Monday, September 20, 2010

莫克勤 excerpts from Father W. Aedan McGrath: Perseverance Through Faith

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The following is an excerpt from the memoirs
of the {莫克勤} Rev. Fr. William Aedan McGrath's
“Perseverance Through Faith: A Priest's Prison Story,”
edited and researched by Theresa Marie Moreau and may be purchased from Amazon.com.







Perseverance Through Faith

A Priest’s Prison Story

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The Memoirs
of
Father W. Aedan McGrath

莫克勤

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Edited and Researched
by
Theresa Marie Moreau

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Ad Jesum per Mariam








CHAPTER 1

“The police are here,” said Father Edward MacElroy (1911-1980, Missionary Society of St. Columban), when he opened to door to my room. Behind him in the doorway stood three Chinese Communist policemen with drawn revolvers.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was 11:30 on the night of September 6, 1951. For three months, I had waited in suspense for this hour, but the police did not take me out of the house until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning of September 7, which was the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Legion of Mary.

At the front door, Father MacElroy had greeted the officers who showed him a document—a warrant of arrest—and asked him to sign it.

“What is the reason of his arrest?” Father MacElroy asked.

“For a case,” they answered, as Father MacElroy brought them upstairs, to my room in our rectory on Rue Maresca, home to the Missionary Society of St. Columban priests living in Shanghai, China.

Five or six officers were in my room and told us to sit down while they looked around. Others kept Father Malachy Murphy (1920-1971, Missionary Society of St. Columban) in his room. More searched in other rooms in the rectory.

Father MacElroy and I sat down and calmly watched the police ransacking my room. Within a couple of minutes, they had unearthed a few photographs of my relatives back in Ireland and a couple of letters, which I had been looking for, for a couple of months. I was fortunate enough to be able to spot what the letters were, so that later—during interrogations—I could admit that I had written them. There was no harm in them, but it was well to know that they had got them.

They spread the letters on my table and stacked all the photographs together—photographs of my family and some Legion of Mary photographs. But there were no photographs of the faces of Legionaries, for already I had destroyed all those things, lest Legionaries might be inconvenienced by investigations.

On entering the room, one of them had picked up my little radio, which was only a long-wave radio and capable only of listening to Shanghai. They took it off the table, put it on the floor and began to wrap it up.

“No. Don’t touch that thing,” one of the officers said. “Leave it here for a while. Don’t take it away.”

Apparently, they wanted to take a photograph of “that thing,” which they later said I had used to tap messages out to America.

After ransacking the room, they ordered Father MacElroy out to his room. As I heard afterward, they held him there with a revolver, told him not to move and threatened, if he moved, they would shoot him.

During that time, several photographers entered my room. They put me between two policemen, who pressed their Browning revolvers into my side and wouldn’t let me stir. While I was standing there, a policeman walked in behind me. What he had in his hand I do not know, but I do know when that picture appeared in public later, the table was covered with pornographic literature, knives and revolvers.

There was a young Communist girl there with a Leica camera, which they must have confiscated from somebody. She took several pictures just under the light in my room. It was that girl, who, afterward, took many, many pictures during my imprisonment.

After all the photographs were taken, Father MacElroy was allowed to come back, and they told me to prepare to leave.

“He has been very sick,” Father MacElroy told them.

They gave permission that I could take something, and Father MacElroy very quickly wrapped up part of a Foxford rug, another military rug, a couple of cardigans, then he stuffed them into my arms. The officers took my toothbrush, toothpaste and a little towel.

I was pushed out the door of my room, but before I left, I knelt down and asked Father MacElroy for an absolution. They tried to stop me, but Father MacElroy continued and gave the absolution.

After that he said, “Well, keep your chin up.”

I was brought downstairs, and on the way down Father MacElroy came with us.

“Go back,” they told him.

“Oh, no. It is the Chinese custom that I should lead guests to the door,” he said.

“In this case, it is not necessary,” they told him.

But Father MacElroy continued, at least to the bottom of the stairs.

When I got outside, I looked at my watch. It was after 1 in the morning, September 7, 1951.

It’s the foundation day of the Legion of Mary, I realized, and I began to chuckle to myself. The Communists have selected a good day.

Stepping outside, into the darkness of the September night, I saw dim forms in the yard and on the street. I realized then that the house had been surrounded by police. I was obliged to enter an American-made passenger car, in which I sat between two guards. A jeep carrying armed soldiers was in front, and it began to roll. We followed, taking a roundabout route to our destination.

Before we had left, Father MacElroy had asked the guard, “Where shall I ask about Father McGrath within a couple of days?”

One of the Communists thought for a moment, and then he said, “Oh, Zikawei Police Station.”

In fact, when we started in the cars, we made toward Zikawei, but then turned off another road. That was the first of the series of lies that the Communists continued to tell.

I was brought to Lokawei Police Station, and it was now after 2 o’clock in the morning. I was brought into a room with a cement floor, pushed into a corner and left standing. A guard with a Thompson submachine gun stood opposite me.

Nobody wanted to live in a Communist prison. Not for 10 minutes. Therefore, people would try to prepare to have something, anything at all, to kill themselves, to cut a vein. The Communists were afraid of that, and they didn’t want prisoners to die, because they wanted to get everything, all the information they could out of prisoners. That was the first thing that was in their minds, and so they looked for knives in my pockets.

They actually took everything out of my pockets: my money, my watch, my penknife, a piece of twine that I might have thrown around my neck and hanged myself from the ceiling, my laces out of my shoes, every button on my pants. I don’t know how many buttons I would have had to swallow to kill myself, but they were afraid that I might try.

While I was standing in the corner, I heard one policeman say to the other when he took my religious medals off, “Ha! They all have these things.”

I judged from that, that many other priests must have been arrested that night.

They took everything from me, stripped me and left me standing there. Two guards with machine guns, one on either side, and me, a naked man, in the middle.

But one thing they didn’t see: my brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A big one in front and a big one behind on a string over the shoulder.

What is this? I said to myself.

It was the first bit of indication I got that the Blessed Mother was trying to tell me something: Don’t worry. Stop worrying.

They did not see it, and I have no doubt at all in my mind that it was a sign from the Blessed Mother. I had consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary, the St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716) consecration. And when you’ve made your consecration to Jesus through Mary, you promise to quit worrying, to stop thinking about yesterday and tomorrow. That’s what you promise, and if you live up to it, there’s nothing to worry about.

And here was her first sign that she was with me.

After half an hour, another policeman came in, threw a mat upon the ground, ordered me to lie down on the cement floor and stood over me with a machine gun.

I don’t like cement floors, and I hate machine guns. Yet within five minutes, I was fast asleep.

That guard stood over me all night, but it was only two hours of a night, indeed, from 3 to 5 in the morning. He stood over me, and I’m quite sure he was indignant. He was meant to impress me, but he didn’t impress me at all, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I snored.

At 5 o’clock, I got a kick from the guard. It was still dark, and I was ordered to get up, but a peace came over me at that moment. I was perfectly happy.

I was told to roll up my blankets and to sit down on the straw mat. For two days, I sat on that straw. I was not allowed to stand up, for what were, possibly, two of the most trying days that I spent in prison. For all the time, there was a guard standing opposite me with a Tommy gun. Having lost my sleep the night before, I was sleepy all through the day. Having nothing to do made it much more difficult to stay awake. I longed to stretch myself on the mat again, or even to stand up and take two or three steps, but I was always forbidden to do so. I prayed, but even during my prayers I still nodded, and each time I nodded, the guard would shout at me and point his gun at me again. Sitting on the ground as I was, I was constantly falling asleep and being rudely wakened by the guards, who were changed every two hours. They would never smile. They would never speak. They just looked and growled at me. None of them would show any friendliness to me, but rather the reverse.

There was one who we later used to call “The Maestro,” because he never stopped singing to himself and conducting with his arm over his skull. In that tiny little room, he walked around and around. Every time he passed one door, he banged it like a big drum. And when he passed the other door, he banged that, too. That was like a nightmare to me. He sang the same awful old airs, and yet I am quite sure that he fancied himself conducting a whole Communist army singing Communist songs. There was, perhaps, one little advantage in that. Because he banged every door every time he passed it, I was not able to sleep. I used to wake up in a fright.

Then there was another one that we used to call “Enemy No. 1.” He was terribly strict and terribly cruel later on. But the first day that he was with me in the prison, he tried, off his own bat, to find out something about me. He looked out the windows, and he looked out the doors, and he came over close to me.

“What country are you from?” he said quietly.

“Ireland,” I replied.

“Where’s that?”

I tried to describe it to him.

“How many people have they?” he asked.

“In the whole country, we have only got about 3 million.”

He smiled an ironic smile.

“Do you know that we have 6 million people in Shanghai?” he said.

That whole day he kept looking at me, and he would make the figure six with his fingers, as they do in Chinese.

“Think of it,” he said. “We, in Shanghai, have 6 million people, and you have only 3 million.”

I once asked him, “Might I stand up?”

I could hardly bend.

“There will be exercise two or three times a day. It is a new rule,” he said.

Obviously, he was referring to something that had been told to him for the other prison to which I later went.

When another guard came, and it was after my dinnertime, I asked him, “May I stand up?”

“No, you may not,” he said.

“I have been told that I could stand up.”

“You may not.”

During those first couple of days, they were waiting to get things straightened out and to get a particularly good place for me in the little prison. I know that the place I was to occupy had been occupied by a Chinese priest. I learnt that from fellow prisoners later, and, of course, they had to get rid of him, had to move him into another cell before I could go.

Sitting on the floor of that first cell, I could see just the tops of the houses opposite on that round in Shanghai. I could see the electric buses passing up and down, and they were like a sort of a nightmare. Every now and again, the hum of the electric bus coming up, and hearing the children playing outside was a great relief. But, of course, I was wondering what was going to happen.

Every time the judges—who presided over the interrogations, the so-called preliminary trials—came back from their meals, which came two or three times a day, they would always jump out of the car, come over to the window and look in at me to see if I were still there, to see how that “top criminal” was taking it.

I did hear many interrogation sessions going on upstairs. It must have been people being judged. But at that time, I didn’t realize what it was. I just heard the talking and shouting. That was all.

In the morning of that first day, I was told that I could go out to the toilet. But the guard first had to look out the corridor and look into the yard, before he would lead me out. Obviously, there was somebody else there whom they did not want me to see. It must have been Father François Xavier Legrand (1903-1984, Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) or Father Joseph Shen Shi-Xian (d. 1953), or Father Matthias Chen Che-Ming (1909-1962).

