Newsletter of the District of Asia

 July - December 2006

Joy in Suffering
By Rose Hu

We begin with the following chapters the translation in English of a Chinese book by Mrs. Rose Hu on her 26 years of captivity in the Chinese prisons and labor camps, between 1955 — 1981. A moving story on the power of faith, of prayer, of the mystery of suffering, and of the Immaculate Mother of God. Many of our readers may have seen or heard of the DVD “Soldiers of Christ” which is an interview with Mrs. Hu. The DVD is available from the District of Asia for US $20.

Chapter 1 Confusion over the True Meaning of Life

Like a tiny leaf, a small boat drifts in the heart of the lake. Spinning in circles and not knowing where to go, it draws huge rings on the lake surface, seemingly moving forward a foot, but in fact shifting backward an inch.

Before we were born, our Heavenly Father has already loved us. If this is not so, how possibly could we have been created? Before I accepted baptism, God’s blessings have already been with me. If this is not so, how could I possibly have had the spiritual wisdom of accepting it? Faith is the most amazing grace God has given me.

God’s calls to individual souls to the truth are so diverse. I was born and raised in a pagan family that, though not very wealthy, was affluent enough to offer all family members a rather comfortable life. Since I never had any contact with relatives or friends in abject poverty, I had never personally experienced the bitter taste of poverty. Not having met poverty face to face, I simply did not cherish what I owned, assuming that other people were having a life like mine. The elementary and high schools I attended were run by the nuns of The Sacred Heart Convent. These schools (Sacred Heart Elementary School, The Aurora Girls’ High School) were the famous ones for the ‘nobility’ or elite among the masses. The tuition fees were so high that these could not be afforded by the ordinary family. It was not until that high school year, just before the communist takeover in China when monetary values depreciated drastically, that one day I found in our family’s storage room a hemp bag full of money bills. I was told that it was the money my father wanted our chauffeur to carry to the school to pay for our -— three sisters’ and one niece’s — tuition fees for just one academic term! It was a big surprise to me that we had to pay money to go to school and with such a great amount. From this, you can tell how little I knew about society and how naïve I was. Back then, besides attending school, I was busy going to movies. On Sundays I sometimes saw three movies in one day. The meals could be skipped, but not the movies. I saw “Gone with the Wind” again and again, eight times in all. “Waterloo Bridge”, “Jane Eyre” and others I saw at least five times each. I could even recite some of the scripts word for word. I wrote frequently to the Hollywood movie stars; they sent me occasionally autographed photographs that I treated as priceless treasures. There were times I thought to myself: I have been such a fool ! I was worshipping those stars as idols and they didn’t even know who I was. The movies and cinemas were the things I spent most of my energy and time in, but they in turn brought me countless moments of sorrow and confusion.

Money cannot buy happiness. The material world will afford us only temporary pleasures; fame and status are both like clouds passing us by in a blink of the eye. If this is not so, why then even some billionaires and red-hot movie stars committed suicide? If wealth could fulfill their heart’s yearnings, why did they take on the path of self-destruction?

Ever since the day I began to remember things, I acknowledged that time flows by like water in a river. You cannot make it stationary or speed up the flow. Beautiful, sparkling snowflakes are glinting like crystals but they vaporize into nothingness once they are met with a blow of warm breath. The moon wanes and waxes, announcing to mankind that the months and years are passing constantly. During my childhood the time of the year I most long for was the Lunar New Year. This was a time for festivities when the folks would make delicious rice and pork dumplings, sweet dumplings, and kill chickens and ducks for food. As well-to-do children, we were truly fortunate. There were lots of candies and dried melon seeds to eat with lots of firecrackers to play with. You would get what you wanted. When you paid your formal respects to the elders in the family, you would receive in return red packets with lucky money inside. Nothing at all can yield more fun for a child than the Chinese New Year. Nevertheless, all things will come to pass. However joyful the New Year might be, it would eventually pass. While you were waiting for the New Year’s arrival, even if you tried to speed up the earth with a whip in your hand, the earth shall not budge. It still rotates according to its own rhythm, slowly and orderly as usual. When the New Year was here, you wished to tie up the earth to make it slow down for you. Would it pay any attention to your demand? After all, nothing on earth lasts forever. I, too, wished people would never die so that we could enjoy our lives in this world for one lifetime after another. But as I grew older I realized that everyone must face the final curtain of death. This way, humans are forced to have a relatively more realistic understanding of everything in this life. Otherwise, conflicts and contradictions among men would degenerate into a horrific state.

My mind wandered on. I was drifting aimlessly and confused. Where can I find the true source or meaning of life? Where is the truth for eternal life?

Chapter 2 Seeking and Seeking

To a blind boat no matter which direction the wind blows it is always against the boat. To a person who is seeking the truth anything even so little is the step to know God.

The Holy Ghost is guiding me all the time. It is He who helps me to realize the temporary nature and vanity of the world. Since then I made up my mind to seek and seek the truth.

