mardi 11 septembre 2012

Saint JEAN-GABRIEL PERBOYRE, religieux lazariste, missionnaire et martyre


Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre

Lazariste, martyr en Chine ( 1840)

Fils d'un laboureur, il est né dans le Quercy. En 1820, il entra chez les Pères Lazaristes. Après avoir été maître des novices, à Paris, rue de Sèvres, il est envoyé en Chine. Il apprend les langues locales, adopte les coutumes chinoises et s'établit au cœur du Kiang-Si, une province montagneuse interdite aux Européens. Après quatre années de prédication, il est arrêté en vertu d'une loi de l'empereur Kien-long qui interdit le christianisme. Fouetté, suspendu par les cheveux à un chevalet, brûlé au fer rouge, on lui grave sur le front: "Propagateur d'une secte abominable". Ces tourments se prolongent plusieurs mois, lentement et avec raffinement. Sur vingt chrétiens arrêtés en même temps que lui, douze renièrent le Christ. Les bourreaux avaient reçu toute liberté: ils le chargèrent de chaînes, lui broyèrent les pieds dans un étau, lui firent boire du sang de chien, le tourmentèrent jusque dans sa pudeur la plus intime. Alors même qu'il agonisait, les membres écartelés sur une croix, ils lui donnaient encore des coups de pieds dans le ventre. Ils l'achevèrent en l'étranglant. 

Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840) martyr, de la Congrégation de la Mission
canonisé le 2 juin 1996, Place Saint-Pierre - site internet du Vatican.

C'est à Mongesty en 1802 que naquit Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre. Ce fils de laboureur entra chez les Lazaristes en 1820, fut ordonné prêtre en 1825 et attendit 10 ans avant de s'embarquer pour la Chine. En 1839 il alla exercer son ministère dans les montagnes du Hou-Pei où il fut arrêté le 16 septembre de cette même année. Il mourut martyr le 11 septembre 1840 à Ou-Tchang-Fou et fut canonisé par Jean-Paul II en 1996. (présentation du diocèse de Cahors)

- Illustration: vitrail représentant le martyre de Jean-Gabriel Perboyre - Église Saint Étienne de Sapiac à Montauban (diocèse de Montauban)

- La maison natale de Jean Gabriel Perboyre, à Montgesty (Lot) et la statue de Jean Gabriel - Le Quercy sur le net 

- Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre 
et sa vie - site Internet de l'Abbaye Saint Benoît de Port-Valais.

- Site du pèlerinage à Montgesty.

À Wuchang, dans la province chinoise de Hebei, en 1840, saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, prêtre de la Congrégation de la Mission et martyr. Pour annoncer l'Évangile, il adopta l'apparence et les coutumes chinoises, mais, quand vint la persécution, il fut longtemps détenu en prison et soumis à des tortures diverses, enfin attaché à une croix et étranglé.
Martyrologe romain
Siang-Yang-Fou, j'ai subi quatre interrogatoires, à l'un desquels je fus obligé de rester une demi-journée les genoux sur des chaînes de fer et suspendu à une poutre de bambou... A Ou-Tchang-Fou, j'ai reçu 110 coups de bambou parce que je n'ai pas voulu fouler aux pieds la croix.

Lettres de Jean-Gabriel

SOURCE : https://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1834/Saint-Jean-Gabriel-Perboyre.html



Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre

Lazariste, Martyr en Chine

(1802-1840)

Jean-Gabriel Perboyre naquit au diocèse de Cahors. Dès l'âge le plus tendre, il se fit remarquer par sa piété. Au petit séminaire, il fut aimé et vénéré de tous ses condisciples, qui le surnommèrent le petit Jésus. En rhétorique se décida sa vocation: "Je veux être missionnaire," dit-il dès lors. Il entra chez les Pères Lazaristes de Montauban. "Depuis bien des années, dit un des novices confiés plus tard à ses soins, j'avais désiré rencontrer un saint; en voyant M. Perboyre, il me sembla que Dieu avait exaucé mes désirs. J'avais dit plusieurs fois: "Vous verrez que M. Perboyre sera canonisé." Lui seul ne se doutait pas des sentiments qu'il inspirait, et il s'appelait "la balayure de la maison". Ses deux maximes étaient: "On ne fait du bien dans les âmes que par la prière... Dans tout ce que vous faites, ne travaillez que pour plaire à Dieu; sans cela vous perdriez votre temps et vos peines."

Jean-Gabriel était remarquable par une tendre piété envers le Saint-Sacrement, il y revenait sans cesse et passait des heures entières en adoration: "Je ne suis jamais plus content, disait-il, que quand j'ai offert le Saint Sacrifice." Son action de grâces durait ordinairement une demi-heure. Envoyé dans les missions de Chine, M. Perboyre se surpassa lui-même.

