Newsletter of the District of Asia

 Jan - April 2007

Joy in Suffering
By Rose Hu

We continue 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 plus shipping.


Chapter 4 The Legion of Mary -The Vanguard of the Catholic Church

All those who attack the Catholic Church, they attack Our Lady first. They did just as God said to the serpent in Genesis (3:15) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

In 1949 the Chinese Communist Party took over the power in China mainland. In the meantime an Irish priest, a Columban missionary, Father Aedan McGrath, came to China and founded hundreds of presidia of the Legion of Mary in Shanghai, Beijing, Haike, Tianjin, Guangzhou…etc. Father McGrath was not without his critics even from the Catholic clergy. Some said there were already many organizations promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Others said most legionaries were teenagers who were often stereotyped as fun-loving and hardly serious contributors to any apostolic work. Father McGrath ignored all these criticisms and oppositions. He kept on working under great stress. He founded one presidium after another. In particular, he founded six presidia in my school, the Aurora Girls’ High School in Shanghai.

We had in total more than 100 active members. Many of us were born and brought up in a pagan family. Some of us had been baptized only for a few months or a couple of years. So at the persecution period we had to carry the double Cross: Our age ranged from 15 to 18.

Our Lady chose especially those who were the weakest. She not only asked us to do missionary work but also to undergo trials and sufferings for our faith. From 1949 to 1951 the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) was planning to attack the Catholic Church in China. We were waiting, watching, and wondering what methods they would be using to persecute us. It was really incredible that the young Legion of Mary was the main target of the CCP. Maybe they thought the Legion of Mary was just founded without any powerful background or support. Perhaps they assumed that young legionaries didn’t have enough courage and fortitude to resist the temptations and onslaught. Did they think that if the legionaries fell apart, a domino effect would follow, such that all Catholics in China would submit to them?

October 8, 1951 was the most unforgettable day in my life.

Nearly all the newspapers in China put this piece of news in big bold characters on the first page: “Legion of Mary is a Counter-Revolutionary Organization. All the members have to go to the Security Office to register.” In the streets on the wall outside the front door to every Security Office Bureau hung a large board with the words “Register Office” for the legionaries. The government was starting a huge propaganda campaign but with little success. Only a few families pleaded with their kids to go to the Security Office to register because they were scared that if they did not register, the whole family would get very severe punishment. Parents wept and even knelt down to beg their daughters or sons to register.

In 1951 a few legion officers, including the president and the vice-president, of the Shanghai Senatus were arrested. One was sentenced to 12 years in jail. His name was Francis Shen. He had seven kids. The youngest daughter was born after his arrest. Later he was condemned to death in a public trial in 1960 because the communist official caught him teaching the faith to his cellmates. One faithful, who had been in the same prison with Mr. Shen, told me that when the guards took Mr. Shen to be executed by a gun, he was so calm and made a sign of the cross and left the cell just like a martyr. Actually he was a martyr, because he had a good family with a sweet wife and seven children. He offered all these to God to keep the faith.

At that time many Catholic families were driven out of Shanghai to remote, underdeveloped provinces such as Xin Jiang, Mongolia… The government didn’t allow them to come back to Shanghai any more. Many had lost their jobs, many had been kicked out of school. I myself was kicked out of university for not registering as a member of the Legion of Mary.

We encouraged one another. Our motto was: “I am all thine, my Queen, my Mother and all that I have is thine!” We had full confidence that we are Our Lady’s beloved children. Our Lady would protect us all the time. Our weapon is to say the Holy Rosary as many times as possible.

Rose Hu and Fr. McGrath

Rose Hu and Fr. McGrath

In 1951 during “The Movement Against the Legion of Mary” I was always getting ready for arrest. I was told that in jail we were not allowed to have belts or strips because the authority was afraid that the prisoners would commit suicide. My mother made some pants and underwear with elastic bands, a padded cotton jacket with buttons, not zippers. My sister and I put these clothes in a small parcel, and some soap, tissue, toothbrush, tooth paste … I taped it with a piece of white paper, on which I wrote the following with brush and black ink in very big Chinese characters: “God, Our Lord, above all else.” Our parcels were placed under our pillows. Every night during meditation, I always asked myself if I had placed our Heavenly Father above all else that day.

Whenever we heard our doorbell ringing, my sister and I would say to each other, “Maybe it is the time to go now. Pray, keep the faith.”

My parents, especially my father, suffered much during these turbulent times. They had to put up with fear and anxiety day and night. Burdened with such anxious waiting and troubling uncertainty, my father being a very nervous person, was finally struck down with a stroke. He died a few hours later. At first I complained to God that although I was willing to suffer, why did my parents have to suffer with me?