When they saw the passage clear, they just led me along and into the yard, where there were laughing soldiers and laughing men and laughing women. After I had been to the toilet, they led me back again to the cell, and I remained there until the first meal—gruel, Chinese rice gruel. I didn’t feel like taking it, and I was uncomfortable. I held it in my hand, and it was much too hot. I found it very difficult to eat the couple of rice meals I received there while sitting on the floor. I didn’t know how to eat it properly in the position that I was in, and I tried to kneel on the floor, but the guard was not pleased with that and objected to my kneeling.

“You are not allowed to kneel. Sit!” the guard shouted.

“I can’t. I am not comfortable sitting down.”

“This is not a comfortable place,” he said.

I only took about half a bowl, and the guard was surprised.

“Is that all you are going to eat?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, if that is all you eat today, that’s all you’ll get tomorrow.”

“I can’t help it. I can’t eat.”

With that rice gruel there was a little salt and vegetable—just a little bit. I really thought that was the first main meal of the day, but it actually wasn’t. At about noon—it seemed an interminable length of time before that noon came—they brought in a bowl of rice with a little bit of vegetable. I tried to eat a bit of rice, but, I found it very difficult to swallow it, and, once again, the guards were surprised that I ate so little.

“If you don’t eat more now, you’ll never get any more,” a guard said.

“I can’t eat.”

My mouth was dry, and I, of course, had not had a lot of sleep. The first day on the floor like that was really terribly uncomfortable, even though afterward I did get used to it. In the evening, there was a third meal, another bowl of rice with a little bit of vegetable. I didn’t make a very good shot at that, either.

That first day, I suppose, was the longest that I ever remember—not knowing what time it was, not knowing what was happening and finding it very difficult to eat and to pray without falling asleep. I tried. Of course, I said many rosaries, and I made meditations, and immediately I would fall asleep. The guard would shout to come over, and that made things pretty miserable.

Then it was, of course, September. The sun seemed, ever, to be in the sky, and it seemed as if it would never go down.

“What time do we go to sleep?” I asked a guard.

“At 9 o’clock.”

At that time, it was only about 7 o’clock. I thought it should be midnight, already, by that time. Physically, it was terrible misery. Still, I was feeling very happy to be in that stew, in the name of Our Lady and Our Lord.

Before my arrest, I had just been reading St. Jean Eudes’ writings on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the holy heart of Mary, and I felt very close to them. I was feeling very much that the immaculate heart of Mary was looking after me and that her mantle was protecting me all the time, for I had already given myself into her hands. I really felt that there was nothing to worry about, and I felt that is why I always fell asleep so quickly.

It was after that exceedingly long day that they told me to lie down at 9 o’clock. I fell asleep immediately, but I was only asleep for an hour when I got a kick. I was told to get up, dress myself, and be ready to go upstairs. I was frightfully sleepy.

For the first interrogation, I was led upstairs by two armed soldiers and brought into a brilliantly lit room. Around the table, there were about 10 judges. Above them was the picture of Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976), also with lights shining on it. That, apparently, was the opening of the case.

They told me to sit down and asked me my name.

Then they asked, “What are you arrested for?”

“I presume, it is because I am spreading the Legion of Mary in China,” I said.

“What is the Legion of Mary?”

I was allowed to speak for as long as I liked, and I suppose it took me about an hour to tell them all about the Legion of Mary, how I had begun in China, and how I had worked for the last three years, after then-Archbishop Antonio Riberi (1897-1967), who was appointed apostolic nuncio to China in 1946, had asked me to spread the Legion in China.

When I was finished, one of the judges spoke.

“You have spoken nothing but false and empty lies. You are now being tried, and if you confess the crimes of the Legion of Mary, you will receive leniency. If you don’t, you will be punished,” he said and talked in that strain at great length.

After three hours, I was ordered downstairs. That was the first of the endless interrogations that lasted right up to the very end of my imprisonment. Each time I was brought before them, my hands were cuffed behind my back. Sometimes an interrogation would last six hours, and I would return to my cell, mentally and physically exhausted. No session was ever less than three hours, and for one three-week period, I was questioned twice daily and often during the night, as well. I was always asked about the Legion, its members, Archbishop Riberi, and where I had traveled in China. I was compelled to write out a history of my life, from childhood right up to my arrest. The same questions would recur, and I would give the same answers with wearying frequency.

My tongue was parched, terribly dry. I asked for a drink of water and was allowed to take it before lying down to sleep again. I got nearly five hours sleep that night and was awakened again at 5 the next morning. From 5 in the morning until 9 at night, I was still sitting on that mat, with guards changing every two hours and many people coming to the window, looking in and laughing at me.






CHAPTER 2

I was ordained a long while ago, in 1929. I was only 23, a young priest, born in Dublin, Ireland, on January 22, 1906. They had to get a dispensation for me to be ordained. Then, in 1930, the Missionary Society of St. Columban sent me straight to China, because we were short of priests in China, and they wanted to rush the troops out, myself and five or six others.

In those days, we didn’t really know a great deal about China. Communications were not what they are today. Still, I longed to get to the mission in which I was to work. Travel was very slow. It took us six weeks, by boat, to get to Shanghai, where we arrived in August 1930. It took us four more days up the Yangtze (old form of Chang) River, around 700 miles, up to our diocese in Hanyang.

When I got there, first thing, I was sent out to help the survivors and refugees of the Great Flood of 1931, when the Yangtze and Huang He rivers flooded over their banks. There was 16 feet of water in my room. Naturally, I wasn’t there. All my books—theology and philosophy—floated out the window, and that was the end of the learned things that I had taken with me. We had to go into the house in a boat. I said Mass upstairs.

So many people drowned. My bishop, Bishop Edward Galvin (1882-1956), sent me out to baptize babies who were dying, and I baptized what seemed like 100 babies every day. The people were dying all around the hills—Tortoise Hill and Black Hill—coming down from the country and getting onto little mats, covering themselves and dying of cholera. I saw so many people die of cholera.

I had no language. I never had a chance to study Chinese, and I knew absolutely nothing, but I learned one or two sentences each day, went out, tried to talk to the people and found them dying. I was there for 18 months, out on those hills. That work was the hardest I ever did, certainly in China.

Bishop Galvin called me in one day. He had co-founded in 1918, with Father John Blowick (1888-1972), the Missionary Society of St. Columban, also known as the Columban Fathers. He was a poor bishop. He was short of priests, short of money, short of everything, and he had too much territory.

“Aedan, I’m sending you to Tsienkiang, a parish that no priest has been to, so far. I’m sorry to say there’s no church there. I’m even sorrier to say there’s no house there. And don’t ever expect a church or a house in that place,” he said. (And he was right. I never had either one.) “I don’t know what you’ll do or where you’ll live, but do your best. In God’s name, go.”

Those were the orders we got in those days. I went under obedience. You didn’t become parish priest at 25 years of age anywhere, least of all in Ireland, where you had to wait until you were about 70. And here I was, 25 years old, and he’s telling that to me, someone who knew nothing, just what I had learned in the books. That’s all. I didn’t even speak Chinese.

In October 1933, I arrived in Tsienkiang, a tiny place right up in the center of China, and I lived for 16 years in that parish. Never had a church. Never had a house. We had no money. Bishop Galvin was never able to visit me. No superior ever visited me. I was alone, and the nearest priest was so far away, we rarely got together.

Tsienkiang was a small magistrate city of 10,000 people. Surrounded by a mud wall, it had its law courts, police officers and resident garrison. In normal times, it was a busy and prosperous commercial center. Taking stock of my new parish, I found some 500 Catholics scattered among the 16 outlying missions, with a scant 20 Christians in the city itself. Six years later, though the country Catholics had grown steadily in numbers, I considered myself fortunate to have baptized 80 pagans in the city.

I lived with a Chinese family, a poor, but beautiful family in a big straggly house. The old grandfather was a very literary man, well-read in Chinese. His wife was dead, but he had three sons and three daughters-in-law, and I don’t know how many grandchildren.

And me.

That’s the way I learned Chinese. If I wanted my next meal, I had to learn to talk Chinese. I got headaches. I got terrible indigestion from having crowds around the table, trying to talk to me, and me trying to eat my meal. However, as a result of that, I really became quite good at Chinese. I dreamt in it. I even forgot part of my English.

I was given a little room, where I worked and said Mass. That room was filled with rats. The house was a pickle factory, and it was a place where they had grain, which, of course, attracted the rats. Those rats ran over me all the time; however, I got used to it. And I learned to love pickles. Pickles and tofu, which is a bean curd. That’s what I was eating, and I really did love it.

The family, they were non-Christians, and there was a big Buddha up on the top of the mantelpiece. But after six months, they all became baptized in my chapel in the center of the house, and they took down the old Buddha. Everyone obeyed the old man. He wasn’t a dictator by any means, but there was no fighting or anything else. When the old man was dying, we nursed him, said the rosary around him every day, and when he died, we kept him 10 days in the house. We had to wait for his relatives to come.

I was there for seven years, and then the Japanese came, but before the Japanese came, I had my 16 missions, a vast territory to cover. There were no cars. No roads. No bicycles. No electricity. There was nothing. I walked. Took me two months to walk around. In each village, I stayed in a little straw hut and lived in that for three days. I baptized, instructed, heard confessions, married those who needed to be married, blessed the graves and so on, then moved on to the next mission.

When I finished two months of that, I came to realize how very useless I was. A priest. One priest. What can one priest do? I knew I was the most ineffective parish priest, but that’s all I could do.

Every year I begged the bishop for another priest.

“I have none,” he said.

I begged him for sisters.

“I have none.”

In the end, I annoyed the bishop so much that, in 1937, he gave me a book, “The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary.”

“Take that. Start that,” he said. “I have no priests. I have no sisters. Start that.”

And I was not pleased.

I had tried something like that before. I had tried Catholic Action, a lay organization—a thing I call “McGrath’s Folly”—and it didn’t work. It was a complete failure. Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) had talked about Catholic Action, and at the time, I had decided I would try to bring in the lay people. They were full of enthusiasm, but they made awful mistakes. Terrible. I didn’t know how to train them. I didn’t know how to do anything. They were so bad, I called them in and scolded them. They didn’t like the scolding, and like the nationals of any country, they turned against me. They wrote a terrible letter about me, a scandalous letter, and sent it to every bishop in China, so every bishop in China knew what a blackguard I was, long before they even knew I existed. The people stopped coming to church, and Father McGrath was all alone. That was the end of my Catholic Action.

And in the midst of that, Bishop Galvin handed me a copy of the handbook of the Legion of Mary. I was not familiar with the book. And I came from Dublin, Ireland, where the Legion of Mary was founded on September 7, 1921, by Frank Duff (1889-1980). I never heard of it, and I lived quite near Frank. I was even in Dublin when the Legion was famous, when it cleaned up Bentley Place, a red-light district that the British police, who were in Ireland at that time, had refused to walk up. Even though police would not tackle the problem, Frank Duff tackled it and solved it with a few groups of determined and pious people. I was a young student then, ready to be ordained. I didn’t listen. I didn’t hear anything.