As everybody knows most families in China follow the Buddhist custom. My family is not an exception to this rule. During Chinese New Year or some big feasts people go to the temple to worship Buddha to ask for a prosperous life or for a baby. I thought it was fairly easy. You could look for somebody to help you or go to an experienced doctor. Why does one need to worship a wooden carved statue as God. Every Chinese New Year I went to the city temple with my mother. There was heavy smoke all round there. It was hard to breathe inside the temple. When I caught sight of the gloomy face of the king of Hades and the four King Kung with awful faces, I was scared almost to death and had nightmares. Worshipping inside the Buddhist temples didn’t bring me any peace or joy. My mind was so empty that I could not be uplifted.

Then one of my brothers who studied at St. John’s school, was baptized as a Protestant there. Once in a while he told the doctrine of his religion; the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ; His Crucifixion on the cross to save mankind from the punishment of sins, and on the third day His Resurrection from the dead. I believed that Jesus Christ must be the Savior whom I have expected for so many years. He is not only a human being but also God He has overcame death, opened the gate to heaven for us. But once my brother told me the founder of his religion was Henry VIII, who split with the pope and organized a new religion, only because he wanted to get divorced, I thought that as a religion founder, even he himself couldn’t keep God’s commandments. How could this religion be true and pure? How could I be convinced by it? I have to look for the truth; on and on.

My little boat was still circling on the lake. I had been to Aurora Girls’ school for many years, and I had been to catechism class for a long time. I was so stubborn, so rebellious, I was just like a wild horse without reins. I could not be subdued. I was good at making trouble with nuns and some faithful many times on purpose. For instance, I asked why Mother X often defended someone who did not deserve to be defended; why my classmate didn’t get any punishment for her wrong doings and so on.

One day Mother Lu asked me if I was ready to get baptized. I replied very frankly. I said, “Mother, I don’t want to become a Catholic for some personal intentions. Some people become Catholics just to please nuns. Some want to go abroad Some…” Mother Lu was much surprised with my answer. She hesitated for a little while and then she spoke calmly and slowly to me , “Since you want to purify your intention of being a Catholic. That is good! The religion will have more motivation on you in the future.”

Chapter 3 Found the Treasure

When we are playing a chess game, every time you move a chess piece it has an effect on the whole game, win or lose. So is our life. God is watching us all the time. Nothing in our daily life comes from coincidence. God’s Providence makes us perfect. Only one thing is that we humans have to cooperate with God.

The school where I studied provided the location to know the truth. The time when the Chinese Communists were going to take over China. The sky was very dark. It seemed that the storm was drawing near. The Catholic Church had to face a very severe persecution. At that time there were a couple of priests coming to Shanghai from abroad. Father Joseph Shen, Father Matthew Chen, Father Aiden McGrath.

Father Joseph was the youngest of them. He was only 33. He left his home at the age of eighteen to follow his vocation. Then he studied at seminaries in Ireland, England, and Italy. Finally he had earned three doctorate’ degrees; namely, theology, philosophy and politic science. He not only had a profound and extensive knowledge but also superior intelligence. Young as he was, he was renowned all over the world. What surprised me most was that he declined the invitation from a world-famous university in Rome to be a professor there. He was determined to come back to China. When I first saw him I was not a Catholic yet. I loved his sense of humor and agreeable personality. We often asked Father not to talk too much about the catechism which we were not interested in. We liked Hollywood movies and traveling.

Father had a special way in guiding us. Since he knew we liked movies he rented the movie “Song of Bernadette” for our school and asked if we would like to watch it twice. He would ask them to show the movie one more time. He sometimes treated us at a bakery. I always ordered the most expensive cake or ice cream. I did it on purpose and said to him, “For everything, I’d like the best one”. Father replied without any hesitation, “ That is good to choose the best in your daily life. Later on, after you read the Bible, you will be sure to imitate Mary Magdalen. Always choose the best way to please God.” How smart Father Joseph Shen was. He used all kinds of ways to lead us to God. I have always kept his words throughout my life.

Once I didn’t get a high score in a physics test. I was so depressed that I thought it was such a shame my score was lower than that of some of my classmates. Father Shen could sense that I was not happy over something. He had a private talk with me. I told him in an honest way that my goal was to get the highest score in class otherwise it would be equivalent to getting zero in the test. Father was really a psychologist as he never used negative words but guided me in a positive way, He said firmly “Our Lord doesn’t like those who are not hot or cold, you have a very strong character. Only you can control yourself. Someday you can be somebody especially during the period of persecution. We have to be strong in our faith. St Therese of the Infant Jesus seemed not to have done much throughout her life but she loved God with a 100% love everyday.” I didn’t quite get the mystery of these words. But I was really convinced by this soft-hearted priest. At that I had the desire to become a Catholic.