When my father was taken to the mortuary, I happened to spot in the mortuary many horrible-looking bodies of rich businessmen who had committed suicide because at that time there was an ongoing “Three and Five Movement” against the capitalists. I then realized that my father was protected from this type of misfortune by Divine Providence, even though he himself was a successful owner of a big business. Moreover, he was baptized at his deathbed. He had a peaceful death. Thanks be to God!

During the communist persecution up to 1955, the church in China, in particular the Legion of Mary, played a large role in the struggle. Someday if somebody should write the history of the struggle of the Church in China against Communism, the Legion of Mary should be considered as a vanguard and stronghold in this struggle. When in 1951 the bishops and priests had not been attacked yet, the lay legionaries were at the very battlefront, providing an outstanding example for the country to follow.

There was a famous saying in the fifties that “the whole country looked to Shanghai, and Shanghai looked to Aurora (Girls’ High School)” since most Aurora Catholics were legionaries. Our Lady guided us through the hardship. Only very, very few of us denied or abjured our precious faith. Even for these few, after a period of time, some were truly sorry for what they had done.

Now more than fifty years have passed but still trials and battles are in front of us. Since faith can’t change, and truth always remains the same, our attitude to the faith and to truth has to be the same. No one is assured of his salvation till he gives up his last breath. We should pray everyday for final perseverance!

Chapter 5 Saul became Paul in My Family

When the first martyr in our church, St Stephen, was stoned to death, Saul was the main person to persecute him. But not long after Stephen’s death, on the way to Damascus he was converted by God’s special grace. He laid down his butcher’s knife and became a great saint, a well-known apostle, St. Paul.

On Oct.8, 1951 the Chinese Communist Party officially declared that the Legion of Mary was a counter-revolutionary organization. All legionaries were ordered to register. We knew clearly that we hadn’t done anything wrong against country or people. Going to register would be to acknowledge a false accusation of the Communists against our conscience and faith. But the Communists were very smart. They not only attacked us in public, but also they often took advantage of our beloved ones.

When I was persecuted for the Legion of Mary. The police came to our house to threaten my parents. The police made them weep night and day. Under these circumstances my parents and my brothers gave us much stress especially my fourth brother. He was always very cruel to us. At each meal he kept on forcing us to register. I could understand why he did so.

Firstly, he didn’t know what he was doing. Just because he loved Dad so deeply, he was not willing to see Dad suffer that much, almost to death, for us. Secondly, he worried about us. If someday we got arrested, what would happen to our family?

On Sundays Dad told him to keep guard on us, forbade us to go to church. It made us very upset, so I disliked him from the bottom of my heart. I blamed him and quarreled with him many times. I had even cursed him that he was the running dog of CCP. He was doing evil as a volunteer for the government. This government had put a tight encirclement for the Catholic faithful. At that time there were many innocent people like my brother. They persecuted our Catholic church severely out of blindness and without awareness. They were just as Our Lord said “ They don’t know what they are doing”.

At the end of 1951 Dad ordered my fourth brother to check out the books in our bedroom. Dad said, “These two girls are extremely stubborn. Sooner or later the police will arrest them. Go to their bedroom to examine their books if they have any books against communism. If any, be sure to take them away or they will get more punishment.” My brother did what my dad asked him to do. He read the books one by one. Finally he found a book the title of which was “Marxism and Religion”, written by Fr. Matthew Chen. While he was reading it, he took notes in details. I was afraid that maybe he was looking for something wrong with it. On the same evening he talked to me in very good mood. He said, “The book which Fr. Chen wrote is very instructive to me. I’d like to talk to your priest. I have some questions to ask.” I replied; “ if you are willing to accept God, you are very welcome. If after the talk you are still not willing to accept, that is no problem. But don’t report everything to the police. I hope you are a straightforward and upright person.” This time my brother explained to me sincerely; “I have been against you on the issue of the Legion of Mary because I am a pagan, I don’t know anything about your Catholic Church. I am only standing at the worldly position to protect you. As your brother, I don’t have any bad intention. If I did hurt your feelings, I ask your forgiveness.”

The next morning I went to my parish church “church of Christ the King “ I met my pastor, Fr. Xavier Chu. I told him something about my brother. Fr. Chu said “God leads every soul in a different way: since your brother is willing to have a talk with me, he is always welcome. I don’t care what his attitude to the faith was in the past. You know Saul did become Paul.” Since then my brother came to visit Fr. Chu twice a week. He had a lot of questions to ask. But God’s tremendous grace fell on his soul.

