Monday, February 15, 2021

Feast of Sts. Faustinus and Jovita of Brescia, Italy (early 2nd century AD) and also of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, second head of the Dominican Order after the founder, St. Dominic (early 1200s)

    Faustinus and Jovita were brothers, nobly born and natives of Brescia in northern Italy. All the incidents in their reputed Acts are of doubtful authority, and we can only be sure of their names and martyrdom.

    According to the tradition of Brescia, they preached Christianity fearlessly while their bishop lay in hiding. Their zeal excited the fury of the heathens against them, then they were arrested by a heathen lord called Julian. They were tortured and dragged to Milan, Rome and Naples, and then brought back to Brescia. As neither threats nor torments could shake their constancy, the Emperor Hadrian (ruled 117 to 138), who happened to be passing through Brescia, commended them to be beheaded. The city of Brescia honors them as its chief patrons and claims to possess their relics. Their feast day is February 15.

    On April 18 the Roman Martyrology names the martyr St. Calocerus, who figures largely in the legendary history of St. Faustinus and Jovita, whose heroic confession he is said to have witnessed when, as a court official, he accompanied Hadrian to his native city Brescia and was present in the amphitheatre. The constancy of the two confessors and the refusal of the wild beasts to touch them brought about his conversion, and he was baptized by Bishop Apollonius with 12,000 other citizens. He was tortured and imprisoned in several Italian towns, notably in Asti, where he instructed St. Secundus who visited him in jail. Eventually, we are told, he was taken to Albanga in Liguria and beheaded on the seashore. (Link)

    Blessed Jordan of Saxony died in 1237. A Saxon named Gordanus or Giordanus, he received his bachelor of divinity degree at Paris. He met St. Dominic there and in 1220, became a Dominican. He was elected prior provincial of Lombardy the next year, and in 1222, on the death of Dominic, was elected second master general of the Dominicans. He expanded the Order, establishing many new foundations in Germany and Switzerland. He sent missionaries to Denmark, and frequently preached at universities to young students. He was a powerful preacher, and St. Albert the Great became a Dominican after hearing one of his sermons. He was on his way to the Holy Land in 1237 when his ship was wrecked on the coast of Syria and he and all aboard perished. He is the author of a life of St. Dominic that is one of the main sources of information about the founder of the Dominicans. Jordan’s cult was approved in 1825. His feast day is February 15th. (Link)

Our “Top Ten” People of 2020: #5, Agnes, Ivan, Joshua, and Jimmy of Hong Kong

    The year 2020 was one many people say they would like to erase from memory. Yet, many good people did many good and noble things in the year 2020, and Inside the Vatican, this year as in past years, recognizes here just a few of them.

    Obviously, these people we have chosen to highlight are not the only people worthy of recognition, but we think each is an example, an exemplar, in differing ways. Of course, there are millions of mothers caring for sick children, millions of fathers caring for their families, thousands of legislators attempting to write just laws, countless artists striving to represent the mystery of divine truth to a world of hardened hearts. We honor them all! Still, we offer these 10 men and women as exemplary men and women, who have lived (and some of whom have died), with courage, honor, charity, tenderness, faith, generosity. In this way, these 10 have shown us the way, no matter how troubled our times may be. —RM

(clockwise from top left) Ivan Lam, 24; Joshua Wong, 26; Jimmy Lai, 71; and Agnes Chow, 24

Four Christian pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

Top Ten 2020 #5

“God is always my center”

The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has become increasingly more vocal in the last decade as the Communist government of mainland China has sought to impose ever-more repressive measures on the island.

In 2020, the confrontations between Beijing-controlled government officers and pro-democracy activists escalated; leaders were arrested and charged with crimes carrying prison time. Most of the pro-democracy leaders are young; most are Christian; two of them are Roman Catholics.

Four who were arrested in August for “taking part in and inciting” protests outside a Hong Kong police station in June have been tried and sentenced to prison for their roles. They are Agnes Chow, 24, Ivan Lam, 24, and Joshua Wong, 26; the fourth, Jimmy Lai, is not young — he is 71, and a Hong Kong business tycoon – but he has been a pro-democracy critic of the Chinese Communist Party for years. He is also a Roman Catholic.

Lai, who stowed away alone on a fishing junk from mainland China to Hong Kong at the age of 12, went on to found the Giordano clothing brand and later, after the Chinese government forced him to sell his clothing company, the popular newspaper Apple Daily, which has been critical of the CCP and its aggressive inroads into Hong Kong government and society.

At a 2020 awards ceremony sponsored by the Catholic free-market Acton Institute, Lai, who knew he was facing a possible jail term at the time, said, “It is always in my mind as a Catholic that God is always my center. And I am always a sinner and I know my life is not about myself,” Lai said. “If I can accomplish this I know that I’m leaving in the grace of God. I know that I will be a better person for whatever suffering I have to take up.”

A Way of the Cross march by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. ( Photo)

The young female democracy activist who was arrested on the same day as Jimmy Lai, Agnes Chow, is also a Catholic Christian. Hailing from a “non-political” family, she says that in 2012, she saw a notice on social media about students protesting the “Moral and National Educational Scheme” Beijing sought to impose on Hong Kong schools, and joined in — meeting there Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong, all teenagers at the time. She never looked back.

“I’m a Catholic, and I do think that my participation in social movements is affected by my religion,” she said in a 2019 interview. “Religious belief and what we learn from our religion and the Bible gives us our belief and courage to fight for freedom and rights for Hong Kong people.”

Chow was sentenced in December 2020 to 10 months in jail for organizing an unlawful assembly; on the last day of the year, she was transferred to a maximum-security prison.

Joshua Wong was also sentenced to a slightly longer 13.5 months on similar charges. Wong had been a student activist as far back as 2011, when he organized the protests against the CCP’s educational plan. In 2014, the group he co-founded, Scholarism, drafted a plan for universal suffrage under a one-country-two-systems arrangement.

Raised in a Lutheran home, his father was an anti-gay-marriage activist and, said Wong, used to take the young Joshua out to help the needy.

“He told me that I should care for the abandoned in the city. They had not heard of the Gospel, and were living solitary and hard lives,” he wrote in a blog, according to the South China Morning Post.

Ivan Lam has attracted less of the spotlight than Lai, Chow and Wong, but he was a collaborator of Wong’s since their school days together at the United Christian College in Kowloon. In a speech, Wong called him “hands-down, the most trusted member of our team.” It was Ivan Lam whom Wong first followed to planning meetings before Scholarism was formed. Lam, who has also been jailed before, received a sentence of 7 months in December.

“Freedom has a price,” said Jimmy Lai at the Acton Institute ceremony, and it is one which these four courageous people are willing to pay.

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