So in 1929, when I was ordained, I thought I was zealous, I thought I was keen to get to China, and I went to China in 1930, with absolutely no knowledge of the Legion of Mary—the one thing that was to give me all the support that I needed.

And when the bishop gave me the book, I said to him, “That’s not going to work. It couldn’t possibly work.”

“Start that,” he said.

I started it, you might say, just to spite him, because I was sure it would not work. It couldn’t work.

And just to spite him, I called in six simple, uneducated men. I wouldn’t let them tell their wives where they were. I didn’t want the people of the town to laugh at me, again, a second time. We had our first meeting at midnight. The dogs had stopped barking, everybody was asleep, and they just slipped out of their houses and came round. We knelt down and said the rosary. I followed the book, which said give to the Legionaries whatever I couldn’t do.

I knew very well, with my better knowledge than the bishop, that it would fail, and I would just close it down quietly, and that would be it.

But it didn’t fail. In the most impossible situation, it worked.

In spite of me.

The next week, at midnight, we had our second meeting. And lo and behold, everything I gave them was finished. It was like a miracle. It was like turning on a switch. We had light instantly. And those six uneducated men did more in a few weeks than I had been able to do over the past couple of years. The people I couldn’t get back to church were back. Each week, week by week, those six men performed miracles, and they were like the disciples coming back, full of joy.

It was like hitting me on the head with a hammer. I realized, McGrath, you’d better wake up. You think you can convert China by yourself. You can’t.

But I was stubborn. For six months I wouldn’t let anyone know that I had the Legion of Mary. That’s why the meetings had to be held at midnight, or 1 or 2 or even 3 in the morning, so that their wives wouldn’t even know where they were.

After six months, I finally told the parish that I had started the Legion. And before I knew it, I had five presidia (groups): men, women, high school boys, high school girls and children. I had 135 first-class Legionaries, and each of the Legionaries was as good as a priest, except they couldn’t say Mass or hear confessions. They went into the prisons, and they prepared and baptized the bandits who were going to be executed the next day.

How could I do that? They did it. They did 10 times more work than I could have ever thought of.

That was the beginning of my introduction to the Legion of Mary.






CHAPTER 3

It was the spring of 1939. The Japanese had occupied Yokow, 10 miles away on the River Han, and were expected daily to advance on Tsienkiang. The local Chinese garrison had already withdrawn, and the countryside around was teeming with bandits and other malefactors who took advantage of the lawlessness of the times to prey upon the people.

On the approach of the Japanese, the same 4,000 soldiers who had already gone through Nanking (old form of Nanjing) and behaved very badly there, the women in the town were terrified, and they had reason to be frightened.

They asked me—the only foreigner in the town—to protect them.

“Father, can you protect us?” they asked.

“How can I? I’m only 5-foot-3,” I said. “I have no money. I have no food.”

“We don’t want your money. We’ll get you a house, and you can live in it, if you will bring us in and stand at the door when the Japanese come.”

Easy.

“I will do what I can,” I said.

They did find a place, one surrounded with a high, compound wall, on which was painted the Chinese characters for catholic mission. I was at a loss about what to do. I could only beg the 500-plus women who fled to the house to beg God to do something. They brought in food and so on and prepared to feed me and feed everybody, so long as I would stand at the door when the Japanese came.

During the month of May, the Japanese crossed the River Han several times, as if to come our way, but on each occasion they returned to their base in Yokow. And at each successive threat, the numbers of my refugees increased, so that when the eventful night at last arrived, I found myself with over 1,000 women and children under my precarious protection.

On the morning after the entrance of the Japanese on June 1, I dressed in my foreign soutane and went down to the general to beg protection. He refused to see me, and the interpreter only laughed at me. I felt all was lost, and I returned to my house with the bad news.

As I walked along in gloomy thoughts, between groups of soldiers sitting at the open doorways, I suddenly heard I was being hailed in broken Chinese. I looked up and saw a Japanese beckoning to me from one of the houses. He was calling me to come and have a cup of tea with him. While I considered it precious time wasted, I felt it necessary to humor the fellow. Over the tea, we talked for a time of everything and nothing.

“Who are you?” he said.

Turning to the owner of the house (a Catholic), I asked him if the Japanese was a private or an officer. He replied that he thought he was an officer. I grasped at the straw. With my heart in my mouth, I decided to un-bosom my secret.

“I am a priest with a church, and I have a few women up there,” I said.

Immediately, when I mentioned the women, the nearby soldiers became very excited, as they could not find women anywhere—they were all at my place.

“What! How many have you?” he said, his face lighting up as he conveyed the news in Japanese to his companions.

“I must have a couple hundred,” I said.

I had 1,500.

At this, he and his companions chatted together even more excitedly.

Pulling on his tunic and sword, he said, “Wait here,” and he left us to go—I could not guess and dreaded to think—where.

After what seemed an age, he returned and instructed me to follow him. He led the way toward the refugee center, looking back frequently as if he did not trust me. When he arrived at the big door, I called for it to be opened, and the officer stalked in with his heavy boots.

“Where did you get these people?” he asked, stunned when he saw the crowds.

“They ran away from Chiang Kai-Shek (1888-1975) and his Nationalists, who were running from the Communists, and now that the Japanese have arrived, everything is OK. They’ll be quite safe,” I lied.

It was a bit of blarney, but it worked. He took the compliment and swallowed it wholesale.

“You send them home, and tell them they’re OK. They’ll be safe,” he said.

Of course, nobody would go home. He nodded briefly then requested to be taken through the rest of the building. I praised his Chinese and broken English. He grew flattered and affable. Having made a full survey of the occupants, he came eventually to my little room, where there was an old broken gramophone.

“You like music?” he remarked.

“Yes, I like music,” I replied.

“You like movies?” he asked.

“I do,” I replied.

His third question was vital.

“You like Loretta Young?”

“Oh, yes. I do like Loretta Young, and, in fact, she is a personal friend of mine,” I replied, with another bit of blarney.

That was that.

“What! Your friend! My Loretta! Your friend!”

He got so excited and laughed hysterically and kept repeating, “You know my Loretta! A friend of yours!”

He was in love with Loretta. Every movie with Loretta Young in it, he wanted to see.

“Oh, ho! You know my Loretta!”

He was so happy. He really lost control of himself. He nearly embraced me, because he thought I had spoken to Loretta Young. It was evident that he admired her movies and her, particularly, and it took some minutes for him to become calm again.

“Get me a sheet of paper,” he said.

He sat down and with a big sheet of paper and Chinese ink and a brush, he wrote two or three large characters. From his back pocket, he took a red seal and stamped the paper.

“Put that on the gate, and if you ever get any more trouble, send up the boy to bring me down,” he said.

I, myself, put it on the gate.

Several times he came and solved my problems. He was the one man in 4,000, the one Japanese officer who could have done that for me that day. I have always considered it a miracle. That was the end of my trouble. Those women would not leave that house for six months, and yet no soldier dared to climb the wall or enter the compound. The gratitude of those women can only be imagined. There were only a few Catholics amongst them, but many Protestants. However, during those six months, my five groups of the Legion of Mary were busy instructing that whole house full of women, who normally would be very busy in their business, in their shops and so on. In the compound, they had time to listen, and when they listened, they all came into the Church. So ’twas a difficult time, but God has his ways of bringing people in. Before they left, most of them were baptized Catholics with the men folk and families.

The Japanese then expelled me from the town. I was Irish. I was neutral, but they didn’t recognize that neutrality, and they put me out, and I had to go back down to Hanyang. I was away from Tsienkiang for two years. Away for two years, and I ate my heart out thinking that because my parish had no priest, nothing could happen. Everything would collapse, because Father McGrath was not there.

Well, I had a lesson to learn, cure my pride. When I got back after two years, I expected to find chaos. Instead, I found the parish running smoothly without me. A little humiliating, but I had to swallow that.

Obviously, there was no Mass, there were no confessions, but the Legionaries did everything else possible. Everything that any priest would want to do, they did it. They baptized. They witnessed marriages. Were they valid? Yes, of course they were. They did all that and handed me the books when I went back. Carrying on. Even though the president was shot dead in my room, it didn’t disturb them enough to block the Legion of Mary.

Of course, instantly, I decided, How can any priest think about evangelizing without a group like that?






CHAPTER 4

When I went to China in 1930, a long while ago, it was around the time that Chiang Kai-Shek, the much-maligned Chiang Kai-Shek, saved China from Communism. Mao Tse-Tung, at that time, thought he was going to take over China. He didn’t. Not then, anyway. Why? Because of the speed of Chiang Kai-Shek—at that time.

But when Chiang Kai-Shek and the soldiers of the Nationalist People’s Party (Kuomintang) defeated Mao and sent him down to Jiangxi Province, on the “Long March” (1934-1935), Mao wasn’t idle. He was bombing the railways and destroying the dikes and burning our churches and killing our priests.

And what was I doing? I spent my time running from him. Catholics would give me word that he was coming or that some of his people were coming, and I would go and take the Blessed Sacrament, put it in my pocket, run on up the mountain and wait until he was gone.

I escaped for a few years. But other priests did not escape, and they were killed. Later, he caught me.

Chiang Kai-Shek had only seven years before the Japanese invaded in 1937. He had only seven years to do anything. The Communists have had much longer than seven years, and they’ve made a proper mess of it. Really, it’s one of the messiest countries in the world. However, at that time, Chiang Kai-Shek was building it up, as he later built up Formosa (former name of Taiwan), and everybody’s envious of Formosa—one of the miracles of the Far East. Chiang Kai-Shek was going to do that on the mainland, but the Japanese came in, and for the next few years, he was fighting the Japanese and trying to put them out.

At that time, there was the Holy Father’s representative, Archbishop Antonio Riberi. He had been in Dublin as a secretary to the nuncio, then he was sent as a delegate to Africa. While he was in Africa, he met Edel Quinn (1907-1944), a lovely young Irish girl, who was dying of tuberculosis. I was in school with her brother.

Edel was a member of the Legion of Mary, and she knew she was condemned to die because of the tuberculosis, but she made a request of Frank Duff, who had begun the Legion.

“Let me go to Africa, to give the last years of my life on a mission,” she said.

The doctors said, “One year, and she’ll be dead.”

But Mr. Duff let her have her request. She lived eight years, and Edel is better known in Africa than any priest or bishop.

When Archbishop Riberi was moved to China in 1947, the same year the Communist forces moved into the north of China, he saw immediately that Chiang Kai-Shek was not able to hold the country and that the Communists would be in. And when Communism came in, Archbishop Riberi knew that every foreign priest and sister would be put out of China, that every Chinese priest and sister would be put in prison, that every church would be closed, and that every hospital and every institution would be taken over by the Communists.