In March, 1952 he decided to get baptized. Fr. Chu was so excited that he reported it to Bishop Kung. The bishop was much moved, he decided to baptize my brother in a solemn ceremony at my parish on Holy Saturday at the church of Christ the King

I will always remember the scene on that special evening. Whenever I think of it, all the details come distinctly in front of my eyes. At about 4 pm, both my sister and I were waiting in the church’s lobby. All of a sudden, there came a priest who was clearly in high spirit, since he walked so fast that the two belts of his cassock were like a pair of butterflies wafted with the wind. He spoke very fast as well “Who is Mei Zhen Hu? And who is Mei Yu?” I stood up without any hesitation and drew my sister saying “We are” This priest held our hands warmly saying “Congratulation to you! You have won the first battle. Your suffering and tears have protected our church. God has blessed you very much. The baptisms of your dad and brother are really God’s gift.” I thought it was very funny. We didn’t even know his name, how could he be so familiar with us. We didn’t know what to say with our eyes full of tears. Indeed we had been suffering for several months. We couldn’t count how many nights without sleep, the hundreds of times we knelt in front of Our Lady’s statue asking her to be our intercessor. The worst thing we were afraid of was to betray her in the trial.

We put our weakness into our Heavenly Mother’s hand. To be arrested someday was not terrible. The fact that Dad died just for the “Legion of Mary” was truly God’s blessing. We were not scared with whatever would happen to us except we prayed to Our Lady that she wouldn’t allow us to lose our faith. “Dearest Mother if we are to become other Judases next minute, please asks God to call us at this moment.

Joy in Suffering

Rose Hu's book - Joy in Suffering - in its original Chinese edition

Fr. Zhang saw us with tears on our cheeks, patted us on the shoulder and said , “I am Fr. Matthew Zhang, very glad to meet you. Bishop Kung will talk to you privately after the ceremony.” When my brother was getting ready to be baptized, he was so sorry for what he had done to the Catholic Church. He wanted to imitate Saint Augustine, so he had Augustine as his Christian name. During the ceremony my brother was truly excited that the bishop himself came to baptize him. He kept joining his hands in a very fervent manner. Hearing his firm words “ I deny Satin and all his works. I’m willing to accept the Catholic faith” I burst into tears. What else could be more moving than this! Only a few months before, he was against our Church and attacked us night and day so blindly. Now we were in the same flock! How merciful God is!

After the ceremony Bishop Kung had a short talk with us and gave us some rosaries and holy pictures. Finally the bishop encouraged us “You should thank God. Many trials are waiting for you. You have to walk one step at a time. Be devoted to Our Lady. Keep on climbing the spiritual hill.”

After his baptism, my brother went to Mass and received Holy Communion every day. He did penance and fasted often to regret his sins of the past. Fr. Xavier Chu was his spiritual director. He kept on praising Augustine in front of many parishioners. “Though Augustine has just been baptized. See how God’s grace works on him. He loves God that much.”

The Communist movement went on endlessly in the last century. The situation in China was getting more and more tense. Since my dad had a company in Hong Kong, we pushed Augustine to go to Hong Kong as soon as possible, but he rejected. He insisted on staying with us. He said ,“I’d rather be here with you than go abroad.” We explained to him. “We have no way to go out, but you can. After you get there you can work in dad’s company. In case we get arrested you are able to support us. Why we all hang up in one tree? Then there isn’t any hope.” At last Fr. Chu said “Augustine, you have to go for our Church, for your family. For yourself you have to go” On hearing this my brother said without any hesitation; :I’ll do what you say” While saying this he knelt down and asked for Father’s blessing.

When he was in Hong Kong, he didn’t have a high salary and yet he only spent very little on himself. He did mail a lot of food and medicine to those who were in need, especially to the seminarians. At that time Fr. Cai (Parish Priest of Zi Jia Wei) said that without our brother’s help, some seminarians would never have been ordained. When I got to jail in 1955, through God’s providence I got many packages of food from him. Thanks be to God ! Thanks be to my dearest brother!

He died of a heart attack in Osaka, Japan in 1965. Many Catholics in Hong Kong and Japan praised him and said that he was an outstanding one among them. Deo Gratias!

