Fr. W. Aedan McGrath
August 17, 1957
Sydney Town Hall, Australia
NOTE: The recording starts to fade around 00:48, but picks up again around 1:12.
August 17, 1957
Sydney Town Hall, Australia
NOTE: The recording starts to fade around 00:48, but picks up again around 1:12.
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.
Father McGrath and the Battle for the Soul of China
By Theresa Marie Moreau
First Published in The Remnant Newspaper, June 2007
A single ring from the doorbell echoed through the rectory on Rue Maresca, home to the Missionary Society of St. Columban priests quartered in Shanghai.
It was around 11 p.m., on the night of September 6, 1951.
With a big smile on his face, the Rev. Fr. Malachi Murphy answered the door, expecting friends from Soochow to be on the other side.
Instead, he found eleven police officers, all wearing white caps and drab green uniforms, standing dour-faced on the front steps. One pointed a sub-machine gun. His ten comrades brandished pistols.Stationed around the perimeter of the three-story rectory, dozens and dozens of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army stood watch. Their job: to make certain no one escaped the rectory. Murphy alerted his superior, the Rev. Fr. Edward McElroy, who promptly greeted his unwelcome guests.
“We want the names of everyone here,” one of the officers demanded of McElroy, who methodically ran down the litany of resident priests, finally coming to the Rev. Fr. William Aedan McGrath.
“That’s the one we want,” an officer blurted. “He’s being arrested on suspicion.”
“On suspicion of what?” McElroy asked.
“Read tomorrow’s paper,” taunted the officer, as he and the others pushed their way inside and advanced upstairs to the second floor, on reconnaissance for Communist enemy McGrath (pronounced mc-GRAW), spiritual director of China’s Legion of Mary, a Roman Catholic laity-based organization founded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1921.
For two hours, the authorities searched McGrath’s room, with its bed, night stand, a book of Gospels and a copy of Thomas à Kempis’ “My Imitation of Christ.” They found nothing. McGrath had anticipated his arrest and had destroyed any evidence that may have incriminated any one. Nonetheless, the officers arrested the priest, pushed him into the hallway, sealed the door to his bedroom to limit access, then escorted him downstairs, where he kneeled before McElroy for absolution.
On his way out, McGrath happened to look at his watch. It was 1 a.m.
It’s now September 7, the vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foundation day of the Legion of Mary, he thought to himself, chuckling. The Communists have selected a good day, today.
For twenty-four years McGrath had lived in China, during a time when the fastest route to the Orient was a six-week-long, stomach-launching voyage aboard an ocean liner. In August 1930, the newly ordained, 24-year-old priest arrived at dock in Shanghai, more than 6,000 miles from his hometown of Dublin. But he didn’t stop there. From China’s international port city, he continued four more days and 700 miles westward on the Yangtze River, which washes across China’s waistline.
At last, he arrived at his destination: the Hanyang diocese, in the province of Hubei, explains McGrath in a series of talks on six audio cassettes, most recorded by the Rev. Fr. Francis Peffley, of the Arlington diocese. McGrath was born in Dublin on January 22, 1906 and died on Christmas Day 2000. Though time has deposited crackles and sputters on the tapes, McGrath’s Irish brogue is crisp, his humor quick and his passion unmistakable as he described his experiences in China.
McGrath landed in the Republic of China around the same time a smalltime thug in the burgeoning Chinese Communist Party began strong-arming his way to secular omnipotence by seizing control of a few ragtag armies that ate and pillaged its way only a hundred miles or so south of Hanyang, where McGrath lived.
Known as a bloodthirsty bandit, Tse-Tung Mao, (who would later be blamed for the deaths of 77 million Chinese) was backed with money and muscle from the Kremlin, the seat of political power in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Joseph Stalin, general secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party’s Central Committee, had plans for China and looked for someone to head a puppet regime there, wrote husband and wife Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in “Mao: The Unknown Story.”
Megalomaniac Mao looked like promising material.
Born on December 26, 1893, to a wealthy peasant family, Mao’s two-character given names, Tse-Tung, translate to “Shine on the East.” His mother, a Buddhist, performed a “baptism” upon her son, in a ritual during which an eight-foot-tall boulder “adopted” Mao, who was then given his baptismal name of Shisan-Yazi (Boy of Stone).