Après quatre ans d'apostolat, trahi comme son Maître, il subit les plus cruels supplices. L'athlète de la foi, digne de Jésus-Christ, ne profère pas un cri de douleur; les assistants ne cachent pas leur étonnement et peuvent à peine retenir leurs larmes: "Foule aux pieds ton Dieu et je te rends la liberté, lui crie le mandarin. – Oh! répond le martyr, comment pourrais-je faire cette injure à mon Sauveur?" Et, saisissant le crucifix, il le colle à ses lèvres. Après neuf mois d'une horrible prison, il fut étranglé sur un gibet en forme de Croix.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_jean-gabriel_perboyre.html




Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)

martyr, de la Congrégation de la Mission

Les années de formation

Rien n'arrive par hasard. Ni la vie, ni la mort, ni la vocation. JEAN-GABRIEL PERBOYRE naquit à Mongesty, près de Cahors, dans la France méridionale, le 6 janvier 1802, dans une famille qui donna à l'Église trois Lazaristes et deux Filles de la Charité. Dans un tel environnement, il respira la foi, il reçut des valeurs simples et saines et comprit le sens de la vie comme un don.

Dans l'adolescence, celui " qui appelle chacun par son nom " semblait l'ignorer. Il s'adressa à son frère cadet pour qu'il entre au séminaire. On demanda à Jean-Gabriel d'accompagner le petit frère durant quelque temps, en attendant qu'il s'habitue à son nouveau cadre. Il y était arrivé par hasard et il aurait dû en sortir vite. Mais le hasard révéla aux yeux étonnés du jeune homme des horizons insoupçonnés et que sa voie était ici au séminaire.

L'Église de France était alors à peine sortie de l'expérience de la Révolution française, avec les vêtements empourprés du martyre de quelques-uns et avec la souffrance de l'apostasie d'un certain nombre. Le panorama offert par les premières années du XIX` siècle était désolant: édifices détruits, couvents saccagés, âmes sans pasteurs. Ce ne fut donc pas un hasard si l'idéal sacerdotal apparut au jeune homme, non comme un état de vie agréable, mais comme le destin des héros.

Ses parents, surpris, acceptèrent le choix de leur fils et l'accompagnèrent de leurs encouragements. Ce n'est pas un hasard si l'oncle Jacques était Lazariste. Cela explique qu'en 1818 mûrit chez le jeune Jean-Gabriel l'idéal missionnaire. À cette époque la mission signifiait principalement la Chine.

Mais la Chine était un mirage lointain. Partir voulait dire ne plus retrouver l'atmosphère de la maison, ni en sentir les parfums, ni en goûter l'affection. Ce fut naturel pour lui de choisir la Congrégation de la Mission, fondée par saint Vincent de Paul en 1625 pour évangéliser les pauvres et former le clergé, mais d'abord pour inciter ses propres membres à la sainteté. La mission n'est pas une propagande. Depuis toujours l'Église a voulu que ceux qui annoncent la Parole soient des personnes intérieures, mortifiées, remplies de Dieu et de la charité. Pour illuminer les ténèbres, il ne suffit pas d'avoir une lampe si l'huile vient à manquer.

Jean-Gabriel n'y alla pas par demi-mesure. S'il fut martyr, c'est parce qu'il fut saint.

De 1818 à 1835, il fut missionnaire dans son pays. Tout d'abord, durant le temps de la formation, il fut un modèle de novice et de séminariste. Après l'ordination sacerdotale (1826), il fut chargé de la formation des séminaristes.

L'attrait pour la mission

Un fait nouveau, mais non fortuit certes, vint changer le cours de sa vie. Le protagoniste en fut encore une fois son frère Louis. Lui aussi était entré dans la Congrégation de la Mission et il avait demandé à être envoyé en Chine, où, entre temps, les fils de saint Vincent avaient eu un nouveau martyr en la personne du bienheureux François-Régis Clet (18 février 1820). Mais, durant le voyage, le jeune Louis, alors qu'il n'avait que 24 ans, fut appelé à la mission du ciel.

Tout ce que le jeune prêtre avait espéré et fait serait devenu inutile si Jean-Gabriel n'avait pas fait la demande de remplacer son frère sur la brèche.

Jean-Gabriel atteignit la Chine en août 1835. En Occident, à cette époque, on ne connaissait presque rien de l'Empire Céleste, et l'ignorance était mutuelle. Les deux mondes se sentaient attirés l'un par l'autre, mais le dialogue était difficile. Dans les pays européens, on ne parlait pas d'une civilisation chinoise, mais seulement de superstitions, de rites et d'usages " ridicules ". Les jugements étaient en fait des préjugés. L'appréciation que portait la Chine sur l'Europe et le Christianisme n'était pas meilleure.

Entre les deux civilisations, il y avait comme un rayon d'obscurité. Il fallait quelqu'un pour le traverser et pour prendre sur lui le mal de beaucoup pour le brûler dans la charité.

Jean-Gabriel, après un temps d'acclimatation à Macao, entreprit un long voyage en jonque, à pieds ou à cheval qui, après 8 mois, le conduisit dans le Honan, à Nanyang, où il se remit à l'étude de la langue.

Après 5 mois, malgré quelques difficultés, il était capable de s'exprimer en bon chinois et, aussitôt, il se lança dans le ministère, visitant les petites communautés chrétiennes. Puis, il fut envoyé dans le Hubei, qui fait partie de la région des lacs formés par le Yangtze Kiang (Fleuve Bleu). Quoiqu'il fit un apostolat intense, il souffrait beaucoup dans son corps et dans son esprit. Dans une lettre, il écrit: " Non, je ne suis pas plus un homme de merveilles en Chine qu'en France... demandez premièrement ma conversion et ma sanctification et ensuite la grâce de ne pas trop laisser gâter son oeuvre " (Lettre 94). Pour celui qui voit les choses de l'extérieur, il est difficile d'imaginer qu'un missionnaire comme lui puisse se trouver dans une nuit obscure. Mais l'Esprit-Saint le préparait, dans le vide de l'humilité et dans le silence de Dieu, au témoignage suprême.

