Newsletter of the District of Asia

 April - December 2008

Joy in Suffering
By Rose Hu

We continue with the following chapters the translation in English
of a Chinese book by Mrs. Rose Hu on her 26 years of captivity
in Chinese prison and labor camps, between 1955 - 1981.
A moving story on the power of faith, of prayer,
of the mystery of suffering, and of the Immaculate Mother of God.


Chapter 11 Gust Comes Before Storm

A small bundle was laid at my bedside, not knowing when it would be used. It had been there for more than three years. Sometimes the police would come unexpectedly; people had been caught unaware. However, sometimes there would be certain clues to detect their coming. On Aug. 20, 1955, a hot day, I was taking a nap when two schoolmates came to my house abruptly. They rushed me to pick up some clothes and return to school immediately, because the school principal and secretary of Communist party had to see me. I could feel the threats which accompanied it, and it obviously was a bad omen. There was no way out, and I had to obey. As soon as we arrived at school, the class leader announced that I had now lost my freedom, and would be guarded by four classmates to watch my every movements. I demanded to know the reason behind all this fuss, but they simply kept silent, and the only thing they said to me was that I would find out later.

The principal informed me that the government would launch a large scale movement, which was to eliminate anti-revolutionaries inside the Catholic Church. According to the information they had, I was guilty of grievous anti-revolutionary crimes. Considering that I was too young, and had simply gotten poisoned profoundly, they wished me to learn to be tactful in the shortest period of time, and report and expose the imperialists and anti-revolutionary members inside the Catholic Church. As a result, the leniency of the government might reduce the punishment due to my honesty. At the same time, the principal clearly and definitely required me to attend the future public trials of our bishop Kung and some others to accuse them face-to-face. I remember his last words vividly: “Hu Mei-Yu, you could totally affect the vast number of young people and Church members, causing most of the ordinary people to be converted….”

It was time to test my faith. I recalled at once the Fathers’ teachings, which was to be sure to use the “three negations” and resist temptation from the devil. The “three negations” stood for: do not listen, do not read, and do not answer. If our ancestor Eve had not listened and talked to the devil when faced with his temptation, she would not have eaten that forbidden fruit. I have already pronounced my vows at baptism, I would rather fall among all disasters than to offend the all divine, all good God our Lord. But now it was time to put these words to practice. To think that I was merely a powerless and fragile young girl, fighting with my bare hands, how could I deal with such brute forces and tyranny? But then I had no doubt that the almighty God was standing by my side, therefore I would fear nothing.

The next morning, they attacked like cannons, firing at me in full force. It started with the class leader announcing that I had lost my freedom from then on, and two classmates were to take turns to guard me twenty-four hours a day. There were two big blackboards densely covered with my criminal acts in the downstairs dorms, which I did not bother to look at at all. They were covered with slogans and mottos written in huge letters: ‘Down with anti-revolutionist Hu Mei-Yu’, and ‘Give a thorough explanation: that’s your only way out’, etc... I figured that no matter how much they wrote, if I did not pay any attention to them they would just be useless, and at most may be intimidating to some timid people.

They started the ‘Criticizing Conference” at eight o’clock in the morning. The class leader with a high-pitched voice: “That anti-revolutionary, Hu Mei-Yu, who hides amongst us – get her out of here!” With two classmates dragging and kicking me, I was roughly pushed to the front. Several times, they forcibly pressed down my head with their hands, and I tried to raise it back up each time. My classmates had gone completely mad. I did not know whether they feared that I might become a disgrace to our class, or out of hatred towards a public enemy, everybody raised their hands and strived to make themselves heard. I could not hear clearly what they were talking about, but I heard some of my best friends say with a trembling voice: ‘Hu Mei-Yu, we mark off with you.’ My dear friends, I understand that your hearts were also trembling, and that you could only save yourselves by saying those words.

I then truly realized what freedom was. My mind was at ease. I would not say anything that I did not wish to; my freewill had always been in the palms of my own hands. Alas, those of my classmates with whom I had gotten along so well had to say words not out of their own minds to save themselves. Had they not lost the freewill of their hearts? I felt sorry for them.