McGrath heard plenty about Mao and tried to stay out of his path. Around the time the missionary priest had finished his rookie year, he was called to his bishop’s office, where he learned of his first big assignment.
“You’re to be a parish priest. I’m sorry to say there is no church there. I’m even more sorry to say there is no house. I don’t know what you’ll do, or where you’ll live, but do your best,” said the Most Rev. Edward Galvin, who co-founded with the Rev. Fr. John Blowick the St. Columban missionary society in 1918.
Off McGrath went, 100 miles north, where he stayed for the next sixteen years. He had twenty-four mission villages to cover. Without a car or even roads, he walked one day’s journey from one village to the next, where he bunked down for a few days with parishioners in their mud-and-straw huts. It took two months to cover his parish, where he baptized, instructed, heard confessions, buried the dead, blessed graves. Whatever needed to be done, McGrath did it. He had no choice. There was no one else.
After a few months and already completely emotionally exhausted, McGrath pleaded with Galvin to send him back-up. A priest. A nun. Anyone. Galvin told him there was no one. Desperate, McGrath tried Catholic Action, a lay apostolic movement Pope Pius XI had promoted. He undertook this task, and his endeavor, which he later referred to as “McGrath’s Folly,” almost took him under. After reprimanding a group of parishioners, they took revenge by writing nasty letters about him to all the bishops in China.
Again McGrath pleaded with his bishop for help. Unable to send a priest, the bishop sent a book, “The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary,” put together almost entirely by Frank Duff, who had founded the Legion of Mary on September 7, 1921.
Still stinging from his failed attempt with Catholic Action, the last thing McGrath wanted to do was try to coax parishioners to help him out. Nonetheless, he decided he’d give it a go, half-expecting and half-hoping it would fail – just to spite the bishop. For his first group, McGrath rounded up six uneducated peasants. For six months, he absolutely forbade the men to tell their wives about the meetings, which were held, in secret, once a week at midnight. This way, McGrath reasoned, no one would know when it failed. If word got out about a second failure, that would be just too much.
Long after the village dogs had stopped barking and everyone in the village (except the six men and McGrath) had fallen asleep, the first meeting began with all seven kneeling and praying five decades of the rosary. McGrath followed the handbook and assigned to each of the men evangelization tasks that he had no time to do. The following week, villagers were still in the street at midnight, so McGrath – on the QT – ordered his six recruits to return in two hours. So at 2 a.m., the second meeting began. It had been a success. His apostles had accomplished all their tasks.
That was McGrath’s introduction to the Legion of Mary. Formally, he joined the Legion by making his act of consecration to Christ through Mary, as suggested by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716) in his book “True Devotion to Mary,” in which he explains that the best way to get to Christ is the way He came to the world – through His mother.
Before McGrath knew it, his Legion grew and grew, but China was in utter turmoil, being ripped apart by the Chinese Communists and Nationalists, as well as thousands of Japanese invaders.
Mao aimed the crosshairs of his site on his target, political enemy Kai-Shek Chiang, known as the “Generalissimo,” who headed the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party, formed by a number of Republican groups (and Communists) several tumultuous years after the Republican Revolution of 1911 that ended 2,000 years of China’s dynastic rule.
In 1927, the Nationalists had split with its Communist contingent because of the Communist’s (especially Mao’s) incitement and sadistic fondness of mob violence, inspired by Karl Marx’s idealized class struggle about which he wrote in “The Communist Manifesto,” published in 1848.
The Japanese, by 1931, had invaded Manchuria, a region in northeast China. The invaders wanted to get their hands on China’s natural resources of coal, iron, gold and giant forests. When thousands of Japanese soldiers marched into the village where McGrath lived, they gave him boot. He was forced to leave his parish and return to Hanyang around 1938.
That’s the end of the diocese, he thought. For without me, it’s bound to fail.
After two and a half years, McGrath was permitted to return. And what he found in his diocese greatly surprised him and, perhaps, hurt his ego a little. Not only had the diocese survived without him, it flourished. The legionaries had done everything – baptized, instructed, witnessed marriages, everything except offer Mass and hear confessions.
McGrath’s diocese wasn’t the only thing that flourished in China.