Did that happen? Oh, yeah. That’s what happened.

It would be difficult to overestimate the part that His Excellency, Archbishop Riberi, played in bringing the Legion of Mary to China. He knew that when the Communists took over in China that the Catholic Church would still be there, and that they still had to look after it.

What were they to do?

He thought of Edel Quinn in Africa, and he said, “If God can use a dying girl to revive a country like Africa, that’s what I need.”

He looked for the Legion of Mary in Shanghai, the famous city of Shanghai, a magnificent city.

“I want the Legion of Mary. Lead me to it,” he said.

But there was none. Nobody had ever heard of the Legion.

One of my colleagues, a Columban priest, told him, “There is a priest 700 miles up in the center of China who has the Legion.”

“Bring him down, quick!” Archbishop Riberi said.

It was 1948, and I was home in Ireland on holiday. I was not well, really under the weather. My bishop, Bishop Galvin, had sent me home to Ireland, where I was wondering if I could ever spread the Legion outside my own Chinese parish, when I received a message from Superior General Michael O’Dwyer (1887-1975, Missionary Society of St. Columban).

“Archbishop Riberi, the papal nuncio, has arrived in China to take over and is looking for the Legion of Mary. He asked that you be taken out of your parish to help him establish it in China,” he wrote.

You can imagine my delight, and, of course, I accepted. I was brought to Shanghai and met with Archbishop Riberi, representative of Pope Pius XII (1876-1958).

“Father, I want you as fast as you can, to go all over China, not just in Shanghai, and start the Legion of Mary before it’s too late,” he said.

“Archbishop, do you not think it’s too late?”

“Do what you’re told,” he replied.

Mao Tse-Tung was outside the city of Peking (old form of Beijing) and was to be in, in a few months. Mao was, essentially, an atheistic Communist and was determined not only to get rid of the Catholic Church, but also to get rid of Buddhism and Taoism and Mohammedanism and the whole lot. The nuncio knew that very well.

It was 1948. Mao rose to power in 1949, but we didn’t know at that time we would have only one year to work.

“The first place I want you to go is to Aurora University,” he said.

I thought it was the wrong place to start. I didn’t mind starting in the country with a group of country boys, but to start with those very sophisticated boys and girls, with plenty of money and always enjoying themselves. Well, that’s where he wanted me to start. I thought it was the wrong place, and I said so.

“Do you not think I should start somewhere else?” I said.

“Do what you’re told,” he said—a second time.

So I went in, thinking he was a little bit nutty.

In February 1948, I arrived at the famous Aurora University of Shanghai, the most sophisticated university run by the Mesdames of the Sacred Heart, and I began my Legion work. I met Mother Margaret Thornton (1898-1977, Society of the Sacred Heart) from London. Within half an hour, she brought me into a room with 20 beautiful young girls, all wearing silks.

Those were the wealthiest, and I mean real wealth, people of Shanghai. The fathers had concubines, everything that the world had at the time, they had. And that was where I was to start my first presidia. I didn’t believe anything could happen, but within half an hour, I had my first group started.

That was the first one, and it just burst into flames. The students realized what was happening. They realized that they were going to be deprived of their priests and their sisters and that they would have to do something for their Church. They started the first group, and within no time they had split into about 15 groups in Shanghai.

When I thought it time to leave, I went up to central China about 600 miles away to Hanyang, Hankow and Wuchang. (All three cities have since merged and now form Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.) There I left a few presidia.

From there, I went on up to Peking, about 800 miles away, where the rector at the Fujen Catholic University allowed me to talk to the students. The response was exactly the same: Here’s something—under the banner of Mary and the light of the Holy Spirit—we can do something for our Church. So, we started the Legion in Peking. I spent over a month there establishing about 15 presidia.

By the time the Communists came in, they were faced by a formidable force of young students. What were they doing? Arming themselves with guns? No. It was what the Legion of Mary is famous for and its main instrument: evangelization. If those young students had the faith, they had an obligation to share it, and each week they went out sharing their faith with the people.

At that time, even though the people were rather afraid of some force they didn’t even understand, like Communism, they wanted baptism. They wanted instruction. And they got it. Who gave it? The students. It really was an extraordinary time. At every university, the Legion of Mary just burst into flames.

It was ready. The time was ready. The young Chinese knew the Church was going to die unless they stood up.

They stood up.

But I had to get out of Peking. If the Communists went in and found me there, well, they would stop my work.

After that, I went to Tientsin (old form of Tianjin), and I remained there as long as it was safe. For by that time, the Communist armies were closing in. I knew that if I got caught, my work for the Legion would be finished.

From Tientsin, I went down to Hankow.

Then I returned to Shanghai and commenced the first curia, which is a bigger council.

When Shanghai looked dangerous, I flew on to Hongkong (old form of Hong Kong), hoping to establish the Legion there. Why I went to Hongkong was to make sure I had some contact very close to China, outside China, so that through the Legion, China could receive books and have contact with Ireland.

From Hongkong, I was able to establish the Legion in Canton (old form of Guangzhou), where the Irish Jesuits worked. Later, I went to an American Maryknoll bishop in Kweilin (old form of Guilin) and traveled around the country there setting up Legion presidia.

In June 1949, things looked pretty bad down south, and I flew the 1,000 miles from Hongkong to Chungking (old form of Chongqing), over the heads of the Communists. From Chungking, I went to Chengtu (old form of Chengdu), then back to Chungking and down to Wanxian, where there was a Chinese bishop.

Practically all of China had fallen to the Red armies, and to go to Hongkong or Formosa would have meant cutting myself off completely from Legion headquarters in the Catholic Central Bureau, at 197 Yo Yang Road, in Shanghai.

I boarded the last boat at Wanxian to return to Chungking on November 15, 1949, but from Chungking, there was nowhere else to go.






CHAPTER 5

Before I was arrested, I had been living with the Paris foreign missionaries in Chungking with Archbishop Louis-Gabriel-Xavier Jantzen (1885-1953, Society of Foreign Missions of Paris). They had a compound up there.

The Reds were closing in, coming along every day. They were broadcasting and begging the Nationalists not to run so fast, because they couldn’t keep up with them. That was just a joke.

At the time, when they were coming toward Chungking, I had written to Monsignor Martin T. Gilligan (1914-1993), the English-speaking secretary of Archbishop Riberi. I had asked him his opinion about what I should do, because I had no contact with the archbishop himself. I thought it would be a long while before the Communists got to Chungking or before they got the whole of China. But in one year, they arrived in Chungking, the place from where the Americans and Chiang Kai-Shek fought together to try and beat the Japanese.

There was supposed to be a plane, which belonged to the Protestants, coming up to Chungking, and it would take out some people. There were seven priests and some others, some businessmen, leaving on that plane, which was called the St. Paul. I had a place on it, in case I would be ordered to leave.

I did get a letter from Monsignor Gilligan.

“My suggestion,” he wrote, “is that you leave for Formosa or for the other island. Get the Legion established there, then try to get back into China at a later date, if you can.”

But by that time, I thought the Reds were moving so very fast that China would not resist much longer, and if I were out in Formosa or in the other island, Hongkong, I certainly would never get back. So, again, I was looking for permission, definite permission, to stay, although I don’t think I really needed permission. However, I wrote another letter.

That plane, the St. Paul, was to go at a certain date and was to come back for another trip. If Monsignor Gilligan insisted that I leave, I could have gone on that second trip. However, perhaps, it was Providence that decided my fate all the more easily. There was a delay in the plane coming the first time, and when those people, the priests and all, went off down to Hongkong and gave my second letter to Monsignor Gilligan, there was no reply.

So I simply went to Archbishop Jantzen, for a little advice from him.

“What do you think, Archbishop? I’d like to stay, and I haven’t really any orders, definite orders, to leave or stay. What do you think I should do?”

“Oh,” he said. “Stay with us.”

So I just decided, there and then, to stay with them in Chungking and to see if we could carry on while the Communists surrounded us. Practically all of China had fallen to the Red armies by that time. I knew that if I went to Formosa or Hongkong, I would never be able to return to Shanghai. So I remained there.

The night before the Communists actually came into the streets, I was wakened by the most terrific explosion. It was about11 o’clock. I was in bed, everybody was in bed, and I was almost knocked onto the floor. All the glass in my room was broken. The door was shaken off its hinges.

I got up, and I could hardly see with all the dust. I got a flashlight, and I went out. There was another door blown off the hinges. Everybody was mooching about, and I met, in a couple of minutes, Archbishop Jantzen and a couple of the priests, who had come out. They wandered around. There was a tremendous amount of glass broken.

It turned out that the explosion was the ammunition dump five or six miles away, which was exploded as the Nationalists were leaving. They didn’t even tell the people around about that they were going to blow it up. God knows how many people were killed in that explosion. It was terrible.

There was a huge piece of stone—about a yard long, a half yard wide and a couple of feet thick—that was blown five miles up in the air and landed in through the new roof of the concrete school belonging to the Marist brothers in that district. It landed in through the flat roof and went right down to the third floor, then to the second floor. There were a couple of hundred boys there, but nobody was hurt. That was the parting gift of that army running out.

That morning, one of the boys came into the house carrying a box, a black steel box.

“Father, what’s this?” he asked.

He was fiddling about with it, and I took it in my hands and read it. And there it was—a hand grenade. Grenades had been left all over the town by the Nationalists army.

“For Heaven’s sake!” I said. “Put that thing away. Put it out. Don’t bring it in here, or you’ll get us all blown up.”

So he put it back again, and I think even a day passed before any sign of the Communists came in at all.

Then we heard they were in, but practically nobody had seen them. I went out to the street, and I saw a couple of soldiers wandering up with their guns, making for someplace. The Nationalists had gone, and the Communists were entering, but they certainly never asked anybody their names or what they were doing or didn’t care about anybody. In other words, there was perfect discipline. They had received no orders to do anything. They were just to get in, together, in their positions.

The clothes of those in the Communist army were just the same as the Nationalist army, except they were really cleaner and kept in better condition. There was one thing about the Communist army. They never fired a shot. I would never, or very, very rarely, hear a shot being fired. They weren’t allowed. And the number of bullets they got—they had to account for every one of them. In the old days, with the other army, the Nationalists, they would fire at anything they wanted and amuse themselves. And there was no end of bullets. Nobody paid any account of them.

Previously, during the Nationalist time, with the electric power plants and things of the town, it was hopeless. We would only get the smallest spark of light in our electric bulbs. And everybody was stealing the electricity, putting a little wire onto the wire on the road and taking the electricity into their houses without paying for it. So, of course, when everybody did that, the people who were paying for it didn’t get any light. No light and no power. Our radio was useless. Everything was useless.