The criticizing conference continued for four hours. Then, after lunch, the chairman of my department wanted to converse with me, a talk that lasted a few hours, but I just kept stern and silent.

Everyday, such conferences, such talks, blasted at me more than ten hours, they said the same things over and over again, they wanted nothing else than to hear me to confess that within the Church, those foreign and Chinese priests were imperialists and anti-revolutionaries, and that I had been poisoned and eroded by them. If only I would expose and document their plots, hand over a list of poisoned young people like me, I would be able to continue my education and have a bright future.

I am God’s child, I could not view this problem from the devil’s position. Our Catholic Church saves our souls with its teachings: how could it be poisonous? How could I put my responsibilities on other people? That was the devil’s logic and plot. At the Last Judgment, standing before God, how could I say: “I did not mean to commit sin, but someone else forced me to do so”? Moreover, how could I be a traitor and achieve distinction, which was a contradiction to the virtue of charity?

The Communists kept repeating: “We don’t intervene, we don’t object to your belief in God.” And yet they demanded us to violate the virtue of charity, all the time and in every place. The faith of those who commit sin by violating the law of charity is merely built on sand. How can they be secure? If they remove firewood from under the cauldron, how can they set a fire? Thanks be to God for always granting me a clear mind and a sensible consciousness. The Church didn’t poison me, but the Communists did: they were coupling threats with bribes to force me to abandon God.

Almost two weeks later, it was September 3, the beginning of a new semester. They kept me shut up all day long in an empty cell, dusty, and full of spider webs. In the center of the cell was a small wooden stool. I was commanded to face the wall and meditate. Maybe that was an imitation jail they made for me. Well, since I had made up my mind, also because my classmates were too busy criticizing me, they treated me with a cold and indifferent attitude. St. Paul had said: “All is good for those who love God” (Rom. 8, 28). In the shifting of events, I would just stick consistently to that fundamental principle. And I increased my prayers to resist temptation.

After dinner, my classmates led me from the dorm to the classroom. As soon as I stepped into the classroom, I saw Mom and my sister Mei-Zhen sitting there. I was so glad to see them again. My mind intermingled sorrow and joy. I was joyful, because Mom was beaming in high spirits; she did not ponder too much about my leaving home. I was sad because if this show continued, it might end up with an arrest.

My sister Mei-Zhen immediately talked to me in Ning-Po dialect: “I am afraid that you won’t be able to suffer the hardships and will make yourself a Judas”. I told her: “Please give the message to the priests that Mei-Yu would rather die than betray the Church. But be aware! The storm is coming.”

Mom was a pagan at that time, but she was already well disposed towards Catholicism. Everyday, she said many decades of the Rosary for me, and she told me again and again: “My Mei-Yu, be a good girl, do not be afraid to suffer. Mom doesn’t need a rebellious daughter.” I obtained blessings from God, and as soon as I heard those words, the pains within my heart were gone. My dear pagan Ma-Ma, she surely did have some courage! And she truly accompanied Our Lady together with the other holy women up to Calvary. Is there any grace greater than this for a human being in this world?

I then took off my watch and my golden chain and asked my mom to take them home. I said to mom with deep affection: “Ma-Ma, your daughter cannot now accomplish both royal and filial piety. I pray that may our good Lord reward you.”

The school people didn’t quite understand what we were talking about, but after observing our facial expressions, they found out that it was not a favorable situation, so they immediately expelled my Mom and my sister. Some classmates said viciously: “What a reactionary family they are!” They had planned to shake my faith by using the love between mother and daughter, and who would have known that they would get exactly the opposite result! My Mom’s religious beliefs even got stronger after that.

On September 4, the school people showed me two sets of documents, provided by two of my schoolmates and parishioners, Mr. Y.C. Yu and Mr. W.Q. Yang. They had written some information and had convicted me. I assumed that each set of documents had more than ten pages. As was my usual practice, I put them aside.

The principal said: “You might not believe it yet, and you may think that we are cheating you. I tell you, both of them will be turning up in person tonight.”