Enchaîné pour le Christ

Deux faits, apparemment sans lien entre eux, vinrent troubler l'horizon en 1839. Le premier est le déclenchement des persécutions, après que l'Empereur manchou Quinlong (1736-1795) eût proscrit en 17941a religion chrétienne.

Le second est le déclenchement de la guerre sino-britannique, connue sous le nom de "guerre de l'opium" (1839-1842). La fermeture des frontières de la Chine et la prétention du gouvernement chinois d'exiger un acte de vassalité de la part des ambassadeurs étrangers avait créé une situation explosive. L'étincelle vint de la confiscation de chargements d'opium sur des bateaux amarrés dans le port de Canton, au préjudice de marchants en grande partie anglais. La flotte britannique intervint et ce fut la guerre.

Les missionnaires, directement concernés seulement par le premier aspect, étaient constamment sur leurs gardes. Comme cela arrive souvent, les alertes trop fréquentes diminuent la vigilance. C'est ce qui arriva le 15 septembre 1839 à Cha-yuen-ken, où résidait Perboyre. Ce jour-là, il se trouvait avec deux Lazaristes, un Chinois, le P. Wang, et un Français, le P. Baldus, ainsi qu'un Franciscain, le P. Rizzolati. On signala la présence d'un colonne d'une centaine de soldats. Les missionnaires sous-évaluèrent les informations. Peut-être allaient-ils dans une autre direction. Et, au lieu d'être prudents, ils poursuivirent leur fraternelle conversation. Quand il n'y eut plus de doutes sur la direction des soldats, il était trop tard. Baldus et Rizzolati décidèrent de s'enfuir au loin. Perboyre choisit de se cacher dans les environs, étant donné que les montagnes voisines étaient couvertes de forêts de bambou et de grottes cachées. Mais, les soldats, sous la menace, comme cela a été attesté par le P. Baldus, contraignirent un catéchumène à révéler le lieu où le missionnaire se cachait. Il fut un faible, mais pas un Judas.

Alors commença le rude calvaire de Jean-Gabriel. Le prisonnier n'avait aucun droit, il n'était pas protégé par la loi, mais il était soumis à l'arbitraire de ses gardiens et de ses juges. Comme il était en état d'arrestation, on présumait qu'il était coupable; et s'il était coupable, il pouvait être puni.

Alors commença la série des procès. Le premier se tint à KouChing-Hien. Les réponses du martyr furent admirables:

- Es-tu un prêtre chrétien?

- Oui, je suis prêtre et je prêche cette religion.

- Veux-tu renoncer à ta foi?

- Je ne renoncerai jamais à la foi en Jésus-Christ.

Ils lui demandèrent de livrer ses frères dans la foi et de dire les raisons pour lesquelles il avait transgressé les lois de la Chine. En fait, on voulait transformer la victime en coupable. Mais un témoin du Christ n'est pas un délateur. Aussi, il se tut.

Le prisonnier fut ensuite transféré à Siang-Yang. Les interrogatoires devinrent plus brutaux. On le mit durant plusieurs heures à genoux sur des chaînes de fer rouillées, il fut suspendu par les pouces et les cheveux à une poutre (supplice du hangtzé), il fut battu à plusieurs reprises avec des cannes de bambou. Mais, plus que par la violence physique, il fut blessé de ce qu'on tourna en ridicule les valeurs dans lesquelles il croyait: l'espérance en la vie éternelle, les sacrements, la foi.

Le troisième procès se tint à Wuchang. Il fut cité devant quatre tribunaux et fut soumis à 20 interrogatoires. Aux questions s'ajoutaient les tortures et les moqueries les plus cruelles. On poursuivait en justice un missionnaire, mais, en même temps, on piétinait l'homme. Des chrétiens furent contraints à l'abjuration et quelquesuns d'entre eux à cracher et à frapper sur le missionnaire qui leur avait apporté la foi. Il reçut 110 coups de pantsé pour ne pas avoir voulu piétiner le crucifix.

Parmi les diverses accusations dont il fut l'objet, la plus terrible fut celle d'avoir eu des relations immorales avec une jeune chinoise, Anna Kao, qui avait fait vaeu de virginité. Le martyr se défendit. Elle n'était ni son amante ni sa servante. La femme est respectée, elle n'est pas outragée par le Christianisme. Tel fut le sens de la réponse de Jean-Gabriel Perboyre. Mais il fut perturbé parce qu'on faisait souffrir des innocents à cause de lui.

Durant un interrogatoire, il fut contraint de revêtir les ornements de la Messe. Ils voulaient l'accuser de mettre le charme du sacerdoce au service d'intérêts personnels. Mais le missionnaire, revêtu des vêtements sacerdotaux, impressionna les assistants et deux chrétiens s'approchèrent de lui pour lui demander l'absolution.