That kind of thing stopped a couple weeks after the Communists came in. They didn’t approve of it. It was a waste of money. The money was not going in the right direction, and it was not efficient. They had the power plant going again, and we had good light for the first time in all my days in Chungking. Efficiency was the whole thing, and no toleration for religion.

But while they began to be efficient about those things, in a very short time they were just as efficient in beginning to condemn the Church in the newspapers and getting after anybody who spoke or acted against the Communist government.

The Communists started out against the Church by putting on their big taxes, terrible taxes, and making everybody buy victory bonds. We were supposed to be free in that matter, but they came and told us all what we were expected to pay. And if we were expected to pay, we had better do it.

Poor old Archbishop Jantzen had to sell a large amount of his property to pay the taxes and buy the victory bonds. And, of course, his priests were being arrested down the country, just because they couldn’t pay it. The archbishop, himself, was dying of tuberculosis, yet he couldn’t buy any bread. He just had to eat the rice, and he couldn’t eat the rice. I remember the French consul—seeing how bad Archbishop Jantzen was and that nobody had any bread—ordered a month’s bread from the baker’s. Even then, the archbishop would not eat it. It was against principle. He hadn’t the money to do it himself, and he wouldn’t do it.

He was a wonderful old saint, Archbishop Jantzen. I remember he passed my window every morning. I think it was 3 o’clock or half past 3. He came back again just before 6, half past 5, about, and I’d be going into the chapel myself around 6 o’clock. He would remain in his room until 9 o’clock, getting his office finished and his important work. He’d have the papers read, and then he would begin to see visitors. In 1953, after he was expelled from China, Archbishop Jantzen died in France.

Within a few days after the entry of the Communists into Chungking, they began to look with suspicion on the Legion. They came down and found out where I was. They came to visit me for three hours. They knew what I was doing.

“You have to stop the Legion of Mary,” they told me.

“You can’t stop this. This is a religious organization. In your constitution, you give freedom of religion. We’re free to believe anything, free to do anything, free to go to church,” I said.

I tried to convince them it was a spiritual organization. In proof of it, I gave them the Legion handbook to examine. Like a true Communist, they had read that book in one week and digested it.

I invited them to any presidium that they wished to see. After some time, when they had investigated the presidium and had seen that there was nothing going on that they could legitimately condemn, they handed back the book.

“This is a great organization, just like Communism,” they said.

It was the greatest compliment they could pay to the Legion of Mary. Anything that was considered like Communism must, at least, be efficient. It appeared also that they regarded their initial condemnation of the Legion as tactically premature. Whatever their reasons, I was surprised when they permitted the Legion in Chungking to begin again.

It was then they, actually, gave me a pass to return to Shanghai.






CHAPTER 6

From Chungking, in 1950, I sailed the Yangtze River, around 3,000 miles back to Shanghai, where I waited to be arrested. I was there one year with a Maryknoll missioner, Bishop James Edward Walsh (1891-1981, Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America). He knew he was going to be arrested. I knew I was going to be arrested. We all knew we were going to be arrested. But they left us for a whole year.

Things already had been looking bad, and we knew that there was trouble brewing. But what it would be, we didn’t know.

I returned to the Catholic Central Bureau and continued my work, establishing new presidia in Shanghai, visiting presidia already established, giving Legion retreats and corresponding with curia and presidia throughout China.

During my 18 months absence from Shanghai, the affairs of the Legion in Communist-controlled China had been taken care of by Father Joseph Shen Shi-Xian, who had visited Ireland in 1946 and 1947 and earned the nickname the “Chinese Irishman,” because he spoke English with the most beautiful Irish brogue.

Father Shen had been ordained in Rome in 1942 after earning doctorates in canon law and theology. He was a brilliant young Chinese priest of Bishop Galvin’s diocese of Hanyang, and he was attached to the Catholic Central Bureau in Shanghai. Even after the Communists took over, he had done several trips into the interior of the country preaching and organizing the Legion. He was thrilled by the work the Legion was doing.

“This is my life,” he said to the Legionaries in Shanghai.

At that time, he did not know that it would also be his death. He was arrested with me in September 1951, and, on January 10, 1953, he died in Shanghai’s Ward Road Prison (former name of Tilanqiao Prison). He was 35 years old.

In Shanghai, Father Shen had been spiritual director of the senatus and of the junior curia for some time and also had to look after the lay apostolate. When he resigned, then-Father Joseph Gustave Roland Prévost Godard (1914-2005, Society of Foreign Missions of Paris) became spiritual director of the senatus of Shanghai.

A presidium is a single group of Legionaries overseen by a spiritual director. A curia is the governing body over the several presidia in a single local district, comprised of all the spiritual directors in that district. A junior curia is comprised of Legionaries younger than age 18; whereas, a senior curia is comprised of Legionaries 18 and older. A senatus is a single council that has authority over all the Legion of Mary presidia (groups) throughout a nation.

I took over the spiritual direction of the junior curia and the English-speaking curia.

Father Edward MacElroy was the spiritual director of the English-speaking junior curia.

Franciscan Bishop Edward Gabriel Quint (b.?-1983, Order of Friars Minor) was the other spiritual director of the second Chinese curia, which was really made up of six presidia established in all the hospitals in Shanghai.

The Communists would not allow either Father Prévost or Bishop Quint to return to their dioceses, and later they both suffered long terms of imprisonment for their Legion activities.

In Peking, there were more than 100 presidia. Father Dries van Coillie, (1912-1981, Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) a Belgian missionary of the Scheut missionary fathers, was spiritual director of the senatus there. He suffered three years of imprisonment for his Legion work, which he wrote about in his very powerful book, “I Was Brainwashed in Peking: Three Years in the Prison of Mao Tse-Tung.”

Also in Peking was Father Maurice Kavanagh (1897-1964, Congregation of the Mission), an Irish Vincentian from Wexford, who later suffered 15 months of torture and imprisonment for his Legion work.

In Tientsin, there was another senatus under Father Gerard Buenen, (Congregation of the Mission) a Dutch Vincentian.

All in all, there were about 1,000 Legion presidia throughout China. The Legion had spread so fast that the concilium (the supreme governing authority of the Legion) in Dublin was concerned.

“Are you going ahead too quickly?” they asked us.

I was nervous, too, but I wrote back at that time, “Our progress is terrific. The people realize that they must do something in the face of that diabolical Communism. Why stop Our Blessed Mother’s hand when she feels that it is necessary?”

We had tried to deepen the Legionaries’ spirituality. With that end in view, retreats for Legionaries had been organized on a big scale. The result was a great movement to study “True Devotion to Mary,” written by de Montfort. Great numbers became slaves of Mary, and those who did not, at least imbibed de Montfort’s real spirit.

Father Shen, along with Father Matthias Chen Che-Ming, who was private secretary to Archbishop Riberi, had translated the Legion handbook into Chinese.

By January 1951, there were more than 1,000 presidia in 90 Chinese dioceses.

In the Catholic Central Bureau, we used to have our monthly meetings. The general secretary was, of course, Bishop Walsh, but when the trouble was brewing, it was decided that it would be better to have a Chinese as general secretary. So Bishop Walsh resigned, and, in the interregnum, Father Prévost looked after things for a few days.

Then the election came on, and I remember sitting round the table, everybody discussing the thing. Of course, it was a great responsibility, and no Chinese priest really wanted to take it.

In the end, Father Shen, young as he was, said, “I’ll take it.”

He was, of course, smart enough to be able to look after things, and it really was a great bother on his shoulders, afterward.

At the meeting, we discussed pretty freely that there was someone in the office who was giving out information, someone who was connected with the Communists. I think it was even discovered that in the drawer of one of the clerks, there was a ticket belonging to the Chinese Soviet Club, showing that he was not very safe. But there was nothing really certain about the whole thing. In any case, the question was what was to be done with that man, who was very good as a Chinese typist. If he were dismissed at that time, it certainly could have caused a tremendous amount of trouble, and we could have got into even greater trouble than we would normally. It was difficult to know what to do. We could not dismiss him. To leave him, we were all in a difficult position.

So, Father Shen, once again, stood up.

“Never mind. I’ll take him into my room, into my own room, into my own office. I’ll take him in and watch him,” he said.

It was like taking the lion into his own den, and that is just what Father Shen did. I think his thought was meant to be like that—that if he were to show absolute honesty and to show that clerk that there is nothing and that we have nothing to hide, it might be even a little better for us. It was risky, and I am quite sure that fellow was able to tell an amount, even about Father Shen. We don’t know really just how much effect it had on the course of events in the prison.

Around April 30, 1951, the day before May Day, Father Thery, a French Jesuit in the Bureau’s law department and former professor of law at the Catholic Tsinku University of Tientsin, disappeared from his home. We had no idea where he was, yet the Bureau carried on as usual.

On the following day, May Day, we were told that there were tremendous demonstrations in the Canidrome, a stadium built in 1928 in the French concession of Shanghai for greyhound racing but was subsequently used for public trials and mob rallies after the Communist takeover of China on October 1, 1949.

There were a great number of public trials on that particular day, and I think that a couple people were condemned to death, supposedly by the People, as in the People’s Government. It was all over the radios. Every public radio in Shanghai was shrieking the whole day long, and it was generally the voices of women who were accusing the poor men, who were going to be shot. Those things were broadcast and set the whole of Shanghai in terror. Different people would be asked to accuse those were tied up in the middle of the arena. Those women, who either really had something against the accused or else were brought to that point by the ordinary Communist methods, got up and shouted and went mad. Even going along the street on my bicycle, I could hear nothing but those awful voices.

At that particular big show in the Canidrome, we heard that Father Thery had been taken there with a couple other prisoners, and he was more or less on exhibition. He was supposed to have his soutane on him and his long beard. Up to the time of my arrest, on September 7, 1951, I never heard another word about him

We could not guess why Father Thery was arrested and why we were not. Yet, there was a natural reason. The Communists had gone in his room in the seminary and had sealed up his law books and reports. He was actually from one of the northern missions, which had a lot of trouble with the Communists, and they may have imagined that Father Thery had information about them. Anyway, they sealed his books, and Father Thery’s books were real treasures to him. After they had put up the seal—a big sheet of white paper with the Communist names across the door of the press—Father Thery put another sheet of paper on top of the Communist sheet, with his own name upon it. The next day we were sitting in the garden joking with Father Thery about it, and he was relating the story of how he would not give way to those fellows, and he was being stubborn. But that was the last day we saw him.






CHAPTER 7

On June 6, 1951, when I went into the Catholic Central Bureau office, I was told by poor Father Jozef Vos (1917-1951, Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) that Bishop Walsh, Father Prévost, Father Legrand and Father Shen had been called out that morning up to the Military Control Bureau.