They came to our school after dinner, on a university school bus. When they faced me, they did not even look straight in the eyes. Then a school leader urged them by saying: “Now that your minds have been made clear, please tell Mei-Yu about your own experiences.” At first they both affirmed that those documents were written on their own free will. Then they found excuses, gave me many crooked reasons, and said that we ought to think about our future, our families, and, since the government had not ordered us to give up our faith, we should not behave in the extreme. All those impostors played their part only because they wanted me to follow them. I merely answered: “We are not going the same way, therefore we cannot get together. You take your broad ways, but I choose to walk my single plank bridge instead.”

Because both of them took part in the criticzing conference everywhere and reported a lot of people in order to achieve their own distinctions, they not only were exempted from the Communists’ penal punishments, but also became representatives of the young people’s democratic group. Moreover they became executives of the Patriotic Catholic Society (a body founded and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party).

I heard them saying, that at that time, more than ten young college students were ordered back to school to report too, but in fact there was only me and another one schoolmate who were arrested for firmly defending our faith.

Now, these two men, Yang and Yu, have since died of illness. I did visit them before going to the United States. Yu, with his serious words and thoughtful heart, said to me: “You have chosen the best way, Mei-Yu. I admit with regret that I am not as good, but you have God’s blessings to live a long life, and have the luck to go to the United States.” I answered: “You know very well that I am very weak. But God’s mercy is always with us. May all the glories and praises be to Our Lord. We have all made errors, so we must rely on God’s mercy. We are sinners; we are all in need of God’s mercy for the remission of our sins. At the time when Judas finally felt remorse for his grievous sin, he did not believe in Christ’s mercy and because he did not have true hope, he committed suicide”.

I saw tears in his eyes. We had been separated for more than thirty years. We must all come to the last stage of our lives. Personal grudges and gratitude are of little importance at that moment; our urgent business is to prepare ourselves and to hope to meet each other in God’s paradise.

A few years ago, I was told that he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Actually, all those years, he was not lucky in either attaining materials goods or public recognition. Although he had worked very hard, he couldn’t gain the trust of his superiors. He had leapt into a good position in a State university, but he was not able to get a promotion. He was out of his mind due to high anxiety and to the fact that his work had never been approved or trusted by his boss. Jesus told us: “No man can serve two masters…” (Mt 6, 24); He also said: “I say to you, every one who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19, 29)

At that time, I received an invitation to attend the feast of our Lady on September 8, together with Cardinal Kung and many other priests. Starting on September 4, everyday, I deeply immersed in praying, and prepared myself for the way of the cross.

Chapter 12 Born on the same day as Our Lady

From September 3 to September 8, 1955, they kept me sitting in silence. The Communists treated people in different ways: either they were very active in giving out constant criticism, or they would just let people sit alone.

When they left me alone, I was thinking that I could use this leisure time to close my eyes, to give my mind a brief rest, and to keep on praying. Although the school had authority and powers, they could never control my mind.

On September 8 around 10 pm, after I had already gone to bed, my schoolmate suddenly came and urged me to get up. She told me that our principal, Mr. Liu, wanted to talk to me. To talk to me that late in the middle of the night? I knew my time was up. I strolled up to the building of the principal’s office, and found that a police car was waiting there. Naturally, I made a sign of cross and said “Fiat (as Thou wilt, Lord)”.

Principal Liu said to me very seriously as I walked in, “The school has done a lot of work to save you, Hu Mei-Yu, but you constantly insisted on rebelling. Here, have a look at this arresting notice, dated September 3. We have strived for you, but it looks like all is in vain. As of today, September 8, we have to arrest you, but the school will reserve your student status for one year. The government is always benign toward young people, especially to the university students. You may still have choices even if you are in jail. When you realize your crimes, anytime, all you need to do is to confess what you’ve done, then come back to school to continue your studies.”

After these words, the policeman came up to me and asked me to sign my name on the arresting paper, then they put me in handcuffs. Before leaving, they asked my classmates to collect some of my clothes, soap, a towel and other daily necessities and to put them into the police car.