Chapter 6 Make hey while the sun shines

Our Lord said to the disciples “ Why are ye fearful, o ye of little faith?” (Matt.23-27) We have to get rid of fear because of fear we can’t have the correct attitude to work, we won’t have the right judgment. I have to emphasize we have to keep far away from fear, varieties of fear, but to maintain one kind of fear. That is the fear of God. If you only fear God, then you won’t be afraid of man, you won’t be afraid of any ghosts in the world. (The speech made by Pope Pius XI on may 17th, 1931)

In 1951 Father Aedan McGrath knew that our enemies were sharpening their knives, watching the situation, planning to attack Legion of Mary. Without any hesitation, Father ordered all the Legions to dismiss right away. In the meanwhile I was the president of “Mother Undefiled” presidium in Aurora. As soon as I heard the news my heart was broken. We had already 20 active members and about 100 auxiliary members. All of us were busy visiting patients in the hospital, giving catechism class to the children… How could I be willing to stop? No, definitely not. I burst into tears in front of our spiritual director Father Edward McElroy. I said “Why are we so timid? The Communists haven’t begun to attack us. We stand with the white flag in advance. What does it mean?” Father had nothing to say about what his own idea was. He told me “ This is the Curia’s decision. We have to obey. In order not to stir up more trouble, we’d rather go backward a little. St. Joseph, Our Lady took the Infant Jesus, fled to Egypt just to avoid the murder from Herod. Sometimes it is prudent to avoid the occasion. You have the zeal to work. Keep on working for God. Without the legion I trust you’ll work as hard as before.” Since all was fixed, how could I, a tiny lay person bring about a radical change in the situation?

From Jan. 1951 I went to St. Columba’s church (where Fr. McElroy stayed) once a week to report to him what I had done in the past week. He was very pleased with it. But in Oct. 1952, he told me with an uneasy face, “Rose, I hope you will not visit me anymore just in case something happens to me, I could be deported. I assume I won’t suffer too much. But for you it is different. Do you know what I’m most afraid of? Not to be arrested, not to be sentenced. I prefer to stay here, to suffer with you, not to be deported” On hearing this, an Irish priest was willing to be a martyr for China. I could not help my tears. I said to him from the bottom of my heart. “I’ll keep on coming here no matter what happens. If someday I have to be persecuted for you, I am willing. You come from far away to our country, You give up your comfortable life to be a missionary priest in the primitive area. You never complained, never regretted what you’ve done for the church in China. Love is supposed to be returned in love.” Since then I visited him as usual until he was deported in June, 1953. I would never forget the last words he said to me, “If some day I leave here, I’ll stay in the city nearest to China because I expect to be back as soon as possible.”

Father McElroy died of heart attack on Nov.22, 1984 in Hong Kong. All his life he was loyal to God, loyal to others. He had been the superior of St. Columban’s Society. He could go to Ireland, to USA… Actually he didn’t go anywhere, he just stayed in Hong Kong, the nearest city to China. He waited night and day. He hoped his sweet dream would come true sooner or later. Maybe the next day he would have the chance to go back to China. But God had His own plan. Father had waited for more than 30 years. Where could I find such deep and sincere love! In 1998 I went to HK to visit my mother’s cemetery. Much to my surprise, I found Father’s grave was just a few steps away from my mother’s. As soon as I saw his photo on his grave, I was dumbfounded. Was I in a dream? I bit my fingers. Father, you are in heaven and you’re my mother’s neighbor!

With God’s grace both Father and I have kept our promise. He died in the nearest city to China, HK. I remained the same Rose. I had not done anything wrong to him. Let us praise God’s Providence! Only God can make it happen!

Now back to 1951, after the Legion of Mary had been dismissed, I was out of school, without any job. But during this period what we had most was time. Time is the most important thing for glorifying God and the salvation of souls. Only if we desired to do something, nothing could stop us. No matter how hard the problem was, or without Legion of Mary, we focused our time looking for whatever we could. There were many young kids whose parents were very busy. They didn’t have any time to give them catechism classes. Many parishes were in need of faithful to help them to educate the young ones. So we took them to hear Mass, to say the rosary. Once or twice a week we gave the doctrine class to them. Sometimes we visited patients, we consoled them, we tried to get many pagans to be baptized when they were dying. Father Matthew Zhang often encouraged us to read more spiritual readings, to pray more. If we ourselves didn’t have much grace in our soul, how could we help others. I always thought we didn’t know when would be our turn to get arrested. My cross was so heavy, maybe my family would be the main obstacle for me to become a betrayer. Many of my friends were so courageous, they seemed not afraid at all. But to say is one thing, to do is another. Most of them twisted their ways in persecution. God always helps those who ask for God’s grace.

More than half century has passed. It was incredible that among the twenty-five members of our university youth group, only three of us have been arrested for the faith. So far a few have passed away. Some become professors, scientists, artists… and yet many of them have not lived happily. World-fame, riches or power can’t buy happiness. The true happiness comes from Almighty God. We are just created for Him alone!


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