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.
7 The Frozen Love
are all human beings. Catholics are no exception. We are not supermen
or superwomen. Every one of us has his or her own emotions or
affections as do others. For girls in their teens, some of them
have interests in movies, others in sports. Many have sweet dreams
about their own future. Some will yearn for their Prince Charming
riding on his tall white stallion, and expect that someday the
one whom they adore will be theirs and they will live happily
in China, especially in the fifties of the last century, it was
not a time for enjoying life. It was the time of choosing being
a martyr or a betrayer. If we wanted to defend our faith, we had
to face different kinds of trials. I remember very clearly Fr.
Joseph Shen telling us many times, “For you young people to love
God above your parents, may not be too difficult, but someday
when God asks you to love God above your beloved one, it will
not be so easy. I’d like you to read the story of St. Agnes, St.
Cecilia, St. Lucia… You have to know how they protected their
virtue of virginity at the critical time.” I did my best to follow
Fr. Shen’s instruction. On the way to Calvary I made every effort
not to be distracted by anybody or any worldly thing.
is a true story of mine showing on one side the greatness of God’s
grace and on the other our own great human weakness.
1952 Father Matthew Zhang organized about 30 university faithful
into a group. Ignatius Ai was one of them. He was very outstanding.
His handsome appearance, elegant manners and sense of humor attracted
many girls in the class. They almost adored him. Some were crazy
about him. To speak frankly, I was one of his admirers but Fr.
Shen’s words often resonated in my ears. I had to deny myself
completely, deny even the normal puppy love between boys and girls.
devils were working day and night without a break. They had set
up different traps to catch us. In the spring of 1954, we, the
university faithful, went to the shrine of Our Lady of She-Shan
on a three-day retreat led by Fr. Matthew Zhang.
the end of the retreat, Ignatius Ai had a chance to talk to me
alone for a couple of minutes. He said to me, “Rose, in this retreat
I’ve made up my mind to follow God’s call to me. I will go to
a seminary soon. We all know if we want to keep our faith, we
have to give up everything. I have to build a castle with high
walls to keep out worldly interference. I will offer myself totally
Rose,” he continued softly, “are a very courageous and sweet girl.
Fr. Zhang talked to so many people about your fighting against
your family for the sake of the Legion of Mary. Please remember
you are lovely because you love God above all else, but if some
day you become a betrayer, you won’t be sweet and lovely any more.
If you keep on loving God, we’ll always meet in God.”
until that moment did I realize that there was true love between
us. Yet this love was so transient, like a snowflake melting away
in the warm palm of my hand! Only because it was so exceedingly
short, it could not change. Better let this love be sublimated
into a higher level. Since that day, I deep-froze and buried this
love in the depths of my heart. It has been such a rock of frozen
ice in my memory for tens of years.
the late 1970s, I finally got some information about Ignatius
Ai. He was arrested on September 26, 1955 at the seminary. He
got a seven-year sentence. He had been doing heavy manual labor
in a labor camp. Though he graduated from a famous university
he never showed off his knowledge to ask for a lighter job for
so many years. Later he was transferred to a camp not far away
from mine. I had planned to visit him but he got liver cancer
and was sent back to Shanghai.
his brother lives here in the USA. He told me that Ignatius died
in 1981. At his dying bedside he forgave those who had persecuted
him. He said he never regretted he had spent so many years in
prison for the faith. He had chosen the best part. He not only
sanctified himself but he had also done me a great favor.
when we were young we had fallen in love, we most likely would
have lost our faith. Even if we had been husband and wife, so
what? Happiness and love wouldn’t exist between a betrayer couple.
If one does not love God, how can he love his neighbor? It is
impossible. I have seen some couples who were not devoted to each
other. How can they live a happy life?
love for him has been frozen for about half a century. Ignatius
is already in heaven. Whenever I miss him I lift up my heart.
There are so many love stories all over the world, such as Romeo
and Juliet or Liang Shan Bao (who together with his true love
after death were, according to Chinese legend, transformed into
butterflies)….. They are well known because he or she or both
died for human love. Maybe because they could never gain the love
they expected or deserved and people sympathize and empathize
with them. Usually when our wish has been fulfilled, there comes
disappointment. We have to know that the best way to gain happiness
is to love God above all else, and love all in God.
my life I have had tremendous ups and downs. But Ignatius’ parting
words always encouraged me to be a sweet and lovely girl. I will
remember them forever.
8 Two Tigers in My Family
I have to explain something. This “tiger” is not man-eating, but
eaten by man.
my dad died in January 1952 the Chinese Communist Government had
already launched three- and five-anti movements. In these movements
they treated the capitalists as targets and named them as tigers.