Being arrested did not come as a surprise to me, as a so called anti-reactionary movement was already visible everywhere. Everybody had to pass this critical test by having their personal history checked, up to three forefather’s generations, and also their social relations. Those Catholic priests, brothers, nuns, and some young members of the Legion of Mary had already been selected as targets. I was born in a capitalist family and was the leader of the Legion of Mary, with many overseas relations. I also bore the responsibility of leading the Catholic university students. Therefore, I was their big catch, how could they let me escape so easily?

It is part of human nature to fear suffering. Nobody wants to abandon his family and become a prisoner. However, this situation had just happened to me, and I could only choose between being a martyr or a traitor; if not a martyr, then I would certainly be a Judas. Facing such a severe test, I assume that most people would choose rather not to gamble with their eternal life. Under such serious circumstances, I had to stake all on a single throw; away from home and school, and say goodbye to all that was worldly ambitions, only to follow our Blessed Mother as well as follow Jesus all the way to Calvary.

September 8 was the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. God had chosen us to be imprisoned on this day, because He desired us to be born with the Virgin Mother in prison, to start another kind of sacrificed life, and to cast away everything which belonged to the past.

I was sitting in the police car and meditating that human life was nothing but a drama. If I was to assume myself an actress, today I was going to play ‘to be imprisoned’. How badly I might be maltreated and how many miseries I would be suffering were all going to be the essential plots of this play. All I needed to do was to play my part well. As for who the audience was, we had the Triumphant Church in Heaven, numerous saints, angels, the Lord our God, and Virgin Mother, together with the souls in purgatory who were waiting to be taken up to Heaven, and who were expecting God’s grace to grant them Paradise with our sacrifices and prayers. The Church all over the world was observing us too. The Church led by the Pope was concerned about the performance of those who were being tortured and tested. Christ invited me to attend this feast; I would not refuse with any excuses. Upon the table of the feast, I would not forget that I was a child of God. Even if adolescence had gone, or life had been given up, I would never stop halfway. Victory is to keep faith and loyalty until the last minute of life. Anyone could be zealous for a period of time, but only the ones who lasted years and decades, until the end, forever, were precious.

Arriving in jail, I came across many parishioners, and there were many more to come after midnight in the men’s jail. This meant that it was really a tremendous storm. I worried about my sister Mei-Zhen, for she might be as unfortunate as I. I could not stop thinking about Ma-Ma. At her old age, how could she suffer to lose two of her daughters at the same time? I could only entrust her to the Holy Mother’s Immaculate Heart. God asked us to love Him above all things, including our own mothers. Therefore, as soon as I entered this jail, I firmly made up my mind that if Mom were to become the reason that caused me to stumble, I would either ask God to receive my soul earlier, or have Mom be taken up to heaven earlier. To me, what tempted me most was filial piety toward Mom, so I had to rely on God’s mercy. No matter what happened, I would not separate myself from my Lord.

The jail was very crowded and stinky. They announced that in order to prevent prisoners from committing suicide, eyeglasses and waist belts were not allowed in the jail. As a result, I was forced to take off my highly near-sighted eyeglasses. They also forbade prisoners to use tooth brushes. How could a person live without brushing his teeth? The reason for preventing prisoners from brushing their teeth was that a tooth brush could be used to commit suicide. Another thing was the limited use of restrooms (we were locked in the cell and the guard would only open the gate four times a day to let us go to the toilet). This they did most likely only for the sake of subjugating us to live a life worse than animals.

There were only two meals a day. They provided congee cooked with rotten vegetables and pumpkin skins which made it look like a kind of paste. I threw up after each meal, and my weight suddenly dropped to only seventy kilograms. I did desire to get more seriously sick, so that I could meet my Lord earlier.

They may have seen through this intention of mine, for they brought for me in particular white rice gruel with some white noodles. At first I questioned: “Why do I get this special treatment?” and refused to eat. But Mother Chen and some other Catholic friends in this prison persuaded me to eat. They said that my body was weak, and if I did not take any food, it could affect my spirit, (my will power), and it might become weak as well. Since they brought the food for my illness’ sake, I should just take it.