So had Mao’s power. Since January 1, 1937, Mao had holed up in Yenan, an ancient city enclosed by thick walls. Beginning in 1942, Mao began his “Rectification Campaign,” the “Yenan Terror,” Chang and Halliday wrote, describing how Mao ordered thousands of his young Chinese People’s Volunteers thrown into prison caves carved into the loess mountains of Yenan. There, his victims would be “spy-proofed,” during which they endured endless interrogations, brainwashing sessions, thought examinations, physical torture, even death. Mao pursued his perverse pleasure of breaking and bending people, to have everyone under his control.
Despite Mao, the Chinese felt optimistic when, on August 15, 1945, Victory Over Japan (V-J) Day, the Japanese surrendered, thus ending World War II and the occupation. But it wasn’t quiet for long. An all-out civil war between Mao’s Communists and Chiang’s Nationalists ensued.
With atheist Mao winning most of the battles, the future didn’t look so cozy for Catholics.
Archbishop Antonio Riberi, papal internuncio to China from 1946 to 1951, realized that all foreign clergy, nuns and religious would be kicked out of China, and that the Chinese clergy, nuns and religious would be thrown into prison. Riberi knew something had to be done. And fast. In Africa, he had witnessed the evangelization power of the Legion of Mary, so he asked around and found out that only McGrath, in all of China, had started up a Legion of Mary.
In 1948, McGrath was enjoying some R&R back home in Ireland when he received a message from his superior general: “Archbishop Riberi, the nuncio from the Pope, has arrived in China and is looking for the Legion of Mary. He asked that you be taken out of your parish to help him establish the Legion in China.”
Not wasting a second, McGrath cut short his stay and returned, post haste, to Shanghai.
At their meeting, Riberi told McGrath, “Father, I want you, as fast as you can, to go all over China and start the Legion of Mary before it’s too late.”
“Archbishop, do you not think it’s too late? Mao will be in power in a few months,” McGrath answered.
“Do what you’re told,” Riberi ordered.
McGrath embraced his mission. Soon the number of Legions throughout China doubled, then tripled and continued to rapidly multiply. Legionaries, realizing just what was at stake with Mao and his regime riffraff, played an important part in disseminating to Catholics the truth behind the Communist disinformation propaganda.
Around this time, the revolutionary Reds had advanced into northern China, where they were finally able to link up with the USSR, their chief supplier of weapons. It wasn’t long before Mao drove Chiang from mainland China to Taiwan (historically known as Formosa). On October 1, 1949, the Chairman stood in Tiananmen Square and announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China – with himself the head of the beast.
Forever updating his enemies list, Mao readied for the purge of anyone not having correct revolutionary thought. Being patriotic in China means being a revolutionary. Having learned in Yenan the best tactics to collect valuable incriminating information, Mao dispatched his minions to begin collecting data on a grand scale across China, to weed out “counterrevolutionaries,” such as those faithful to the Pope, Christ’s Vicar.
In an attempt to break with the Holy See, the xenophobic Communists established, in 1949, the Three-Self Reform Movement, so-called for its aim to be Self-governing, Self-supporting and Self-propagating. Relations between the Vatican and China first froze then officially broke in 1951 after Mao kicked out Riberi.
But Mao discovered the “official church” wasn’t catching on. There was an underground Roman Catholic Church that was still alive, thriving. Furious, he dispatched spies to find the culprit, which was none other than the Legion of Mary, with McGrath its spiritual director.
This did not sit well with the Red regime. Mao had no choice. He kick started and revved up the propaganda machine to start attacking the Legion, labeling it none other than Public Enemy No. 1.
Special registration centers were opened. Outside the doors, 6-foot-tall signs posted: SECRET SUBVERSIVE ORGANIZATION, LEGION OF MARY, MEMBER REGISTRATION CENTER. Inside, Legionaries were to sign the following: “I, the undersigned, joined the reactionary Legion of Mary on (date) and conducted secret counterrevolutionary and evil activities against the government, the people, and Soviet Russia. I hereby resign from the Legion of Mary and promise never to participate in such activities in the future.”
Very few registered.
As part of the anti-Legionary, anti-Catholic campaign, loudspeakers nailed onto the trees seemingly everywhere blasted the Legion, as did segments on the radio, stories in the newspapers, posters on the buses, which encouraged one and all to attack the Legion and inform against the Legionaries.