Le juge le plus cruel fut le vice-roi. Le missionnaire était désormais devenu une ombre. La colère de cet homme sans scrupule s'acharna contre cet être frêle. Aveuglé par sa toute puissance, il voulait des aveux, des reconnaissances, des dénonciations. Mais si son corps était faible, son âme s'était renforcée. E n'attendait plus désormais que la rencontre avec Dieu, qu'il sentait chaque jour plus proche.

Lorsque, pour la dernière fois, Jean-Gabriel lui dit: " Plutôt mourir que renier ma foi! ", le juge prononça sa sentence. Ce serait la mort par strangulation.

Avec le Christ prêtre et victime

Vint alors une période d'attente de confirmation de la sentence par l'Empereur. Peut-être pouvait-on espérer dans la clémence du souverain. Mais la guerre contre les anglais interdit toute possibilité de geste de bienveillance. Et c'est ainsi que le 11 septembre 1840, un émissaire impérial arriva à bride abattue, portant le décret de confirmation de la condamnation.

Avec sept bandits, le missionnaire fut conduit sur une hauteur appelée la " Montagne Rouge ". Les bandits furent tout d'abord exécutés, puis Perboyre se recueillit en prière, à l'étonnement des spectateurs.

Quand son tour fut venu, les bourreaux le dépouillèrent de sa tunique rouge et le lièrent à un poteau en forme de croix. Ils lui passèrent la corde au cou et ils l'étranglèrent. C'était la sixième heure. Tel Jésus, Jean-Gabriel mourut comme le grain de blé tombé en terre. II mourut, ou plutôt il naquit au ciel, pour faire descendre sur la terre la rosée des bénédictions de Dieu.

Bien des circonstances de sa détention (trahison, arrestation, mort sur une croix, jour et heure) le rapprochent de la Passion du Christ, En réalité toute sa vie fut celle d'un témoin et d'un disciple fidèle du Christ. Saint Ignace d'Antioche écrivait: " Je cherche celui qui est mort pour nous; je veux celui qui est ressuscité pour nous. Voici qu'approche le moment où je serai enfanté à la vie. Ayez compassion de moi, frères, ne m'empêchez pas de naître à la vie! ".

Jean-Gabriel " naquit à la vie " le 11 septembre 1840, parce qu'il avait toujours cherché " celui qui est mort pour nous". Son corps repose en France, mais son cœur est resté dans sa patrie d'élection, en terre de Chine. C'est là qu'il a donné rendez-vous aux fils et aux filles de saint Vincent, dans l'attente qu'eux aussi, après une vie dépensée au service de l'Évangile et des pauvres, ils naissent au ciel.

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_19960602_perboyre_fr.html



St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre

Missionary and martyr, born at Puech, Diocese of Cahors, France, 6 January, 1802; martyred at Ou-Tchang-Fou,China, 11 September, 1840.


Jean-Gabriel was one of eight children born to Pierre Perboyre and Marie Rigal. By reason of his piety, he was the model of his companions during his childhood. While acting as companion to his younger brother, in the preparatory seminary of Moutauban, he felt the Divine call to the priesthood, and after obtaining the consent of his father to take the step, he entered the noviciate of the Congregation of the Mission, in the seminary ofMontauban, December, 1818. On the feast of the Holy Innocents, 1820, he made the four vows of theVincentians. He was raised to the priesthood, 23 September, 1825, in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity, byBishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, and on the following day he said his first Mass. Shortly after, he was sent to theseminary of Saint-Flour to teach dogmatic theology, and two years later, he was appointed superior of the preparatory seminary of Saint-Flour. His great sanctity and marvellous success induced his superiors, in 1832, to appoint him subdirector of the novitiate in Paris. He continued in this office until 1835, when he had sought and begged and prayed for, permission to go to China, there to preach, to suffer, and to die. He left Havre on 21 March, and on 29 August, 1835, arrived at Macao, where he spent some time studying the Chinese language. On 21 December, 1835, he began his journey to Ho-Nan, the mission assigned him. In January, 1838, he was transferred to the mission of Hou-Pé, in which, as in that of Ho-Nan, he laboured zealously and with great success. In September, 1839, the persecutions against Christians broke out in Hou-Pé, and Jean-Gabriel was one of the first victims. The events leading to his death bear a striking resemblance to the Passion and Death ofChrist. A neophyte, like another Judas, betrayed Jean-Gabriel for thirty ounces of silver. He was stripped of his garments and clothed with rags, bound, and dragged from tribunal to tribunal. At each trial, he was treated inhumanly, tortured both in body and in soul. Finally, he was taken to Ou-Tchang-Fou, and after unparalleled tortures, was condemned to death. The sentence was ratified by an imperial edict, and on 11 September, 1840,Jean-Gabriel was led to death with seven criminals. The holy priest was strangled to death on a cross.

[Jean-Gabriel was declared Venerable by Gregory XVI in July, 1843, beatified by Leo XIII on 9 November, 1889, and canonized by John Paul II on 2 June, 1996. His feast is celebrated on 11 September. — Ed.]

Glass, Joseph. "St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company,1910. 11 Sept. 2019 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08327a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas. In memory of Father Michael, C.M.I.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.




John Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840) 
priest, martyr of the Congregation of the Mission  


The formation years

Nothing happens by chance. Neither life, nor death, nor vocation. JOHN GABRIEL PERBOYRE was born in Montgesty, near Cahors, in southern France, on 6 January 1802 into a family which gave three missionaries of St. Vincent and two Daughters of Charity to the Church. Such an environment exuded faith, simple and healthy values, and the sense of life as gift.