I recall that there were with me in prison, P.J. Wong, C.W. Pan, J.C. Ku, and Mother Chen Kwai, and some others. They were all very brave and impressed many pagans and other unbelievers with their good examples.

When they learned the fact that I had become a Catholic for only six years while my family still remained pagan, they encouraged me not to turn my back on the graces I received, for God had chosen me.

Chapter 13 Interrogations

I have experienced all kinds of suffering: strangulation or suffocation as well as being interrogated. The Communist party not only forbade people from having a defense lawyer, but they actually turned interrogations into wicked tricks and psychological torture for prisoners.

The Communists are atheists. They were not bound by principles of morality on any occasion or any affair. They were unrestricted and used any means to achieve their goals. In order to obtain their prisoners’ written or oral confession, some prisoners were scrutinized under strong lights, making them dizzy of head and dim of sight. Some prisoners were subjected to long and tedious harangues. The

interrogators would take turns and had shifts, but the prisoners were requested to sit up straight while wearing handcuffs. If a prisoner showed even the slightest resistance, they might immediately be punished with handcuffs at the back.

As for me, during my eight months of imprisonment, I was interrogated up to one hundred and twenty times – the most among all Catholic prisoners. Sometimes the interrogations took place in the morning and sometimes at midnight. When I heard the prison guard put a bronze plate on the ground which bore my jail number, and yell: “Step out 1138”, I had to step out right away and go to the interrogating room. It was like military orders that cannot be resisted.

Some parishioners and Catholic nuns imprisoned with me felt sorry for me. They said: “Why do they give her so many interrogations? What can they fear from a student that they would torture her so much?”

I did not understand why the Public Security Department was so interested in me. Why didn’t they just sentence me rather than inflict these days and nights of torture?

Later, I realized there were two reasons for my ordeal.

First, in the eyes of the Communists, I belonged to those who were corrupted. However since I had been a Catholic for only 6 years, they believed that I could be coerced into joining them. What’s more, I was a university student, and my family members were all non-believers. According to their words, there were plenty of reasons for me to convert back. Frankly speaking, the Communists did not desire to arrest me, nor did they even want to sentence me. They just wanted to make me their servile sycophant and a lackey. For this purpose, they came up with all kinds of methods and tried everything to overcome me so many times.

Secondly, most of the young university students who had been with me had already surrendered. In order to lessen their penalties and to gain credit for themselves, they had to provide information. I was a fat catch and they could use me for their own achievements. The interrogators could always get plenty of information about me from those people. According to these Communists, this information had to be checked out with me. It meant that I had to admit to every accusation made against me.

During these interrogations, I always shut my mouth tight and kept silent. Also, I did not show any facial expression. I felt sorry for those Catholics who reported me. Some of them exaggerated the facts, and there were some who shirked their responsibilities onto me to exonerate themselves from all the charges. They had been saying that they would not give up their Catholic faith, but they used my misery in exchange for their so called ‘freedom’. If not for God’s grace, I probably would have gone mad with the Communists’ constant interrogations.

During those trials, I looked as though I were dead, but my mind was actually filled with raging thoughts. I was like a thermos; the outside felt cold but the inside was boiling hot. How could any human being stay calm when they were treated in such an inhumane and humiliating manner? However, had I argued and debated with them, I might have become drowsy and lost my own reasoning ability, and therefore would probably have said something that was not supposed to be said and as a result, involved other people. No matter what happened, I had intended to keep my mouth shut once I was put into jail. Only my Lord would know how heavy my cross was. Each time when I returned to my cell from the trials, I was soaked with sweat. The torture of both body and mind tore at my heart; my suffering was beyond description.

Trials after trials, they thought that I should yield to the soft approaches, so they started to praise exaggeratedly that I was the most capable, clever, and competent girl among all the young people and flaunted me as a sweet flower. Their action was disgusting, and those flattering remarks about me were completely shameless. Antecedently I was criticized and demoted even worse than rubbish, and now praised with such adulation. It obviously was merely the plot of this play. I could not care less about any of their words.