We did not know what they went for, but, of course, it didn’t look too good. I went on with my work, however. I had already burnt the copies of all letters that had come in, and I had left a few letters that didn’t matter, just so that they would look good in the file.

I was parceling up some books for the Catholics when the door opened. Father Shen appeared, with perspiration on his brow and coming right through his silk soutane in that great heat of summer.

“The police are here,” he whispered to me.

Behind him there were several officers, and I could see Bishop Walsh.

“This is Father McGrath’s office. He is in charge of the Legion of Mary,” Father Shen said.

The police came in and told me to go out into the hall. I went out into the hall, and Bishop Walsh, Father Legrand, Father Prévost and Father Vos were there. I was told to go downstairs, while the police searched the room.

Well, I went right downstairs, and all the staff of the bureau—about 30 people—was in the chapel downstairs, sitting. There were guards and motorcars outside.

There was a Catholic girl there who had been in another office, which had been closed up previously.

“This is the routine,” she whispered to me. “This is just the closing of the office.”

I thought things were happening very fast, and I did feel a little bit nervous, of course, but there was one of the Chinese boys there.

“Come on. Let’s say the rosary,” he said very courageously.

The guards were standing beside him. He knelt down, the others knelt down after him, and we followed. He began to give out the rosary, singing it as the Chinese do. The guards had no authority to deal with any situation like that, and they didn’t know how to deal with it. They felt so very awkward in front of those boys singing the rosary that they moved away from us, and we continued the rosary alone.

Very soon, Father Shen came down the stairs and came over to me.

“Come on up to prison,” he whispered to me.

Now poor Joe, God bless him, he often used to play little jokes like that. And I suppose each time he said it, he did think that prison was coming. He had said it two or three times, already. I went upstairs with him, and I went into my room. They wanted me to stay there while they were searching.

They asked me for the key of a drawer.

I said that I never had the key of that drawer, and since I came into that office it was never opened.

So they went out, and they got tools. They broke open the drawer, and I saw that there was nothing in it. While they were at that, I was saying my rosary, sitting on a chair. They thought Father Prévost was outside on the verandah saying his rosary.

They searched, and they searched very thoroughly. It was a funny thing. They didn’t touch the letter that was on my typewriter. They didn’t touch the little black bag, which I had with me, and, indeed, in which there was a letter that might have caused a lot of trouble. I don’t know why they didn’t touch it. Possibly, it was that personal effects were not to be touched and only the office was to be searched. I don’t know. Anyway, they searched every bit of that office. I could see them stuffing things into their pockets. One thing was a sheet of paper, which did not belong to my office. It was an article written against the Communists, but it was nothing to do with the Legion of Mary. I was using the paper for stuffing statues, so that they would not get broken. Now they came upon that, and they stuffed it into their pockets. Of course, they were going to make full use of it.

After about two hours searching, they called us downstairs and brought us into a room and asked us our names and addresses. Then, of course, we expected we were all going to prison.

I had met Father Vos on the stairs.

“Give me an absolution,” I said.

He gave me one, then I gave him one, and we thought we were going off to prison.

But after that, one of the Communists said, “If we want you, we will let you know. Don’t go far away. We might have to call you up at any moment.”

Then they got into a car and drove off.

Bishop Walsh was not there, in that room. I don’t know how he missed it.

We all went out to the door then, and we were chatting to ourselves that we were still out of prison for another few hours, and we would be able to eat our dinner in peace. Indeed, it was two hours late for it.

But Bishop Walsh was still thinking that they were there and that they were staying there and that he could possibly be the only one to go. He looked around, and he put his hands into his pockets.

“Here, Father. You take this,” he said to me. “This is a million dollars.”

A million Chinese dollars wasn’t of great value, but it was something.

“Here,” he said. “Put it in your pocket, and bring it back.”

He never thought that I would be going with him, too. He had decided that he, alone, was going to prison.

As he told us afterward, when the boy went in and took his shaving kit and everything else out of the room, he thought to himself, Well, we are going to be permitted to shave in prison. That’s grand. If I get enough books and enough light in prison, I will be quite happy.

He never realized that in prison he would have neither light nor books nor shaving tackle.

However, when he handed me that money, I said, “Bishop, oh sure, they are gone. There is nobody here.”

“Is that right? Is it over?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

So we went over to dinner and sat down and began to chat and laugh. It was quite a joke. After dinner, I got on my bicycle, and I went home, about a mile away. I called in Father MacElroy and Father Malachy Murphy and began to tell them.

On the day following the closing of the Catholic Central Bureau, there was a visitation committee meeting of the juniors down in Aurora University. Everybody knew that the Bureau was closed, yet I decided to carry on my Legion work. I went down and found everybody there.

Noelle Wang headed the meeting, but in the middle of it, there was an interruption from a senior Legionary, who had entered and called me out. Father Louis Wang Ren-Sheng (1909-1960, Society of Jesus) had sent him to me with a message. That was the same Father Wang who was later arrested and sent to the Ma Dang labor camp in An Hui province, where he died five days before Christmas, when he sang his last words, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

“Father Wang would like to suggest something. Would it not be wiser to close down the Legion now, seeing that things are troubled outside,” that Legionary asked me.

“Our idea is that if we close down now, it will be showing before the Communists that we are guilty of the things they say, and they will come down all the harder on us,” I said.

The Legionary agreed with me.

Later on, not very long after, we did close down, because of what we saw happen in Peking—that the Communists were not sincere and that they really wanted was to get the names of all the Legionaries.

Of course, that was the beginning of things. We might expect anything.






CHAPTER 8

Right enough, on the second day after, the newspapers were full of the closing down of the Catholic Central Bureau, and it mentioned the tops—the top enemies of the government—with specific accusations against Archbishop Riberi, Bishop Walsh and me. I had not been called down for investigation, but my name was now one of the foremost in that accusation, that I was the head of the Legion of Mary department and that Bishop Walsh was the general secretary of the Catholic Central Bureau, and so on, and that we would all receive our due punishment.

It was really from that day that the tension began—waiting day and night. We did not think that they could possibly wait long.

There was, of course, no work in the Bureau, and I had no work in the Legion. The day was just full of rumors and pretty bad. I was always afraid every morning to open the Chinese newspaper, because there would be some new attack on us. We were just wondering to what it was leading.

Previous to the closing of the Catholic Central Bureau, Bishop Walsh used to come across to our house on Rue Maresca and have supper and play cards for a while every Sunday and then go home. But immediately after the closing of the Bureau, he really thought that he might unintentionally involve some others, so he remained in his room. He really got very, very thin. I suppose waiting on arrest was one thing, he didn’t eat very much was another, and he wouldn’t take any exercise was a third. Each time the police came, Bishop Walsh came out—in his hat and coat and a couple of things in his pockets—all ready to be arrested, and yet they never took him.

“We don’t want you,” they would say, and he would go back to his room. But he was arrested, later in 1959, sentenced to 20 years in prison, served 12, and was released in 1970.

Poor Father Jozef Vos, one of my greatest friends at that time, used to come up regularly to the house. About a month after the close of the Catholic Central Bureau, he began to be bad off. He knew he was going to be arrested. Already three of his presidia had been arrested, and he wondered what he could do for them. He couldn’t sleep. For three months, he hadn’t slept. He got whiter and thinner, and he smiled a sickly smile, and his eyes became pinpoints. He was looking very, very miserable.

I used to try and console him.

“Oh, cheer up. Probably, we have another month, yet,” I said.

But it was later in prison that I accidentally heard that somebody of the Scheut mission had cut his veins. I really was afraid even to think that it might be Father Vos. I tried to put it out of my mind, but it upset me very much. Eventually, when I did come out at Hongkong, I heard from Father Legrand that it was true. It was he, Father Vos.

The real story about it was this: Father Vos just went mad and cut his veins and was brought to hospital and brought back before he died.

When he woke up, he just looked and said, “My God. Did I do that?”

Then he went to confession, received Communion and extreme unction and died.

There was a note found under his table. It was written in beautiful Chinese, and it was addressed to the Shanghai police.

It read: “I, So-and-So, declare that the Legion of Mary is neither reactionary nor secret, and in testimony I give my life.”

Then he slashed his veins.

It was obvious what was going through his mind: How he could save his Legionaries? Three of whom were already arrested. He thought he could do it by dying for them. He was so muddled up, that is just the way he did it. He was a wonderful man and a great spiritual director. But that is just one story that indicates the tension that was there. It was just that God was fortifying us.

Sometimes after supper, I would go for a walk with Father Malachy Murphy and Father Brendan Carty (1920-1958, Missionary Society of St. Columban). But all the time, we were waiting on arrest, and I didn’t know what time I might disappear.

Then at other times, I might go down to the Church of Christ the King, where they had a big garden and where everybody played in the evening. It was nice to watch the softball practice, attend Benediction there, then go home.

But there was always that hand hanging over my head. That hand. I didn’t know when things would happen.

One night at home, I was called down from my room, called down to the hall, because there was a man who wanted to go to confession. It was about 10 o’clock, and the boy let him in. There were two of them there. Both of them were dressed in Communist blue laborer uniforms, and the cold perspiration was standing out on one man’s brow. He was very excited and looked very frightened, and he spoke in Mandarin.

“I want to go to confession, Father,” he said.

That was why they had called me down.

The other man went into a room, and I brought that man into the chapel, heard his confession in the dark and brought him up beside the altar. Without lighting candles or anything else, I opened the tabernacle, gave him Holy Communion, and he went off. Now that poor man knew he was going to be caught, obviously, and was just waiting on the hand to descend on him.

Sometimes, I used to go across to the Catholic Central Bureau, when the gate was still open. There were some rooms still open. But Father Legrand’s room was sealed. And Father Vos’ room was sealed, because everything incriminating, as they would say, had been put into Father Vos’ room, and they just locked it up and sealed it. The 3,000 copies of de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary,” which had just been translated into Chinese, were sealed in the Bureau. But apart from those two rooms, the rest of the house was open. Of course, we couldn’t carry on any office work. But from the very first day, Father Legrand fought to get his typewriter out. And he got it out. He brought that typewriter into the room of Father Prévost, where he began working out a new plan for the Catholic Central Bureau, when it might have a chance to start again. That plan, he discussed with Father Prévost, who helped him to type it. And, of course, that plan was caught, was taken on the night of the arrest, and the Communists gave both Father Legrand and Father Prévost a pretty bad time over that very document.

But each time I went to the Catholic Central Bureau, I always felt a very creepy feeling, because it was a place that the police had entered, and, well, they might go there again, at any minute.

Actually, they did go several times.