Rich businessmen in China were especially fearful of the Communists.
Even the mere mention of them made their faces turn pale. Many
of them after much torture committed suicide by taking poison
or jumping from tall buildings.
for my family, God’s mercy had allowed my dad to leave this world
before the movement took place, and my eldest and third brothers
were my only brothers who stayed in China. They were considered
as tigers, targets for ridicule and mockery. It is the Communist
Party’s policy that they always arouse the masses to rebel, and
push them to inform on one another. It was not surprising to see
sons and daughters denouncing their parents or vice versa. Husbands
and wives accusing one another was also common. The Communists
described these actions as upholding justice and righteousness
even at the expense of blood relations.
considered that this inhuman atrocity would result in no one trusting
anyone else. People completely lost one of their basic securities.
A person becomes a captured beast who could easily fabricate lies
about another person and become a betrayer to protect her own
dad’s export and import company abided by the laws of the country
and was never involved with any irregularities or dishonest schemes.
My two brothers had thought that we would not get into problems
with the government. Little did we know that we had a betrayer
in the midst of our company. He was our relative, our cousin.
When he first came to our house many years ago, he was out of
a job and very poor. My dad took pity on him and gave him the
position of a high salaried accountant in our company. In these
three- and five- anti movements the government first talked to
him, then tempted him with a large bonus and a high position if
he would do something against our company. He eventually betrayed
us by fabricating many lies about us. It was not long before the
Communist officer investigated our company and regarded it as
an unlawful establishment. They took my brothers away for questioning.
Every evening we waited for them to return home, only to see them
staggering into the house after much torture. Sometimes they told
us they were made to kneel down the whole afternoon. The officer
said that our second brother fled to Hong Kong with fifty thousand
US dollars in his suitcase. The officer then forced my brother
to sign a paper admitting that.
eldest brother thought it was a total lie. Our company’s total
property was less than that amount. How could he sign the paper?
They gave him very severe punishment. My brother was heavily beaten
by some people. At that time my brothers were not Catholics yet.
They did not know how to pray during life’s trials. They didn’t
know the real meaning of our suffering. Every evening they came
home with tears and sorrows, just keeping to themselves for the
sake of our aged mother. When all the members in my family thought
that two brothers would be executed the next morning, we could
not help our tears. We thought that losing money or properties
could not be as important as losing our brothers’ lives. So we
advised them that whatever the officer forced them to confess,
just do as they demanded to avoid execution. Little did we know
that this was not a smart idea. My two brothers succumbed to what
these officers asked them to do. Then they were detained only
for a few months and got released. We took turns comforting them.
We’d rather lose our belongings than lose our brothers. Actually
we sold our house and much valuable property to pay to the government.
this movement my eldest brother decided to pay a visit to our
relatives in Hong Kong. We hoped that he would reside there. But
during his stay in Hong Kong, the mayor of Shanghai enticed him
to return to Shanghai with a letter of invitation. Being loyal
and devoted to his country, he forgave his enemy and cast away
the bitter memories of the past. He returned to China in spite
of my second brother’s warning. Since his return, misfortune and
trials dogged him one after another. He was considered as a “Rightist”
in 1957 and was sent to work in a labor camp. During the “Cultural
Revolution” in 1968, his house was thoroughly ransacked and his
properties were confiscated. Finally he was driven out of the
house and he got three US dollars for his and his wife’s living
expense every month. For about ten years he had to sweep the streets,
and clean the public toilets. Finally in 1980 his living conditions
gradually improved. In 1982 my sister-in-law had a stroke. She
was bed-ridden. Thanks be to God’s providence after so much suffering,
God granted them the greatest gift, the “Catholic Faith” through
a Jesuit priest, Father Cai. Father Cai was our close friend.
When he knew our relative was sick, he visited the couple occasionally
and explained to them some doctrine. In 1982 Father Cai baptized
both of them. My sister-in-law had been bed-ridden for six years.
She said to us, “Without these years of suffering how could I
do penance for my own sins?” She died peacefully in God in 1992.
eldest brother died on the feast of the Annunciation, 2002. How
merciful Almighty God is!
9 The Uncommon among the Common
is common? What is uncommon? I’m not able to give the definition.
I would say that since all human beings are God’s creatures, in
that sense we are common in God’s eyes. But due to the fact that
the Son of God was born a man, died on the Cross to open the gate
to Heaven for us, we are qualified to call God Our Heavenly Father.
In this way, we became very uncommon. We are common or uncommon
depending on whether we’re really God’s children.
eldest sister, Agatha Hu, was 18 years older than I. She died
52 years ago. She was as common as the grass on the roadside.