A few days later, some of my old friends came to visit me. They had all surrendered when faced with the Communists. I knew very well the schemes from what they had to say to me. Each of them parroted the Communists’ theory: “We have all clearly recognized our crimes and given them an explanation. We did not contradict our faith at all by doing so. Look how peaceful our minds now are. Many bishops did the same, and if they can do it, why can’t we? Your Mom suffered so much for both you and your sister, and she almost cried her eyes blind. God wants us to love our parents. Why don’t you obey this commandment? A superior person knows how to ride the tides of his time, and follow the currents in sailing.” I did not want to listen to them any more, so I answered: “I love God above all things, and I love everything in God. What if everybody rides the tide of his time and follows the currents in sailing like duckweed. Then how is it there were so many martyrs in the three hundred years of persecution in Rome? I’m sorry, but we are not going the same way, and we cannot get together. You take your broad ways, but I choose to walk my single plank bridge instead”.

Mr. Y. C. Yu of the University of Communication then continued to admonish me without reserve: “You are very naïve, Hu Mei-Yu. You think you can stand very firmly now, but it is not a matter of one day or one year. If you are sentenced and sent to a labor camp, you might suffer all kinds of maltreatment. You are a pampered daughter in your family. Can you endure all such maltreatment? By that time it will be hard to find a way out. Those who can insist firmly to suffer all their lives are very few. You are just a new Catholic. Do you reckon yourself to have enough strength to maintain it till the end? In my opinion, if you are going to change, better earlier than later. Not only can you gain friendly considerations from the government, you will obtain all kinds of favorable treatment as well.”

I pondered over his genuine ‘pragmatic philosophy’ after I got back to my cell, and found that he did not mention a word about God’s power. My future was in God’s hands. I did not know how long I could live, but if I could not persist in this future which was held in God’s hand, I would stumble now. All they wanted for me was to pursue the prospects of this life, then abandon them. I had already gotten into this jail, and I insisted on going forward and never retreating.

Two days later, there came a Cantonese priest by the name of T. B Chen, whom I did not know well. I was told that he was an extremist and had married a nun. How could I trust a priest like this? He said pretentiously when he saw me: “I am a priest. All you need to do is to write the confession without fear, and let me bear the responsibility before the throne of God. Actually Bishop Kung (the Bishop of Shanghai) is to be blamed for not making a clear explanation to you young people. As a matter of fact, it does not contradict the faith at all to register as a Legion of Mary and to admit that Bishop Kung is an anti-revolutionary.”

I could tell that this person did not come as a friend, therefore I simply and directly answered him: “Bishop Kung was arrested with us, and this shows that he did what he said. And as for you and the so called priests, who, like those Jews selling counterfeit commodities on the streets, bluffed and blustered, I will not go with you. When you said that you would bear the responsibility for me, I wonder who would bear the responsibility for your behavior. When standing in front of God’s throne, it will be too late for remorse.” He replied repeatedly: “You are very malicious, so malicious that you are beyond the cure of any medicine.”

The Communists’ last trump card was my old Mom, who was already over sixty years of age at that time. My Mom did not care much about food and water since I was arrested, and she came to the prison to visit me every day. In the beginning, the guards were malevolent and warned her not to come to make trouble out of nothing, because her daughter well deserved the punishment for her crimes. But my Mom still insisted on coming to the prison, sitting there for hours and pleading with them: “Put me in jail together with my daughter.” Perhaps they knew that my Mom was not a Catholic yet, so they said to her after a few days: “We agreed that you could come in and visit your daughter today, also you could bring something for her to eat, but you must urge her to acknowledge her guilt.” My Mom was as jubilant as she was naive, and she asked my old nanny who had come with her to buy a butter chestnut cake and some steamed pork bun.

