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