In her time in China people usually had feudalism ideas, and the
Ningponese (my native town) especially didn’t care to send their
women to high school. My sister didn’t have much education. She
only graduated from Junior high school and never got any high
position in life. When she was eighteen, my parents married her
to the only son of a rich family, which was typically feudalistic.
The family required of the daughter-in-law three obediences —
for a woman: obedience to her father before marriage, to her husband
after marriage, and to her son (after her husband’s death) — and
four virtues —proper speech, modest manner, diligent work, and
morality. My sister had done her best to fulfill all these. But
God has His own Providence. My sister had four children and yet
all were girls. And her husband was the only son in his family.
Each time when she delivered a baby, all the members in the family
opened wide their eyes to stare at her. Even before the baby’s
birth, they had said with freezing irony and burning satire. “There
are 3 ways of being a bad son and the most serious one is to have
no heir. As a daughter-in-law, if you can’t have any heir, it’s
your fault.” My sister really had that guilt of not giving birth
to a boy. When she was having her second baby, she was much worried
already; and began to have heart problems. My parents tried to
calm her and said to her “ Maybe the next one will be a boy” My
sister didn’t care about herself at all. Though she had a heart
problem, she still kept on having children. When she had her fourth
child, she was really worn out and her heart was getting worse
and worse. For a long period of time she was confused, her spirit
and mind were badly affected. As soon as the fourth baby was born,
she disliked her at once. She thought that the baby had brought
all the misfortune upon her. My parents were very sad. They couldn’t
do anything but took her to stay with us. She had severe heart
trouble and liver problems from being bedridden. My sister Mary
and I worried about her soul. Sometimes we talked to her about
our Catholic faith. She had no interest at all. In 1952 my brother
Augustine converted, and totally changed. My sister said “Augustine’s
change surprises me greatly. To move a mountain is not so difficult,
but to change one’s heart is not that easy. I can tell how the
Catholic religion has worked on Augustine. Now, give me some books
to read.” I borrowed some books from my parish. After reading
them my sister began to know more about our faith. Since she had
secret worries in her mind, to read some books was not enough.
Seeing she was dying, I thought that saving a soul was like striking
the iron while it was hot. You cannot wait. In March 1953, Agatha
was sent to hospital once again. The doctor said that she could
live one more month at most. At this critical time, I said to
my sister directly “Dear sister, you are a very nice lady, but
it’s a pity that you did not care for your youngest daughter.
You are not supposed to ill-treat her. You caused her little soul
to have a shadow of depression for her entire life. Actually we
are all sinners. Nobody is perfect. God is so merciful. His Mercy
is more, more than our sins. God is sure to forgive us but we
need to repent for our sins.” Agatha answered “It sounds good,
let me think it over. I’ll examine my words and deeds before I
die”. Two days later she had a strong desire to be baptized. I
asked Fr. Joseph Chen to baptize her. Before the baptism she made
a confession. After she was baptized, she called her four daughters
to her bedside. She hugged them one by one, and especially talked
to the youngest one: “Please forgive your mom, I have not given
you motherly love since you were born. I ask your forgiveness
before my death.” Tears of joy and gratitude rolled down my cheeks.
It was so rare to see a mother so humble as to ask her own daughter’s
forgiveness openly. Agatha said she just imitated Our Lord on
the cross. Our Lord forgave all those who persecuted Him and said
to His Heavenly Father, “They know not what they are doing.” How
kind is Our Lord’s Heart! My sister was willing to imitate Our
Lord little by little. She got the last rites and the absolution
from Fr. Chen.
February 10 onward, the day when she was baptized, Mary and I
stayed day and night with her. We prayed the rosary together,
sometimes we read some spiritual books for her. For about one
month we told her how the Good Thief repented of his sins on the
cross. Our Lord said to him “Amen, Amen I say to you, this day
you will be with me in paradise.” The Pharisees seemed to well-behaved
their entire life and yet it profited them nothing at the end.
In this way, all was in vain. Serving God doesn’t rely on time
but on our heart. Agatha imitated the Good Thief with all her
heart. When she thought of her sins she often burst into tears.