The one who "calls by name" seemed to ignore him as a teenager. The call came to his younger brother Louis for entrance into the seminary. John Gabriel was asked to accompany his younger brother for a time, while waiting for him to get adjusted to the surroundings. John Gabriel's presence at the seminary, then, happened by chance and he should have left quickly. But chance revealed to the astonished eyes of the young man unexpected horizons: that in the seminary he had found his path.

The Church of France had at that time just emerged from the throes of the French Revolution with the red-colored garments of martyrdom for some, and with the pain of the apostasy of many. The panorama at the beginning of the 1800's was desolate: buildings destroyed, convents sacked, people without pastors. Thus, it was no accident that the ideal of the priesthood appeared to the young man not as a feeble arrangement for life, but as the destiny of heroes.

His parents, surprised, accepted the choice of their son and accompanied him with their encouragement. Not by chance, his paternal uncle Jacques was a missionary of St. Vincent. This explains why in 1818 the missionary ideal matured in the young John Gabriel. At that time, the missions meant principally China. But China was a faraway mirage. To leave meant never to find again the home milieu, taste its flavors, enjoy its affections. It was natural for him to choose the Congregation of the Mission founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 for the evangelization of the poor, the formation of the clergy, but above all to push those very missionaries toward holiness. The mission is not propaganda. The Church has always demanded that the proclaimers of the Word be spiritual persons, mortified, full of God and charity. In order to illuminate the darkness in people, a lamp is not sufficient if there is no oil.


John Gabriel did not think in half-measures. If he was a martyr it is because he was a saint.

From 1818 to 1835 he was a missionary in his own country. First, in his formation period, he was a model novice and student. After his priestly ordination (1826), he was charged with the formation of seminarians.


The missionary attraction

A new factor, certainly not haphazard, modified John Gabriel's life. The protagonist was once again his brother Louis. He also had entered the Congregation of the Mission and had asked to be sent to China where the sons of St. Vincent had had a new martyr in the person of Blessed Francis Regis Clet (18 February 1820). During the voyage, however, the young Louis, only 24 years of age, was called to the mission in heaven.

All that the young man had hoped for and done would have been useless if John Gabriel had not made the request to replace his brother in the breach.

John Gabriel reached China in August of 1835. At that time the Occident knew almost nothing about the Celestial Empire, and the ignorance was reciprocal. The two worlds felt a mutual attraction, but dialogue was difficult. In the countries of Europe one did not speak of a Chinese civilization, but only of superstitions, of "ridiculous" ceremonies and customs. The judgments were thus prejudices. China's appreciation of Europe and Christianity was not any better.

There was a dark gap between the two civilizations. Someone had to cross it in order to take on himself the evil of many, and to consume it with the fires of charity.

After getting acclimated in Macau, John Gabriel began the long trip in a Chinese junk, on foot, and on horseback, which brought him after eight months to Nanyang in Henan, where the obligation to learn the language imposed itself.

After five months, he was able to express himself, though with some trouble, in good Chinese, and at once threw himself into the ministry, visiting the small Christian communities. Then he was transferred to Hubei, which is part of the region of lakes formed by the Yangtze kiang (blue river). Even though he maintained an intense apostolate, he suffered much in body and spirit. In a letter he wrote: "No, I am no more of a wonder man here in China than I was in France ... ask of him first of all for my conversion and my sanctification and then the grace that I do not spoil his work too much..." (Letter 94). For one who looks at things from the outside, it was inconceivable that such a missionary should find himself in a dark night of the soul. But the Holy Spirit was preparing him in the emptiness of humility and the silence of God for the supreme testimony.

In chains for Christ

Unexpectedly in 1839 two events, apparently unrelated, clouded the horizon. The first was the renewed outbreak of persecution which flowed from the decree of the Manchurian emperor, Quinlong (1736-1795), which had proscribed the Christian religion in 1794.

The second was the outbreak of the Chinese-British War, better known as the "Opium War" (1839-1842). The closure of the Chinese frontier and the pretence of the Chinese government to require an act of dependence from the foreign ambassadors had created an explosive situation. The spark came from the confiscation of loads of opium stowed in the port of Canton; this action harmed the merchants, most of whom were English. The British flotilla intervened, and the war began.

The missionaries, obviously interested only in the first event dealing with the persecution of Christians, were always on their guard. As often happens, too many alarms diminished the vigilance. And that is what happened on 15 September 1839 at Cha-yuen-ken, where Perboyre lived. On that day he was with two other European missionaries, his confrere, Baldus, and a Franciscan, Rizzolati, and a Chinese missionary, Fr. Wang. They were informed of the approach of a column of about one hundred soldiers. The missionaries underestimated the information. Perhaps the soldiers were going elsewhere. Instead of being wary, the missionaries continued enjoying a fraternal conversation. When there was no longer any doubt about the direction of the soldiers, it was late. Baldus and Rizzolati decided to flee far away. Perboyre hid himself in the surroundings because the nearby mountains were rich with bamboo forests and hidden caves. As Fr. Baldus has attested for us, however, the soldiers used threats to force a catechumen to reveal the place where the missionary was hiding. The catechumen was a weak person, but not a Judas.