When the jailer called again at the door on that day, “Get out, 1138”, I followed him out to the trial room and saw both my Mom and old nanny holding two boxes in their hands. It had been months since September 3 when I last saw Mom at Hwa Dong University. This little separation felt like forever. Now that we were reunited, a complicated feeling arose in our hearts. Just as it had been at the fourth station of the Way of the Cross, where both the Hearts of Jesus and Mary suffered the most unspeakable pain without crying out loud. Sometimes tears cannot express the most dreadful sorrow in this world.

My Mom looked terribly haggard, her eyes were red, and she was so emaciated that she could not stand still. In prison, I was badly afflicted; my highly near-sighted eyeglasses had been taken off, my whole body was swollen, and my face looked pale; it all made a big difference in my appearance. My Mom cried aloud when she saw me: “Why has my pretty little girl become like this?” Old nanny then said: “Here is your favorite steamed pork bun.” My Mom continued: “They granted us a special favor today. They permitted us to buy some goodies for you, and we also brought a butter chestnut cake.”

I was so hungry that I could not wait to eat them, and I grabbed the hot and juicy pork bun right away. Oh it smelled so good! I had not had enough food for so long in prison that once I got my favorite food in my hand, I immediately wanted to put it into my mouth. However, as I was about to have the first bite, I told myself not to eat it. I should not be taken in by the devil. Just to think that Our Lord fasted for forty days in the desert, and was tempted by the devil. Jesus had said sternly: “One does not live by bread alone.” Why did the Communists permit my Mom to buy food for me, while the other prisoners’ kinsfolk could not? That was because they had an ulterior motive. If I ate this pork bun today, and ate some BBQ buns tomorrow, after a while I would not be able to endure the test of hardship which might persist for a long time. Then I would be willing to give up my faith. Therefore, no, I could not eat this bun or the chestnut cake. I must control this side of human nature even if my mouth was watering and even if I had to starve.

Thanks be to God for granting me the grace of resisting this temptation. But I broke my Mom’s heart for not eating the food she brought me, so I said to her: “Now that I am already in prison, I should not expect you to bring me food. I have to be independent and face everything alone in this prison, otherwise I would be waiting for you to bring me food every day, and as a result they might use this weakness to threaten me, and forbid you to bring me food again until I surrender. Ma-Ma, there should not be any breach on a dam. Even the smallest breach could cause the collapse of the dam.” Even though my Mom did not quite understand my words, she knew that the Communists had their purpose in doing anything. If one did not fall for their tricks, they could do nothing. On the contrary, if one got taken in, they would not let go of that person easily.

My Mom cried as she walked out of the prison, and all I could do was watch her frail back and white hair as she walked away. She stopped to look back at me again and again, choked with sobs she said: “Mei-Yu, I could not stop worrying about you, I could never let go of you!” Just when I was sinking into a painful meditation, the jailer barked at me: “Hu Mei-Yu, get back to the jail! You are mentally abnormal, you gave up your good life to live in a jail, and you refused the bun to eat rice congee. You really have a serious mental disorder.”

When back in my cell, I started thinking quietly. Should I hand myself over or not? Doing so actually meant surrender and betrayal. I asked for a paper and a pen from the jailer, and intended to confine the discussion to the matter at stake. Nevertheless, without knowing why, it felt like my heart was being bitten by thousands of insects whenever I raised the pen. Even if I only revealed a bit of the truth, the Communists for sure would look into the whole thing. It could not be like what they asked, ‘To simply admit that the members of the Legion of Mary are rebels’ and I would be ok.

“No man can serve two masters.” All worldly thoughts run counter to the truth. I needed to follow Jesus, and the only way I could have a peaceful conscience was to walk my way up to Calvary. If I did not do so, I probably would really become mentally ill after I got released from the jail. After all, one cannot keep the favor of both sides in a dispute.

Chapter 14 She is the Salt of the Earth

In the prison I was one of the youngest among all the faithful and I was born in a pagan family, so they took great care of me. Among these people, Mother Chen impressed me most.

After my arrest I was put into the jail of the Z-K-Wei district. On the night of September 8, it was a full house. Through the month of September people came one group after another. The Communist government has a routine before every National Day, October 1: they arrest many people in order to strengthen their power. Priests, seminarians, nuns and Catholic lay people are always their targets, so gradually many of them got arrested.