They used to go about 2 o’clock, open the seals in the rooms and go in and investigate them. While they had examined the Legion of Mary room very, very thoroughly the first day, still, after about a week or so they went back again with a bunch of youngsters. I believe they turned over every tiny bit of paper that was on the floor, trying to connect up some little thing that they had found a half of something torn and wanted to find the other half of it. But I am quite sure they didn’t find anything.

I knew by that time that they hated the Catholic Church, and it certainly frightened me, because I wasn’t very courageous. And I knew by that time that they had pinpointed the Legion of Mary, over everything, as their deadly enemy. And when I knew they were going to persecute the Legion of Mary, I knew I—as the one who had been asked by the Holy Father’s representative to set it up throughout China—was in for it. I knew very well that I had started the Legion of Mary, and the newspapers every day told us that the Legion of Mary was a secret organization set up by America. But it had nothing to do with America. It started in Ireland, and it was a religious organization. But that’s what they were saying, and so we all knew, even all the Legionaries knew, that they were in trouble.

And from that moment, I was terrified. There was no bravery in it, and I’ll tell a story against myself.

I found it very hard to read any books, and I used to spend a good deal of time in the chapel. It was about the only place I really felt happy, going around the Stations of the Cross, trying to get courage from the Passion of Christ.

Each time I got to the 12th station, where Christ died, I used to repeat a little prayer that, I think, was quite a mechanical prayer, a prayer that I learned as a child: “May I die for love of Thee, as Thou has died for love of me?”

My knees, shaking. I no more wanted to die than anyone wants to die. I was terrified, and I was so terrified that I stopped it. I couldn’t say it anymore. I felt a perfect hypocrite, so I changed it to the Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I thought it a much better one for me: “Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me; but yet not my will, but Thine be done.”

And all the while, people disappeared off the streets at night. I watched purges of 10,000, 20,000 and 30,000 people disappear off the streets in one night. We’d get up in the morning, and so many people, from the neighbors, were gone. We didn’t know why. We dared not ask where they were.

All the time I knew I would go myself.

They brought those police cars up and down the street just to frighten the people. Then they took those people out and shot them.

Can you imagine the poor boy and girl Legionaries going around the street, listening to that and watching the police cars shrieking up and down? Men with white, long faces and their hands tied, being taken out to be shot. That was during the terrible purges. That’s what they did during the Legion purge.

One of the priests in Shanghai used to call himself the “Chaplain to the Dying.” He stood at his window when the lorries passed, and he gave them an absolution, in case they were Catholics. And the lorries would come back empty.

When I was picked up, myself, I wasn’t ready. I was frightened. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I couldn’t get out, and my fellow priests were a little bit nervous that I might cut my throat or something. Well, I wasn’t in that line of thinking, but many people were. People were jumping out of their houses in Shanghai. People were afraid to walk on the side paths, because bodies were falling, people who already knew they were caught.

The Communists never pounced on you immediately. They would take their time. It might take weeks. It might take months.

But that’s what was happening, and it had an effect.

I walked the streets every day, and I knew the guards were watching me. I left the house every day, and I knew the poor coolies, who were pulling the rickshaws, they were bound to inform on me. I didn’t blame the poor lads. That’s part of the system. And I knew one night, or one day, the Communists would come and take me. I always had my little Gospels and “My Imitation of Christ” in my pocket. Yet, the night they caught me, I couldn’t even stretch to the table to get them. It was too quick.






CHAPTER 9

In an attempt to undermine the Roman Catholic Church in China, the Communists started, in 1950, a puppet Chinese “catholic” church, their famous Triple Independence Movement—with its famous slogan of “Self-support! Self-propagation! Self-rule!” With the first two, self-support and self-propagation, we could have no quarrel. That was the ultimate objective of all missionary work in China—that the Roman Catholic Church in China should be supported by its own parishioners and manned by its own clergy.

However, the third, self-rule, meant that the Church must separate from Rome. No Catholic could accept that. But because of the cunning way the Communists proposed it, there was a danger that some might consider the Communist formula acceptable.

To counter that danger, Father Legrand of the Catholic Central Bureau had pamphlets printed defining the position of the Church and had them posted to every part of China. The priests explained the pamphlets to the Legionaries, who then distributed them to the Catholics. The result was the complete failure of that Triple Independence movement to separate the Church from Rome. It was one of the Reds’ big failures, and they put much of the blame on the Legion of Mary. That’s what they told me, when I was in jail.

Mao—who had ordered the creation of the Triple Independence Movement to destroy the Church in China—learned that the Church was still alive. Not only that, it was far from dying. It was thriving. The Buddhists, he had successfully expelled from their monasteries. The Protestants, he successfully attacked. The Catholics, he brutally attacked. But he found that babies were still being baptized, the rosaries were still being said.

To find out who was doing that, Mao sent out a team of spies. He was told that the Legion of Mary—a simple religious organization—was the predominant body that was leading the force, that was leading the fight, and he paid it the greatest compliment ever paid to the Legion by a shrewd and cruel leader at that time: Mao called it Public Enemy No. 1.

In preparation for an attack on the Legion, an order had gone out from the People’s Government demanding that every church in Shanghai register all its parish organizations, with the Legion of Mary being the only group specifically mentioned. All the Communists asked, at that time, was for the number of persons in each group and the name of the person in charge.

In Peking, they had said to the Legionaries, “In order to protect you, we must know who you are. Therefore, we must have the names of all your members, the times and places of your meetings, your telephone numbers and the minutes of your meetings.”

Without hesitation, the Legion had very simply given up their minutes and their books. They had invited the Communists to attend the meetings, which they did. But that was only actually a means to get the names and the telephone numbers and everything else they could get their hands on. Not long after, there was trouble in Peking. They had begun to attack the Legion, and very viciously. The newspapers were full of the alleged crimes of the Legion of Mary, and we saw very plainly in Shanghai that the Communists were not sincere in their statements that they wished to protect the Legion and the Church.

Father van Coillie, the spiritual director of the senatus in Peking, showed great courage in standing up to the Communists and protecting the Legion.

Father Legrand thought why not write a letter to Father van Coillie to encourage him.

I thought to write a letter at that time would cause Father van Coillie greater trouble, because my name was already in the black books.

Father Prévost thought the same, and we did nothing about it.

When we, in Shanghai, heard about Peking, we—Father Prévost, Bishop Quint, some others and me—got together and decided to stop all Legion meetings and to burn every trace of anything—the minutes and the lists of names of all members and auxiliaries—that might help the Communists.

We decided to disband.

At the last meeting, I instructed the Legionaries in what they were to do.

“It is not just a matter of obedience,” I told them. “You must burn all the minutes and everything else. And if anybody ever asks you who did it, say that you gave them to the spiritual directors, the foreign spiritual directors, and you didn’t know what happened to them.”

I also said to them, “Remember that in the Legion you have learned three things. You have learned that you must be apostles. You have learned that you must do your apostolate through Mary. You have learned a method for doing the apostolate. You know the method. Now go to it.”

Late that same night when we had stopped the Legion, I got a telephone call from Noelle Wong, the president of my junior presidium, who was a girl of about 20.

“Have you heard the news?” she said.

“What news?” I said.

“We have got together the junior officers, and we have decided to go on,” she said.

I knew the telephone was being tapped.

“Come see me in the morning,” I said.

Noelle came to the house.

“Oh, Noelle, what a great tragedy that the Communists have come down against the Legion,” I said.

She stamped her foot and scolded me.

“Father, don’t say that! This is glorious!”

And, indeed, she meant it.

I must say I blushed. I was her spiritual director, and here that girl realized far better than I did the glory of the cross, that Christ could think of no better way of saving the world except by the cross.

Noelle was terribly courageous, and she was always right in the middle of the fight with the Catholic students in Aurora University against the Communists. And her best friend, who was a Legionary and a great worker in the university, was arrested a good while before I was arrested on September 7, 1951. But that did not frighten Noelle. The more she saw against the Legion in the newspapers, the more she delighted, and the more she trained her Legionaries, even though there were no meetings.

They used to see a Hungarian Jesuit missioner, Father János Havas (1908-1994, Society of Jesus), who was a student advisor at Aurora University. He was bald and had a small beard and, actually, looked so very much like Lenin that he used to be called “Father Lenin.” He immediately agreed to become a spiritual director of a presidium in Aurora. He was delighted to do it. He believed the Legion was magnificent. But there was another reason.

“I’m glad to be in on this. There is trouble brewing, and I wouldn’t like to be outside it. I am proud to be in it,” he said.

For his involvement with the Legion, he was arrested by the Communists on September 8, 1952 (the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and given inmate No. 4996. He suffered in prison and was not convicted until May 13, 1954, when he was led before a tribunal. The judges read his condemnation. He was accused of having affirmed that the Blessed Virgin had predicted at Fatima the defeat of the Russians. The judge gave him a pen.

Father Havas replied, “For 25 months I have refused to sign accusations in spite of tortures and bad treatment. Do you figure that I am going to sign?”

The judge, losing his temper, said, “It is the order of the People’s Government.”

Father Havas still refused.

The judge jumped up and put a revolver to the chest of Father Havas, who replied, “Do you take me for a child? It is useless to employ such methods. If you wish to pull the trigger, pull it. You want my head. Here it is. I will never sign.”

Father Havas was expelled from China without signing.

Before his arrest, everyday he had students in his house, and he would instruct them about the New Testament. It was on that account that Noelle and the others went out on the road, shouting, “Matthew 5:11-12! Blessed are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven!”

Every Sunday, Noelle and some other university students attended Mass offered by Father Matthias Chen Che-Ming, the private secretary to Archbishop Riberi. Even after the trouble had begun, Father Chen insisted upon preaching during his Mass against the Communists, saying how unjust they were treating the Legion of Mary as a political society, when it was, in fact, only a religious organization. He preached, and he preached very strongly.

I would not have had the courage to do it.

All the while, he knew very well that in the front pew, sitting beside Noelle and the other students was one girl, whom we all knew perfectly well was a Communist. She had been instructed in the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the hospital in Shanghai and seemed a very devout girl. She was baptized by somebody, and shortly after her baptism, she went to the Catholic Central Bureau, looking around at books and asking different priests for their autographs. She asked for mine, and I gave it without any bother. It didn’t matter to me one way or the other. She was in with Father Prévost and asked for his autograph, but she continued to ask so many inquisitive questions that Father Prévost became suspicious and wouldn’t give his autograph.

She turned out later to be definitely a spy, especially working for the Communists. She kept wandering around the different churches in Shanghai and was even caught taking the bicycle numbers of several priests. One day she landed up in our procure in Shanghai, and she had a couple people running around looking for some sort of information that she wanted.

“Don’t bother giving her any information. She is not trustworthy,” I told them.