Back in Shanghai, McGrath watched as police cars shrieked up and down the streets. People disappeared from their homes in the middle of the night, never to return. One of the priests in the city used to call himself the Chaplain to the Dying. He stood at his window. When police cars filled with people passed, he granted them absolution, just in case they were Catholics. The cars always returned empty.
From 1950 to 1951 McGrath waited to be arrested, terrified, spending a good deal of time on his knees in the chapel, going around the Stations of the Cross, trying to get courage from the Passion of Christ. At the twelfth station, when Christ is raised on the cross and dies, at first McGrath recited a common prayer: “May I die for love of thee, as thou hast died for love of me?”
Terrified, his knees shook so bad at the thought of death he stopped saying that prayer. Instead, he opted for Christ’s prayer (Luke 22:42) in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.”
Finally, they came for him.
The night McGrath was arrested, he was taken to a detention center, where he stayed for several months, until he was moved to Ward Road Prison, reportedly one of the largest prisons in the world, built smack dab in the industrial area of Shanghai. Enclosed by a security wall 5 meters (16.4 feet) high, the ten cell blocks sat on 60 mus, roughly equivalent to 10 acres. Built in 1901, it opened its doors in 1903. On May 28, 1949, it was taken over by the Military Control Committee of Shanghai and renamed the Shanghai People’s Court Prison, then renamed Shanghai Municipal Prison in 1951 (when it held 12,000 prisoners), then renamed Tilanqiao Prison in 1995.
A dozen soldiers, two with sub-machine guns aimed at McGrath, forced him to strip then searched him and his clothing for anything he could use to kill himself. They took his watch, rosary beads and religious medals. They removed the laces from his shoes, the buttons off his trousers and forced him to stand, naked, for hours. But they never removed his extra-large brown scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel hanging around his neck. McGrath took it as a sign.
The Blessed Mother is trying to tell me to stop worrying, he thought.
At 3 in the morning, guards ordered him to lie down on a bit of straw scattered on the cement floor. Even with a sub-machine gun trained on him, he fell asleep. At 5 a.m., McGrath was kicked awake, ordered to get dressed then hauled to his cell.
On his second day in prison, again the guards strip searched McGrath. Again, they seemingly missed his Our Lady of Mt. Carmel scapular.
Thank goodness. Mother is doing something. She’s giving me a sign. I’ve consecrated myself to her, and here is a sign: Quit worrying, thought McGrath. It wasn’t until three months later, with strip searches nearly every day, that the guards finally saw the scapular and ripped it from his neck.
On the third day of his arrest, McGrath was dragged out of his cell to an interrogation room, where he was forced to stand still for hours, as guards changed every sixty minutes. He was returned to his cell for a few minutes sleep, kicked awake again then dragged to the interrogation room, where he was forced to stand – handcuffed – from midnight until 3 a.m., answering questions. All he wanted to do was sleep.
One of the interrogators began to sneer at him.
“Ireland. Ha! We’ll be in Ireland to liberate you.”
Well, that woke McGrath up. “Thank you very much; we are liberated.”
“We’ll liberate you more,” said the interrogator, who walked over to McGrath, unscrewed the handcuffs and sent him downstairs to his cell to think about his “crimes.”
For McGrath’s thirty-two months behind bars, he thought of what that interrogator had said.
For thirty-two months, McGrath listened to men, women, young girls and boys dragged out of their cells, day and night, handcuffed, with shackles binding their legs, clinking as they shuffled along toward “liberation.”
Everyone around McGrath went mad.
A priest in a cell opposite McGrath vomited for two months, then was dragged out of his cell and died on November 11, 1951. McGrath heard later that the priest was the Rev. Fr. Cheng-Min “Beda” Chang, of the Society of Jesus.
To McGrath’s right, a boy cried and sobbed at night, talking to himself, shaking the bars, calling for his father, his mother, his brothers and sisters. After one month, it was all over. For the next five months, the boy shrieked his head off.
At first, McGrath thought it was going to shake him completely. He felt a fright creep into him. Then he remembered his act of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and vowed he would never be uneasy about anything – past or future. McGrath sat down. A calm overcame the fear, and he went to sleep.
In the morning, when the whistle blew, he saw the rays of the sun shine through the windows above the fifth floor. He stood up, kissed the bars and prayed Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”
That became his morning offering, every morning.