In our cell, which was only 150 square feet, there were about 20 prisoners. At night when we slept we were lined up like sardines in a can. If we wanted to roll over we had to say, “One, two, three” at the same time, or we were not able to move at all. In this cell, among these 20 prisoners, there were two other faithful and one nun. The nun was dressed in black clothing and had a very good looking habit. She often kept silent. I tried my best to talk to her. She told me she was a nun of the Society of Saving Souls in Purgatory. Her name was Kwai Er Chen. As soon as I heard it, I replied without any consideration: “Your niece, Rose Chen, is my godmother. Now we are glad we have a chance here to be a martyr for the truth.” At once Mother Chen could tell how simple-minded I was. Especially when she saw that I was often called for trial. Besides, the food in jail was horribly bad, two meals a day that even pigs would not be willing to eat. I was not able to eat anything at the very beginning and was vomiting all day long. As time passed by, my zeal for God gradually diminished. It seemed almost gone. Mother realized that I was getting weaker both in body and soul. Though the guards frequently scolded the nun because she talked to me, Mother ignored it and kept on encouraging me. She said “God has chosen you to be his witness. It is God’s greatest gift to you. You have to know clearly the way to Calvary is a very long and twisting one. When Our Lord was carrying the cross, He, Himself fell to the ground three times. You have just been baptized for a few years. You are supposed to rely on God. Since we are in jail the reality is that we have to face different kinds of temptations, such as bad food, a crowded cell with an awful stench, many trials, and the jostling against each other between prisoners and a long time sitting to do the “examination.” With all these sufferings, if you don’t trust God with all your heart, if you don’t lift yourself up and pray, you won’t be strong enough to resist the temptations.” I wondered how I could lift up my heart in this cell. It was just hell on earth, and a place full of dirt. Not only physically: some prisoners were really ill-behaved people. We Catholics were like lambs among wolves. I really didn’t know how to talk to God face to face. Mother Chen gave me the best answer to this. She taught me hand by hand. She twisted some thread with her fingers to make a rosary for me, asking me to say at least 15 decades a day. Then she set up a schedule: morning mass, Spiritual Holy Communion, the Way of the Cross, meditation. I had to do it in a mandatory way. But actually it made my day.

You can tell what the sun is like through a drop of water. You also can realize what Mother Chen’s personality was by some facts. One day, after drinking the very diluted soup, a young prisoner needed to go to the toilet urgently. But the guard was not willing to open the gate. She burst into a loud cry. As I mentioned before, we were only allowed to go to the toilet at definite times. Until I got into the prison, I did not know that one of the most miserable things in the world was frequent bowel

movements, especially since there was nowhere to excrete. All the prisoners were dumbfounded, not knowing what to do. Mother Chen thought for a few seconds, then took out her little parcel, rapidly grabbed half a bag of salt. It was her treasure! She said “Take this, it will reduce the excess urine.” It really worked well. Under these circumstances the salt was more precious, more valuable than shark’s fin or lobster.

One day a prisoner’s finger was hurt by the gate. It kept on bleeding. People had seen lots of drops of blood on the ground. There was absolutely no doctor or medicine. How could we help her? One woman came up to her, lifted her arm and pressed her finger with a piece of paper. What was Mother Chen doing? Every morning the guards distributed a cup of boiled water to us. We often drank it right away but Mother Chen usually saved some for other uses. That day, as usual she still had some left. She took out her cup and added some salt to it. Then she cleaned the finger with salty water and said it could kill the germs. Then she tore some strips from worn clothes. And finally she bound the finger up. The prisoner was much moved by Mother’s charitable behavior. She said that it was amazing that in this sinful world she could have a chance to meet such a Catholic nun full of spiritual wisdom and love in prison.

Little did I know the use of salt until I met Mother Chen. No wonder Our Lord said in the Scripture, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Mt. 5, 13) Mother Chen, you did keep the savor of the salt. You brought us purity and zeal for God. You helped us solve many problems. I will imitate your good example, follow your path and be a savory salt on earth.


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