What wonderful stories the saints give us…like little gems
During the Boxer Rebellion in China at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Catholics were persecuted. In 1900, 86 Christians were martyred for their Faith. Many were of the same family, the family of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, a drug addict.
He died while he was still a drug addict, not a former drug addict, and he was addicted to opium
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang came from a prominent Chinese family. He was a doctor. While ill, he was medicated with opium, a common “medicine” in those days. He became addicted. Going to Confession for years and repeating this same weakness, a Catholic priest told him he was not truly repentant, as Mark continued to be addicted. In those days, addiction was not understood as a disease. The priest forbade Mark to go to Confession until the doctor stopped taking opium. The poor man was denied all the sacraments for 30 years of his life. Thankfully, today, we understand addiction.
He brought disgrace to his family and scandal to his community. Still, he prayed daily to be released from opium.
Then, the Chinese government began to persecute Catholics, killing them. Mark and some of his family were arrested and condemned to death. He chose to be the last to be killed, so that the others would not die alone. He sang a hymn to Our Lady up until the time he was beheaded.
A drug addict went straight to heaven in 1900.
I heard this story in a sermon yesterday and wanted to share it with you as the priest was talking about the particular grace of final perseverance. He told us that St. Mark had this amazing grace to persevere at the end, even though his body and mind were enslaved to the disease of addiction. St. Mark Ji Tianxiang’s response to this great grace of final perseverance, which we cannot merit, is his high place in heaven among the martyrs of the Church.
Final perseverance cannot be merited. Obviously, St. Mark had not received the sacraments for 30 years. He could not merit such a great grace.
I imagine he prayed for this grace, however, knowing that he was not able to cultivate his spiritual life. God is merciful, but also just. St. Mark Ji Tianxiang reminds us of God’s mercy. His feast day is July 9th.
By Ernst Hoffman
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,