Thus began the sad Calvary of John Gabriel. The prisoner had no rights, he was not protected by laws, but was at the mercy of the jailers and judges. Given that he was arrested it was presumed that he was guilty, and if guilty, he would be punished.


A series of trials began. The first was held at Kou-Ching-Hien. The replies of the martyr were heroic:
- Are you a Christian priest?

- Yes, I am a priest and I preach this religion. 

- Do you wish to renounce your faith?

- No, I will never renounce the faith of Christ.


They asked him to reveal his companions in the faith and the reasons for which he had transgressed the laws of China. They wanted, in short, to make the victim the culprit. But a witness to Christ is not an informer. Therefore, he remained silent.

The prisoner was then transferred to Siang-Yang. The cross examinations were made close together. He was held for a number of hours kneeling on rusty iron chains, was hung by his thumbs and hair from a rafter (the hangtze torture), was beaten several times with bamboo canes. Greater than the physical violence, however, remained the wound of the fact that the values in which he believed were put to ridicule: the hope in eternal life, the sacraments, the faith.

The third trial was held in Wuchang. He was brought before four different tribunals and subjected to 20 interrogations. To the questioning were united tortures and the most cruel mockery. They prosecuted the missionary and abused the man. They obliged Christians to abjure, and one of them even to spit on and strike the missionary who had brought him to the faith. For not trampling on the crucifix, John Gabriel received 110 strokes of pantse.

Among the various accusations, the most terrible was the accusation that he had had immoral relations with a Chinese girl, Anna Kao, who had made a vow of virginity. The martyr defended himself. She was neither his lover nor his servant. The woman is respected not scorned in Christianity, was the sense of John Gabriel's reply. But he remained upset because they made innocents suffer for him.


During one interrogation he was obliged to put on Mass vestments. They wanted to accuse him of using the privilege of the priesthood for private interests. But the missionary, clothed in the priestly garments, impressed the bystanders, and two Christians drew near to him to ask for absolution.

The cruelest judge was the Viceroy. The missionary was by this time a shadow. The rage of this unscrupulous magistrate was vented on a ghost of a man. Blinded by his omnipotence the Viceroy wanted confessions, admissions, and accusations against others. But if the body was weak, the soul was reinforced. His hope by now rested in his meeting God, which he felt nearer each day.


When John Gabriel told him for the last time: "I would sooner die than deny my faith!," the judge pronounced his sentence. John Gabriel Perboyre was to die by strangulation.

With Christ priest and victim

Then began a period of waiting for the imperial confirmation. Perhaps John Gabriel could hope in the clemency of the sovereign. But the war with the English erased any possible gesture of good-will. Thus, on 11 September 1840, an imperial envoy arrived at full speed, bearing the decree confirming the condemnation.

With seven criminals the missionary was led up a height called the "Red Mountain." As the criminals were killed first, Perboyre reflected in prayer, to the wonderment of the bystanders.

When his turn came, the executioners stripped him of the purple tunic and tied him to a post in the form of a cross. They passed a rope around his neck and strangled him. It was the sixth hour. Like Jesus, John Gabriel became like a grain of wheat. He died, or better was born into heaven, in order to make fall on the earth the dew of God's blessing.

Many circumstances surrounding his last year of life (the betrayal, the arrest, the death on a cross, its day and hour), are similar to the Passion of Christ. In reality, all his life was that of a witness and a faithful disciple of Christ. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote: "I look for him who died for us; I yearn for him who rose for us. Behold, the moment is near in which I will be brought forth! Have compassion on me, brothers! Do not prevent me from being born to life!"

John Gabriel "was born to life" on 11 September 1840, because he always had sought "him who died for us." His body was brought back to France, but his heart remained in his adopted homeland, the land of China. There he gave his witness to the sons and daughters of St. Vincent who also wait to be born to heaven after a life spent for the gospel and for the poor.



Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre


Also known as
  • John Gabriel Perboyre
Profile

One of eight children born to Pierre Perboyre and Marie Rigal. At age 16 he followed his brother Louis to the seminary, and joined the Congregation of the Mission of Saint Vincent on Christmas Day1818. Ordained in Paris on 23 September 1825. Professor oftheology. Seminary rector. Assistant director of novices.

His brother died on a mission to China, and John Gabriel was asked to replace him. In March 1835 he sailed for China, and began his mission in Macao in June, 1836. A widespread persecution of Christians began in 1839, the same year Englandhad attacked China. Father John Gabriel was denounced to the authorities by one of his catachumens, arrested, tried on 16 September 1839, tortured by hanging by his thumbs and flogging with bamboo rods, and condemned to death on 11 September 1840. Martyr. The first saint associated with China.

Born



The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Blessed Jean Gabriel Perboyre


Article

We find a true example of a noble-hearted martyr in the Blessed Jean Gabriel Perboyre of the Congregation of the Lazarists. The Lord destined for him a crown of especial glory. By a holy life Perboyre made himself worthy and developed the strong character that befitted one who was to suffer so dreadful a passion. He was born at Puec, in the diocese of Cahors, on January 6, 1802; and even as a boy attracted the attention of all by his unusual piety and love of purity. By a singular dispensation of Providence he was sent to the little seminary at Montauban, and in December 1818, inspired by the appeal of an abbe for the heathen missions, he entered the novitiate of the Lazarists at the same place. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1825, he labored for ten years in his own country as professor, superior, and novice- master. Everywhere he left the repute of a saint. At length his heart’s desire was gratified and in 1835 he was able to set out for the mission of China. Every one was surprised that his superiors had granted his petition, since he was in such weak health that many feared he would scarcely be able to reach China alive.