One afternoon in 1948 when I got into the doctrine classroom Father Shen had already begun to give the lesson on doctrine. There were some words on the blackboard. “Each one of us has a heavenly mother.” That attracted me so much. I quickly looked for a seat and sat down. Father kept saying “In order to let us know our Blessed Mother more clearly, God gives everyone an earthly mother.” A mother’s love for her children is always pure, true, and unselfish. Our Catholic Church has a very outstanding Mother, the Virgin Mother.” Then Father told us his own story to show how Our Lady protected him in time of danger. Once he took a plane from Italy to Ireland. The weather was terrible. The visibility was so low that eventually the plane encountered an accident. Father was wearing a relic of St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus and holding his rosary tightly. Father was praying to Our Lady so fervently. Actually he thought he had nothing to regret if he died at that moment except his mother was expecting him to be ordained a priest and to go back to China. The plane fell to the sea. Many died and many more got injured. But miraculously Father was safe and sound.

From that day on I started to pray to the Virgin Mary. After about one month I was determined to accept the Catholic religion and keep the truth.

At the end of the year 1948, the communist army was planning to cross the Yang-zhi River. Nanjing and Shanghai were their next targets. I knew there were serious trials coming soon. There would never be any compromise between the Catholic Church and communism. Father Shen knew quite well what situation he would get into but he faced dangers with calm and confidence. He kept on instructing us that we were in the 20th century. The way our enemy persecuted us would be totally different from that in ancient Rome. There would be no coliseum, no crucifixions. They won’t allow you to die for the faith right away. They will use the tactics of mankind manipulation, of mixing the truth with falsehood, puzzling you for a long period of time. They will hold the stick and the carrot in both hands. Their tactic is like the way poisonous gas works. People are not aware at the very beginning that they are surrounded by the gas. By and by they feel dizzier and dizzier. Once they are aware of what happens, it is too late. They don’t have any strength to open the window or the door. The worst thing the communist do is to take the advantage of the weak people in our Church to split us up. To sow the discord, let the people mistrust one another among themselves. Our enemy usually wears a kind mask and talks to us with sweet words. Such as “We don’t force you to give up your religion but you have to hate those imperialists, you are supposed to accuse them and expose their crimes.” People who tend to be weak in their faith will betray others causing them to be arrested. But the communist beautify these acts as “love the country and the Church”

I remember very clearly before my baptism Father Shen asked me very seriously if I was ready to suffer for the faith, even get arrested. He asked me “Why do you want to be a Catholic at this critical time. You are looking for trouble. Are you ready to shed your blood for your faith? ” I answered briefly and firmly: “Since I’ve known God, I won’t deny Him under any circumstance. If I have to die for my faith I’m willing to. How wonderful is our Catholic Church! Father, you often sing Bing Crosby’s song “Going My Way” I’m sure to follow you.” Father asked me one more thing that I had to forgive those who persecuted me. My answer to him was “NO”. I was born in a pagan family. When I was a little girl if someone messed up my book even unintentionally, I had to scribble on her exercise book in return. Now the Church asks me to love my enemy. I didn’t have the courage and fortitude but if someday Father himself showed the love to his enemy I was sure to imitate him.

On April 16, 1949 with 9 classmates, we were baptized by Father Joseph Shen at Sacred Heart Convent in Shanghai, China. Father gave each of us a souvenir — a pretty holy card made of silk. The picture showed a boat with a white sail and on the sail was a red cross. Father explained that we were sitting on St. Peter’s boat traveling across to the other shore. No matter how strong the wind was or how heavy the rains became, we would be safe on this boat.

In 1950 Father was taken to a hospital in Shanghai for a heart disease ailment. My sister and I went to visit him. It was the last time we saw him. From his talk he knew that God would call him back very soon. Though he had a beautiful dream to work in the missions in China, and yet he was more willing to die as a martyr. At last he promised us he would always pray for us under any condition.

In 1953 I received a letter from my brother in Hong Kong. He said that a French priest named Jean Billot had written an article about Father Shen’s martyrdom. That was how I learned about Father Shen’s death.

Who was Father Jean Billot? He was Jesuit, who used to work at an orphanage in Shanghai, China for many years. He was arrested by the Chinese Communists and imprisoned for about 2 years and he was the first priest to be deported in 1953. When he arrived at Hong Kong airport, he was not only in rags but also with one worn-out shoe. One of the immigration officers asked him to show his visa which he could not produce. They refused to allow him to enter Hong Kong. He kept on explaining that he was a priest. In the end they allowed him to make a phone call to the Jesuits’ office in HK. To everyone’s surprise within 15 minutes many, many churches there rang the bell loudly. This was the way to welcome Father Billot. Soon some Jesuits came to the airport, bringing a new pair of shoes and new clothing to meet Father Billot.

Father’s article said that when he was sick at the prison hospital in Shanghai, he met the dying priest Father Joseph Shen. He made an effort to go near to Fr. Shen’s bed to give him the last rites. Shen was very calm and peaceful. His last words were that he had never accused anyone nor given any information to harm anyone. He forgave all his persecutors . Then he opened both his arms as a sign of a cross and said “We are six. We are all martyrs of Christ”( These six priests included Fr. Matthew Chen and Fr. Hou who lived together in the Catholic Center Bureau in Shanghai. They all had been arrested and all died in prison.)

What Fr. Shen has said he really meant. Now it was my turn to regard him as my best example and follow his step until my very last breath.


Home | Newsletters | Library | Vocations | History | Links | Search | Contact