Seeing she was marching well in the spiritual life, we were very
glad from the bottom of our hearts. She often said to us “Mary,
Rose, I’m more blessed than you are: maybe tomorrow I’ll go to
Heaven. You see, how nice God is! I’ve been lying in bed for ten
years. It’s full of suffering. Now the suffering will be over
soon. At the very end of my life, Our Blessed Mother is sure to
come to pick me. One thing I ask you to do: after my death, don’t
cry. You have to thank God for he has given me the most precious
thing — the true faith and the grace to recognize how sinful I
am. It’s something to be celebrated!” On March 7th, 1953 the day
she died, she was calm and peaceful. She asked Mary and I to say
the prayers for the dying for her. She said again and again, “I’m
leaving. Our Lady is coming.” Then she held a mask in her hand,
insisting that we put it on. She said, “The dying person will
often send a lot of bacteria to you.” We said to her, “You die
of a heart problem, no need to put on the mask.” Then she repeated
and repeated “The Virgin Mother is coming”
of a sudden there was a strong smell of roses in the room. That
fragrance reminded us not to cry over my sister’s death.
my sister Agatha said, she is more blessed than we are. She sees
God far sooner than we ourselves hopefully will one day.
Agatha, please pray for me. I pray that someday We will meet you
10 Anti-Imperialist Movement
and Catholicism are irreconcilable. Under any circumstance the
Communists will take action to destroy the Catholics. In Communists’
eyes all foreign priests (whatever country they belong to except
China) and nuns are considered to be “Imperialists.” In 1951 the
Legion of Mary was the target and just two years later the Communist
Government closed all the Catholic churches and arrested in Shanghai
almost all the pastors and some nuns.
night of June 16, 1953 was very special. Our parish, the Church
of Christ the King was having a grand party. There was a wonderful
play, “Saint Agnes,” on stage. There were games and a beautiful
buffet. It was a very lively evening party. Everybody had a terrific
time. But who paid attention to the eyes of the policemen who
were covetously glaring at us from the dark? They were throwing
themselves at us. The following morning there were soldiers on
guard with their guns in hand standing in front of the gate of
the church. Some of our priests were arrested and the rest were
detained in their own rooms. When some faithful came to the church
for the morning Mass, they saw the gate was closed. It seemed
something unusual had happened yet they were not willing to leave.
They waited and waited at the parking lot. At about 9:30 am, the
police allowed Fr. Vincent Chu to come to the chapel only to say
Mass, without a sermon and without hearing confessions. After
Mass they took him to his own room again. We saw Fr. Chu’s eyes
both reddened. Maybe he had not slept well the night before, maybe
he had shed tears. He kept feeling his swollen arms and wrists.
Many years later Father told me the reason why he was allowed
to say Mass. Up to the time of the Communist’s plan, they thought
Fr. Chu was born of a rich family, not only was he young but also
he was back from abroad for a few years. They didn’t plan to arrest
him but tempted him with sweet words to make him a betrayer. Fr.
Chu rejected them firmly. Eventually He was arrested.
that time there was no regular service and yet more and more faithful
kept on coming. Every morning after Mass we knelt on the cement
ground to ask for Fr. Chu’s blessing. A few of us even took the
risk of squeezing some bread and cookies into Father’s hand. Some
spoke out loudly. “We will be devoted to our Mother Church for
ever and to you, Reverend Father.” It was said that another priest’s
rectory near to us on Nan Chung Road was also restricted. A couple
of young students delivered some food to a Hungarian priest who
looked exactly like Lenin. Two young students were expelled from
school because of giving food to the priests. It is routine, when
the enemy wants to attack the sheep, they are sure to attack the
shepherd first. We, a flock of sheep, were not cowards; we held
hands with one another to build a body-wall in order to send bread
to our priests. We kept on kneeling on the ground to show that
we were not going to be easily frightened. This stopped the Communists
from taking any more crazy actions against us for a period of
parish “Church of Christ the King” in Shanghai belonged to the
Jesuit Order, of the District of California. We had four American
priests. Fr. Philips was the pastor. Fr. John Houle was the assistant.
Both of them were arrested on that night (June 16, 1953) and were
sentenced to four years. In 1957, after serving their sentences,
they were deported. We had two Chinese priests Fr. Xavier Chu,
who was arrested and sentenced to 20 years. Fr. Vincent Chu who
was arrested in 1955 was sentenced to 18 years.
Fr. Philips and Fr. Houle were arrested, since their families
were in the United States, during their stay in prison, nobody
was sending food or daily supplies to them. As missionary priests,
they had already given up their comfortable life to come to China.
Now they were put into prison just for being priests. They could
not have had enough food and sufficient clothing. It was indeed
a tremendous sacrifice for them. All the more, sometimes they
were tried night and day. They were shut up in a single cell without
any freedom. Their penances were far worse than ours.
saw Fr. John Houle, the assistant pastor, every morning when I
lived in Shanghai, but very seldom talked to him. I often saw
him climbing high or bending over the ground to set up the big
lights or microphone. I really didn’t know anything about him
in this movement until I got here, in the USA, in 1989. There
were so many faithful who knew Fr. Houle and respected him. They
told me he had been in jail for 4 years with so much suffering
that he got severe spine disease and arthritis. He had lain in
bed all the time. His condition got worse and worse. He stayed
at St. Teresita’s Hospital (in Arcadia, USA) for many years. In
1990 he became unconscious. Many people prayed for a miracle for
him. His superior even put a relic of Saint Claude de la Colombiere,
who was the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary, in his bed.