On the journey Father Perboyre exercised a true apostleship by his great amiability and piety. The whole ship’s crew was charmed with him and at the end of the voyage declared aloud: “This man is really a saint.” Macao was reached in five months, but a further difficult and dangerous journey of six months was necessary before Perboyre could reach the field of his labor, the northern province of Ho-nan. A severe illness brought him to the brink of the grave. But it was not yet his time to die. With indefatigable zeal he traversed his. mission, everywhere to strengthen the old Christians in their faith and to gain new ones. We can see his zeal in a letter of this time, in which he writes:

“Wherever one goes he finds the earth devastated by sin and defiled by crime. There have been saints who died of grief because God is so offended by men. This may seem surprising, but to me it is far more surprising that all priests, called as they are to purify the earth of the dreadful poison of sin, do not die of grief at the sight of so many abominations.”

Unfortunately the holy missionary found his activity greatly limited by the vexations of inimical officials. In the beginning of 1838 he was sent by his superiors into the province of Hu-pe. It was a period full of danger and it was known that at any moment the hatred of the pagans against the Christians might again break out. But “a true Apostle,” writes Father Perboyre, “follows his path regardless of all danger as long as he has not the rope on his neck or fetters on his feet.” And after the example of the ancient martyrs he endeavored to strengthen his own courage in the Faith and that of his Christians.

The mission was suddenly attacked on 15 September 1839. The missionaries escaped, but a Christian, for the reward of Judas, betrayed the retreat of Father Perboyre. Before various tribunals he was obliged to undergo most painful examinations, during which he was made to kneel with bare knees on iron chains and was heavily beaten with clubs. When this did not succeed in shaking his steadfast faith, the mandarin subjected him for four hours to a most painful torture called “hang-tse,” a sort of gallows on which the victim is suspended by the united thumbs of both hands and the tightly stretched pigtail. Many of the onlookers were deeply moved by the firmness of the martyr. At a later trial the enraged judge ordered him to be given forty blows in the face with a thick piece of sole-leather. So violent were the blows that his jaw was crushed and his countenance beaten out of all human semblance. And after this Perboyre had again to endure for half a day the torment of the hang-tse. A short time later, with ten other Christians, cruelly fettered, he was dragged a distance of 140 miles to the capital, Wu-chang. What he had here to suffer, imprisoned with the most abandoned criminals for nine months, is beyond description. His hands and feet were bound so tightly that the blood burst from his fingers and one of his feet began to putrefy. The jailer was moved with compassion and wished to alleviate his torture. But the missionary begged the man not to do so, since it might bring him into trouble. When at length the hour of condemnation arrived, they questioned him anew, urging him to insult the crucifix and to forswear his Catholic faith. Perboyre’s invincible constancy roused the tyrants to extreme fury and every kind of pain and ignominy their diabolical malice could invent was visited upon the martyr.

Imperial approbation of the sentence of death arrived on 11 September 1840. He was immediately led to execution and was hanged on a sort of cross. His hands were bound to the cross-beams and his legs were drawn backward. They had chosen for him a slow and torturing death by strangulation and only at the third strain upon the rope was his sacrifice accomplished.

Father Perboyre’s strength of soul and the miraculous signs with which God glorified his dead body made a deep impression on the pagans and numerous conversions followed. All Christendom, too, was filled with admiration and astonishment at his heroic martyrdom. On 10 November 1889, Leo XIII inscribed the name of Gabriel Perboyre on the roll of the martyrs and it is expected that his name will soon be numbered among the saints.

MLA Citation
  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Blessed Jean Gabriel Perboyre”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 September 2018. Web. 11 September 2019. <https://catholicsaints.info/the-holiness-of-the-church-in-the-nineteenth-century-blessed-jean-gabriel-perboyre/>




San Giovanni Gabriele Perboyre Sacerdote vincenziano, martire


Puech, Francia, 1802 - Vuciang, Cina, 11 settembre 1840

Nato a Montgesty nel 1802 e ordinato sacerdote a Parigi nel 1826, Giovanni Gabriele Perboyre desiderando ardentemente di darsi alle missioni estere si recò in Cina e nel 1832 approdò a Macao. Qui esercitò il suo apostolato tra i cristiani nonostante i pericoli della persecuzione. Tradito da uno dei suoi discepoli, fatto prigioniero, fu torturato a lungo e subì il martirio a Outchanfou l'11 settembre del 1840. Tra i cristiani rimasti fedeli, alcuni presero il corpo e gli diedero sepoltura nel luogo della sua predicazione, dove rimase finché non venne traslato nella Casa Madre della Congregazione dei Preti della Missione (Lazzaristi). Fu beatificato il 10 novembre del 1889 e fu canonizzato il 2 giugno del 1996. La sua memoria liturgica ricorre l'11 settembre.

