Newsletter of the District of Asia

 October 2007 - March 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 7 The Frozen Love

We 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 thereafter.

But 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.

Here 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.

In 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.

The 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.

At 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 to God.”

“You, 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.”

Not 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.

In 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.

Now 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.

If 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?

My 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.

In 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.

Chapter 8 Two Tigers in My Family

Firstly, I have to explain something. This “tiger” is not man-eating, but eaten by man.

When 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.

As 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.

I 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 interests.

My 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.

My 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.

After 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.

My eldest brother died on the feast of the Annunciation, 2002. How merciful Almighty God is!

Chapter 9 The Uncommon among the Common

What 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.

My 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.

From 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”

All 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.

As my sister Agatha said, she is more blessed than we are. She sees God far sooner than we ourselves hopefully will one day.

Dear Agatha, please pray for me. I pray that someday We will meet you in heaven.

Chapter 10 Anti-Imperialist Movement

Communism 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.

The 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.

At 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 time.

My 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.

When 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.

I 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.

He 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 day.”

I 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.

He 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.

In 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.

There 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.

As 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!

Father 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.

Everybody 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.

Fr. 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.

The 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 1955.


Home | Newsletters | Library | Vocations | History | Links | Search | Contact