Years later, while in Rome in 1980, McGrath was invited by Pope John Paul II to celebrate the Mass with him at the altar. After saying his post-Mass thanksgiving, the Pope met with McGrath. The Pontiff heard the parish priest had suffered in a Chinese prison for the faith.
“Father, what kept you sane in prison?”
“Holy Father, I have no doubt in the world. It was de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.”
At this the Pope laughed and asked, “Is that true?”
“Do you know what kept me sane in Poland, when I was a student running from one house to another studying philosophy and theology?” the Pope asked pulling his sweat-stained copy of “True Devotion to Mary” out from under his cassock. “I found this little book on a table. It’s been in my pocket ever since, and I read a chapter every day.”
On April 9, 1952, McGrath was transferred to Ward Road Prison, where he received a piece of bamboo with his identification number: 2146. In his cell, there was no bed. No table. No chair. No window. The only light came from dim bulbs along the long corridor. No water. No toilet. Only a bucket – for waste elimination. So small was the cell that McGrath couldn’t stretch his arms out to the side without having to bend his fingers, and when he laid down, his 5-foot-3-inch frame fit, perfectly. Not another inch.
Twice a day, inmates received a minimum portion of brown rice, the kind usually used to feed livestock, slopped into filthy square tins, just wide enough to fit between the iron bars. The first at 9 a.m.; the second at 3 p.m. A single cup of hot water after each meal. They were not allowed to drink cold water.
His cellmates? Bedbugs. Thousands and thousands of bedbugs. McGrath would wake up in the middle of the night, and the bugs would be crawling all over his body, sucking his blood. In the mornings, he woke with tiny festering bubbles on his skin. McGrath considered it a bit unfair that he had bedbugs, but no bed.
In prison, McGrath was peaceful, yes, but not comfortable.
Having to endure endless interrogations during the night, it was next to impossible to keep his eyes open during the day. And all prisoners were never allowed to close their eyes for rest during the daytime. Sleep deprivation was a mental and physical torture used to soften up inmates for interrogations. McGrath was constantly caught and endlessly punished for dozing off in his cell. At times, guards bound his hands behind his back with French handcuffs, tightening the links. In the winter, he would be stripped naked and forced to stand in the freezing air for thirty minutes.
Birds sometimes entered the cell block through the upper-story windows opened to ventilate the human stench. One day McGrath noticed a sparrow hopping in front of his door of iron bars. When his next tin of rice came, he tucked a few grains in a crevice. Before too long, he heard a whistle and flicked the rice toward the bird, who ate so much McGrath thought he’d burst.
The sparrow became a regular mealtime mooch. One day McGrath noticed the bird whistled and flew away, then ten seconds later the guard appeared. With its acute hearing, the bird heard the key in the door, which caused him to take off.
McGrath was in luck. The sparrow signaled when the guard was coming, so he would have enough time to sit up, rub his eyes and keep them wide open, so as not to be caught with his eyes closed. When the sparrow reappeared and whistled, McGrath knew the guard was gone.
That sparrow stayed with McGrath during the rest of his imprisonment. Even when the guards opened the priest’s cell, made him pack up his bits of clothing and raggedy blanket, put a sack over his head, open the gate, lead him out and take him to another cell, whether another floor or another building altogether, within five minutes, McGrath heard a whistle. His loyal companion was there.
Inmates were also not allowed to talk, cough or sneeze, which guards claimed were ways of inner-prison communication. Everyone was to sit on the floor, all day everyday, and do nothing but think of their “crimes.”
One day a guard snapped at McGrath, “What are you doing?”
“I’m thinking about God,” McGrath answered.
“You’re not allowed to think about God.”
Nonetheless, McGrath settled into a very busy daily routine – mostly thinking about God.
As a seminarian he was trained never to waste time, to prepare his day, because if he let his mind wander, he would do and accomplish nothing. Therefore, while in prison, he mentally wrote out a schedule so that from 6 a.m., when the morning whistle blew, until 9 p.m., when the night whistle blew, he would be busy.
Upon waking, he kissed the bars and repeated his morning prayer, then went through the prayers of the Latin Mass, which he had remembered by rote. This was followed with a one-hour spiritual communion, then a spiritual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, complete with divine praises and Latin hymns.