After a couple of days Saint Claude cured him. The X-rays showed
that Fr. Houle’s lung tumor had gone but God still asked him to
keep on doing more sacrifices.
still had some spine problems and muscle pain. I visited him several
times. When he found out that I had been his parishioner and had
been in jail for many years, he was so excited that he said, “Thanks
be to God’s wonderful Providence! Who would have known that we
would have the privilege to meet here? I give you my priestly
blessing and hope that you will love God more and more day by
remember that the last time I saw him was towards the end of June,
1997. He was all skin and bone and was nearly dying. The hospital
didn’t allow anybody to see him because he had a contagious disease.
I stood at the gate, looking through the window of the ward, staring
at him. It seemed to me that I was looking at Padre Pio lying
in bed. He was out of shape and yet, both eyes were flashing and
full of spirit. I burst into tears. He looked as though he were
in pain but he was very calm.
was holding a rosary tightly; and didn’t have any strength to
speak. He only uttered some simple words; “You want me to bless
you?” I nodded my head continuously. Then he lifted his hand with
great difficulty, made a sign of the cross with all his might.
1998, when I went to his funeral, on viewing his holy body, his
peaceful countenance attracted me. I stood there by his casket
motionless for a few minutes until somebody urged me again and
again to move. He was really a martyr of the twentieth century.
were two other American priests in that Shanghai parish: Fr. Gatz
and Fr. Palm. Fr. Gatz spent most of his time in hearing confessions.
I went to make my confession to him once a week. He helped me
with my poor English. Sometimes when he saw my difficulties in
speaking English he told me to just say it in Chinese. He kindly
said to me, “God knows Chinese as well!” Indeed he helped me very
much to get over my fear in confession. That same night of June
16, 1953, he and Fr. Palm were shut up in the attic of the third
floor. It was very hot in June. He was seen sometimes sticking
his head out of the window to get some air.
soon as we faithful saw him, we used hand signals to communicate.
He used every possible occasion to bless us. Fr Gatz had a habit
of taking many faithful’s addresses and phone numbers in his notebook
in order to get in touch with them more easily. When he was shut
up the only thing he worried about was his notebook. What to do?
Nowhere to burn it or no other way to destroy it. Eventually he
found a way —to tear the pages from the notebook one by one, then,
cut them slowly into small pieces, and at last, to swallow them.
How hard a job it was! How could he manage to do this? Only those
who have a deep and sincere love of God can do this. Who is willing
to suffer so much for others? Father Gatz was one of these!
Palm was the ‘Bing Crosby’ in our church. He not only had a sweet
voice but also had a very spiritual devotion to God and to Our
Blessed Virgin Mary. His beautiful singing often led us to meditate
on heaven. That night he was detained in his own room. Some faithful
had seen him at his window. Three months later people saw a pair
of shoes hanging at his window with toes outward. We recognized
that he had been deported. Fr. Palm was sent to Taiwan.
knows there are always traffic lights in the street to tell you
to stop, just as in music there are pauses. Under the control
of the C.C.P. (Chinese Communist Party), we got a little experience
from the so called “movement”. It seemed that every odd year was
a very severe one; every even year we could take a little rest.
1953 was the “Anti-Imperialist” year.
Xavier Chu was arrested. Fr. Vincent Chu was allowed to say the
morning Mass for us. In time more and more faithful came to the
church. Then all of a sudden nobody knew who was leading the rosary.
We said it one decade after another. Many months had passed. The
police didn’t find any unlawful actions in what we were doing.
As time passed by, they became more tolerant. In April 1954 the
police guards withdrew from our parish. We were filled with exultation.
The C.C.P. couldn’t diminish our love for God. After 1953 more
and more children took part in the catechism classes. There were
a total of about three hundred of them. At St Peter’s Church there
were almost six hundred. In Z-K-Wei even more-about nine hundred.
It showed that the more they attacked us the more our church grew.
Though these missionary priests and nuns were deported nevertheless
they supported us with their sacrifices. Where is the light? We
have to hurry to go our way, to deepen our spiritual life and
to educate our younger generation better.
year of 1954 was like a pause. Actually they were throwing a long
line to catch the big fish. They were busy collecting information
to get ready for the serious attack on the Catholic Church in