七 個不同國籍的修女，來到中國。
一九零零年，中國義和拳（團）作亂Boxer Revolution，殺害了不少不肯背教的基督徒。修女們雖然清楚險况，但仍堅持留守太原服務。院長聖艾明納St. Marie Hermine修女對主教說：「我們專程到此施行愛德，有需要時願意為愛耶穌基督而灑熱血。」
一九零零年九月二十二日，真福苦難瑪利亞接到在中國傳教的修女被殺的噩耗，頓時悲喜交集。悲者是因與摯愛的 修女們生離死別，喜者是因她們七位是修會的殉道先驅。她紲而說：「我可以同聖方濟說：現在，我有七位真正的瑪利亞方濟傳教修女會的傳教修女了。」在她九月 二十九日給修會發的公開信函中表示：「我們的修女們的殉道說明了一切，她們作全燔祭一直到死。」
院長聖艾明納修女，法國人，三十四歲：「為愛的人，一切都是可能的。」聖納達理St. Marie de Sainte Nathalie修女，法國人，三十六歲：「我將善志放進我的一切工作內；雖然我不能常享成功，但我感到常常愉快。」聖嘉納St. Maria Chiara修女，意大利人，二十八歲：「含忍！向前！讓我們全心侍奉耶穌！」聖菊詩德St. Marie de Saint Just修女，法國人，三十四歲：「為愛天主而幹一切，在天主眼中都是偉大的。」聖雅道斐St. Marie Adolphine修女，荷蘭人，三十四歲：「生命是何其短暫，我們要熱誡地活出短暫的世途。」聖巴溪St. Marie della Pace修女，意大利人，二十五歲：「耶穌是我唯一的慰藉！當我接近祂時, 我感到何等欣慰! 我願永不離開祂。」聖雅芒定St. Maria Amandina修女，比利時人，二十八歲：「耶穌，祢揀選了我；除了我的生命、我的心、我的靈魂外，我還有什麼可以報答給祢呢？…. 無論喜夏，都在祢權下，直到死亡結束我的生命。」