Three rosaries before noon. Three after noon. Twice a day, he made a particular examination of conscience, in which he thought about his predominant passion that caused him the most trouble, counted how many times he failed and resolved to do better. McGrath’s predominant passion in prison? He was never to think of yesterday, never to think of tomorrow.
He would go through the Stations of the Cross.
Then two hours of study. What? He had nothing to study. Except one thing. He was permitted a toothbrush and toothpaste, which on the back stated in exact terms the number of germs that were killed per second by that particular toothpaste. So, everyday, that was his “spiritual” reading, to keep his mind busy.
For mental prayer and meditations, he went through each question and answer, one by one, in the “Baltimore Catechism,” which he knew by heart. Each Q & A opened up a vista of theology for him. He also composed sermons – in English, then translated them into French, Latin and Chinese.
In other words, he kept himself busy.
One day, McGrath received a postage stamp. Prisoners were able to secretly pass items to one another through various ways. When McGrath flipped over the stamp, he could see very, very small beautiful writing in pencil. It was from Wolf Gruen, a German Jew, an engineer thrown into prison on bogus charges of espionage.
“Dear Father, I would like to know something about the Catholic Church.”
McGrath wanted to begin instructing Gruen, but he had no paper, no pencil. Walter, a White Russian crook treated decently by the Communists because they considered him a “comrade,” had been given an inmate job of rolling the food cart from cell to cell, distributing the tins of rice during mealtimes. One day, he noticed McGrath’s little piece of Foxford rug. The yellow colors caught his eye.
“Would you give me that?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I need it myself.”
“Do you want me to do anything for you? There’s a priest friend of yours down the row.”
“I can’t write him anything. I have no pencil. I have no paper.”
“I’ll get you some.”
So Walter the White Russian got his hands on little bits of rough, brown toilet paper and snuck it to McGrath, who used it to reply to Gruen and instructed him the best he could under the circumstances. Eventually Gruen left the prison before McGrath.
“Have you any message for your people?” Gruen wrote in a final note.
“Just tell them that I’m here, and that I’m OK.”
Gruen went to Hong Kong and gave the message to a priest, who baptized McGrath’s catechumen.
After two years and eight months, guards entered McGrath’s cell and dragged him out. He had just finished making his third novena to St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, author of “True Devotion to Mary.”
“You are going to be executed,” guards taunted him.
McGrath was brought before a tribunal. He had never once seen a lawyer the entire thirty-two months he spent in Ward Road Prison.
“Do not talk,” they warned, then read out his “crimes” of “disrupting the youth of China.” Nonetheless, they ordered his release, adding a final caution: “Leave this country and never come back.”
Later, two guards armed with sub-machine guns escorted McGrath and the Rev. Fr. Francis Xavier Legrand, of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Scheut, out of the prison and onto a train. Legrand had been arrested the same night as McGrath.
On the train ride, Legrand broke down.
“My God, I don’t know what happened to me,” Legrand confessed, with tears running down his cheeks. “At one period, I was standing for six days and six nights. They never let me move my feet.”
“My God, how could you do that? Did you not fall?” McGrath asked him.
“I was shackled, and I was handcuffed. I tried to fall. I longed to faint. I couldn’t, and every few hours, the judges would come in and they’d say, ‘You killed two men.’ And the guards would change every hour, and I went on standing. I remember it quite clearly, and then I didn’t know what was day and what was night, and at the end of six days and six nights, they came in and I remember it, but I don’t know what happened. I asked for paper, and I wrote that I killed two men.”
After the fifty-hour train ride, McGrath and Legrand, escorted by Communists, arrived in Canton, then in Hong Kong, where the two priests were handed over to the British police.
But before the train ride from Shanghai to Hong Kong, before Legrand’s tearful confession, before McGrath left Ward Road Prison, he shuffled, in chains, from the make-shift courtroom to his final holding cell.
It would be his last day of imprisonment and his first of freedom. “What’s the date today?” McGrath asked someone nearby.
“April 28, 1954,” was the reply.
April 28, the unofficial feast day of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.
ENDNOTE: All Chinese names have been written in a manner to avoid confusion and to remain consistent with the English standard of writing proper names: given name first, family name last. In Chinese, names are traditionally written with family name first, followed by given names, usually consisting of two characters.
Theresa Marie Moreau may be reached at TMMoreau@yahoo.com.