I would have judged her to be a bit mental, but, in any case, the Communists were using her and using her to advantage, for that girl wrote and wrote everything down that Father Chen said in his sermons. And after the Mass, she would bless herself, genuflect, walk out of the church, cross over the road to the Red Communist Bureau and hand in the document against Father Chen. He knew that very well, yet he continued. Noelle knew it very well, too, and she also knew that she would be accused by that girl for being there. But she did not mind it. Again, it adds greatly to her glory.

Noelle had just finished her sociology degree in the Aurora University and had gone on and begun her first year in medicine. She was determined to become a Carmelite nun when she was finished, but she was arrested in 1952. In prison, she sat on the floor for years, never talking to anybody. Far more Carmelite than ever a Carmelite was.

A letter was written against me by one of my own senior presidium, a young girl, who was not very strong in the faith. She had, apparently, been persuaded by the Communists to write a letter, which was published, accusing me, saying that my presidium was reactionary and secret. She also accused Archbishop Riberi of being an imperialist. He was later expelled from China and escorted to the Hongkong border in September 1951, shortly after my arrest.

From the day that first letter was published against me in the paper, the next day the children all came up to congratulate me.

They said it was glorious. What a wonderful, glorious thing it was to suffer for the name of Christ.

While they were brave like that, their spiritual director—me—was knocking at the knees, kind of frightened about things.

The one point to remember was that the students knew if I were arrested it would be very probable that I would be kicked out of China. On the other hand, if they were arrested, there was no such thing as kicked out. It was either they remained in prison for their lives, or go mad, or something else. So, all those things add greatly to their glory.

One example of Chinese Catholic heroism was that of Joanna Hsaio.

Joanna was 24 years of age and a member of an old Catholic family when she was president of the curia in Tientsin. During the Red regime, she traveled around, through the north, west and east of China, extending the Legion.

She knew I couldn’t spread the Legion any more, and she decided she was going to do it. She knew, as a Chinese, she couldn’t move from one village to another without permission from the police. And she said that it was useless trying to do that. What did she do? She tucked up her hair, donned a Communist cap, blouse and skirt, and across her breast, she wore the medals of the heroes of the day: Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung.

“My God. What are you doing? Have you turned over?” I said when I saw her.

“No, Father, but I can’t go in my own clothes. If I go in my own clothes, they won’t let me leave one village and go to another. So I dress like this, and they think I’m one of the Communist Youth League and let me pass.”

Why did she do that? So they wouldn’t notice her. And she moved up to places I never went in my life. To Manchuria. And when she got to another place, she took off her Communist uniform, got into a countrywoman’s clothes, pulled down her plaits, sat on her bicycle, rode off and found the priest.

“Father, you’re going,” she said to the priests. “We’ve got to leave something. Let’s start a presidium. Get the people together. Tell them, ‘The Church is not that building. That will be broken. You are the Church. You are the Mystical Body of Christ. You are the members. You must build up the Church, even if the priest is gone.’”

That girl traveled all around north China, while we were waiting on arrest.

“Joanna, do you know you’ll be caught for doing this?” I said.

“I know, Father. I know I’ll be caught, but I might be able to work for a month or two before they catch me.”

She set up at least 350 presidia, and four days before I was arrested, Joanna was caught, too.

Meanwhile, I was terrified, and while I was terrified, I—a priest, a spiritual director—loved to think of the Legionaries, the young boys and young girls, who knew they were going to be arrested, too. Remember, they were from the very best families of Shanghai, from the universities, from the most comfortable homes.

What did they do?

The girls cut their hair, so that the lice wouldn’t be too bad in prison, and they dressed in cotton clothes to get ready for prison. They slept on their floors at night, not in their beds, getting ready for that. Brave young people, and the waters of baptism barely dry on some of their foreheads.

When I saw those things, I said to myself, Look, here. I had better do something, too.

It wasn’t much, but I decided to cut out my smoking. I had been smoking fairly heavily, with Chinese cigars. They were cheap, they were good, and I used to enjoy them. I gave them up, and, indeed, after a couple of weeks, I think, it had such an effect on me that my superior, Father MacElroy, saw things were wrong.

“You had better start those cigars again,” he said.

I did start them, and, I must say, I felt a good deal better on account of starting them. Eventually, when I was arrested, of course, I had no chance to smoke, and that did not bother me anymore.

But the greatest consolation to me during that time was “True Devotion to Mary.” De Montfort and his true devotion, teaching us that the best way to get to Christ is the way that He came to us, through His Mother. I read that book constantly, which made me feel that I was in Our Lady’s hands. I had tried to do what I could do to set up the Legion of Mary, and now I was in trouble for that cause, and I need not doubt her.

Some days before I was arrested, Dr. Paul Zhang Liang-Hui, vice president of the Shanghai senatus and a famous doctor in the city, came up to see me because I was sick. He sat down on the chair after giving me my medicine.

“Father, would you repeat to me once again the doctrine of de Montfort? What is it to live in Mary and with Mary?” he said, getting ready for prison. He was a husband and a father.

“Doctor, how do you feel about what’s going to happen to both of us?” I said.

“Oh Father, I’m all right,” he said, and yet, when I shook his hand, his hand was trembling.

And then somebody asked him, “What about your poor wife and children?”

“Oh, my wife is magnificent. She said to me yesterday, ‘Do what you should be doing for God and His Holy Mother. Don’t mind me. I’ll look after the children.’”

There’s heroism for you. You don’t need to go back to Rome for it.






CHAPTER 10

Father Matthias Chen Che-Ming, private secretary to Archbishop Riberi, used to come up to the house on Rue Maresca to give sermons, as he sometimes did. He gave very strong sermons, and it was after some of the sermons of Father Chen that Father Joseph Shen Shi-Xian also gave a very strong sermon on the Church.

When Father Shen finished one particular one, he came out, and I remember him saying, “I could be arrested for that.”

Well, indeed, he could have been and, possibly, was in the end.

But sometime before we were arrested, Father Shen was not so well. He called in a doctor, and the doctor said his heart was bad and forbade him to take cigarettes or meat or wine, and he wasn’t to be excited in any way. Well, the last one was rather difficult, particularly, as he was waiting on arrest every day and had been waiting for a couple of months.

After the closing down of the Catholic Central Bureau, Father Shen—of course, he was young, and he was of that temperament—he went about immediately to see all his friends in Shanghai. He went to them and said goodbye and asked them for their prayers.

He was, I think most people would say, a little nervous about things, and he was highly strung and, of course, not well, but he often used to play practical jokes.

He would come to our door, knock at it and say, “Open up, quick. You are going to be arrested. The police are here.”

And things like that. He often said it, and, indeed, it upset me quite a bit a couple of times. It was strange that, eventually, he should be the one to say it in the Catholic Central Bureau. He did, actually, open the door and say, “The police are here.”

But during those three months, Father Shen, of course, did a lot of work. He was instructing people and still carrying on a lot of duties. I remember there was one woman, the mother of a family. She was well known, and her husband used to be one of the foreign consuls or something in France. Her daughter was a Catholic and went to America, but the sons were studying, and the mother had not yet been baptized. She was a great friend of Father Shen, and he was instructing her.

Very close to the time when we were arrested, I remember Father Shen coming to say to me, “Mrs. So-and-So is ready for baptism. But a Communist, a great friend of hers, came in the other day to her and saw that she had some doctrine books there.”

The Communist friend said, “Aren’t you very foolish to study these things, now? Don’t you know that the Communist government is going to be very, very hard against the Catholic Church? Why get yourself into trouble?”

And she answered, “You say that they are going to be hard against the Catholic Church. That’s all the more reason why I want to be baptized. I want to be in it.”

Father Shen told me that, himself, and I often wondered what happened to the poor woman, because afterward, when the thing started, even her best friend would have to inform on her.

On two occasions before I had gone down to Shanghai from Chungking, Father Shen had made a trip to Tientsin—I think he went twice to Tientsin—to attend the annual ceremony and to help the Legion up there, where the Legionaries, without a doubt, had a tremendous respect and regard for him. They used to write constantly to get advice from him. Actually, he used to tell stories that the Reds were watching him at that time, even when he spoke in the cathedral in Tientsin.

Once, he took a trip up to Hankow, to his native town to see his mother. And while he was there, he did a great deal of Legion work. He spoke to sisters and spoke to brothers and set up a few presidia.

Perhaps, it was on the occasion before that, when he was up in Hankow, he had gone into the bishop of Wuchang, Bishop Rombert Casimir Kowalski (1884-1970, Order of Friars Minor), in his bare feet and rather like a tramp. The bishop said he did not know who he was.

Father Shen said that he didn’t want to be recognized, anyway, and he was able to help out with the Legion there.

Afterward, that Franciscan bishop was arrested and only after a couple of years expelled. The vicar general, who then took over the bishop’s position when he was put in prison, had charge of the curia of Wuchang and was later executed.

A priest in Hankow, to whom I had given the Legion and who was a great friend of Father Shen, was also executed.

After the closing of the Bureau, we priests had another little meeting, with the question being whether or not we should approach the Communists and try and show them that the Legion of Mary was not reactionary and not secret.

Father Legrand was in favor of doing something positive, and we decided to send a document to the Communists, explaining our position exactly.

It was Father Chen, at that smaller meeting, who proposed a way to do it and, actually, wrote that document down in detail, a suggestion of how it could be done. It was shown to everybody, and I had it over in our house on Rue Maresca for a couple of days. Then I brought it to another priest. That priest brought it back, when he was coming to dinner with us one day.

There were several priests around the table that day, the same day the Communists swarmed the rectory late at night and arrested me in the early morning hours of September 7, 1951.

The general opinion that day was that to go near the Communists, at all, would be a mistake. It was better just to stay as we were and let the Communists take the first step. We all decided, after that dinner, that it would be a foolish thing even to approach the Communists in that way. In other words, it was better to do nothing.

After the dinner, I gave the document to Father Prévost, and he took it back to the Catholic Central Bureau. That very night I was arrested, and I think that document was picked up in, perhaps, Father Shen’s room, or somebody’s. Anyway, the Communists knew all about it, and they questioned me upside down on it. They knew far more about it than I did.

That was the general picture of things up to the time when I was arrested, when the 200 police came, and a number of them searched my room then whisked me away to the Lokawei Police Station, where something new came over me. I seemed to be quite happy. I was at peace, as I was at peace for the next three years.

That same night, Father Legrand and Father Shen, who later died in prison, were also arrested.

One month later, Father Prévost, Bishop Quint, Mr. Seng, president of the senatus of Shanghai and Dr. Zhang, vice president, were all arrested.

Later, four of our St. Columban Society priests from Huchow were arrested.

















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Theresa Marie Moreau edited and researched the Rev. Fr. William Aedan McGrath's memoirs “Perseverance Through Faith: A Priest's Prison Story,” which may be purchased from Amazon.com.

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