Emblema: Palma

Martirologio Romano: Nella città di Wuchang nella provincia dello Hebei in Cina, san Giovanni Gabriele Perboyre, sacerdote della Congregazione della Missione e martire, che per predicare il Vangelo assunse un aspetto conforme alle consuetudini del luogo, ma allo scoppio della persecuzione fu sottoposto durante una lunga carcerazione a varie torture e, infine, appeso a una croce e strangolato con un laccio. 

La sua Diocesi era Cahors. Il suo comune era Puech. La sua parrocchia era il borgo di Mongesty. Lì, il 6 gennaio 1802, figlio primogenito di Pietro Perboyre e di Maria Rigal, nacque Jean-Gabriel Perboyre. Educazione cristiana dalla sua famiglia, negli anni dell’impero di Napoleone, quando molti congiuravano contro la Chiesa. Gli studi elementari al suo paese, con intelligenza e profitto.

Dentro il cuore, il giovanissimo Jean-Gabriel ha una grande passione, un unico amore: Gesù. Per Lui, il Salvatore Crocifisso, ogni giorno cresce nell’amore e dell’offerta a Dio. È soltanto un ragazzo, quando aiuta il padre nei lavori di campagna, incaricato principalmente a sorvegliare i contadini occupati nel podere di famiglia a Puech. 

Suo fratello Louis entra nel 1816 nel Seminario di Montauban (Tarn-en-Garonne), diretto dallo zio paterno, Monsieur Jacques, dei Preti della Missione (i Lazzaristi) di San Vincenzo de’ Paoli. Jean-Gabriel, quindicenne, segue il fratello minore in Seminario, per tenergli compagnia per qualche tempo. 

Ma in Seminario, si appassiona alla vita religiosa, sulle orme del grande Santo della carità. Allora decide di rimanervi e chiede di essere ammesso alla Congregazione della Missione. È accettato e si dimostra subito un novizio modello, esemplare nella preghiera, nell’obbedienza e nella mortificazione: “Gesù merita tutto: perché non dargli tutto?”. 

Il 28 dicembre 1820, offre a Dio i santi voti. Ha 18 anni e comincia a studiare teologia nella Casa-madre della Congregazione a Parigi. Si fa notare per la sua intelligenza non comune, per la sua dolcezza, per la sua carità teologale che lo rende simile a San Vincenzo, il Padre Fondatore. Diventa, senza accorgersene, modello ai suoi compagni di Seminario, che, guardando a lui, si sentono invitati a farsi migliori. 

Ha un forte ascendente sugli altri: per questo, è mandato a insegnare ai ragazzi nel collegio San Vincenzo di Mont-Didier (Somme), dove rivela le sue ottime capacità didattiche e il suo zelo per la formazione dei più piccoli, “alla statura di Gesù”. 

Sacerdote e maestro

Il 23 settembre 1826, è ordinato sacerdote nella cappella della Casa-Madre a Parigi. Ha 24 anni: un vero innamorato di Gesù. I superiori, pensando di proporlo come esempio ai chierici della Congregazione, lo mandano a insegnare teologia dogmatica nel Seminario maggiore di Saint Flour; quindi è nominato rettore del “pensionato” ecclesiastico aperto nel 1827, nella medesima città. Nell’autunno del 1832, è richiamato a Parigi come vice-maestro dei novizi della casa di San Lazzaro.
 
Obbedisce e si impegna al massimo, ma P. Jean-Gabriel ha un altro sogno: le missioni in Cina, e chiede ripetutamente e con insistenza di essere mandato, “a portare Gesù Cristo, a convertire le anime a Lui”. Il suo desiderio si fa ancora più ardente, quando il 2 maggio 1831, muore suo fratello, il P. Louis Perboyre, a Batavia, mentre era in viaggio per raggiungere la Cina. Lui dovrà prendere il suo posto. 

Finalmente esaudito, il 21 marzo 1835 salpa dal porto di Le Havre, diretto in Cina. Il 29 agosto seguente approda a Macao: lì si ferma qualche mese per intraprendere lo studio della lingua cinese, prima di essere inviato nella provincia centro-meridionale di Honan. Qualche tempo dopo, lì viene nominato primo vicario generale. Segue un anno e mezzo di appassionante lavoro apostolico nella provincia di 174 mila chilometri quadrati, in mezzo a fatiche e difficoltà di ogni genere, le prime persecuzioni comprese. 

Missionario

Nel gennaio 1838, è trasferito nella provincia di Hupeh, dove ancora più intensa si fa la sua attività missionaria. Nelle sue predicazioni e nelle sue conferenze spirituali, annuncia: “Esiste una sola realtà necessaria: Gesù Cristo. Il Signore Gesù ha detto: Io sono la Via, la Verità, la Vita. Non ci resta che camminare per questa via. Per non essere distolti da questo proposito, ci occorre una luce che rischiari il cammino. Questa luce non può essere che Lui, Gesù, la Verità in persona: Lui stesso ha detto che chi lo segue non cammina nelle tenebre, ma possiede la luce della vita”. 

Scoppia in Cina, la persecuzione anti-cattolica: P. Jean-Gabriel si vede costretto a cercare scampo nascondendosi. Ha una certezza: «Ci occorre anche la forza che ci sostenga in questo cammino e ci faccia perseverare in esso. Gesù stesso, che ha voluto essere nostro nutrimento dandosi a noi nell’Eucarestia, sarà la nostra forza. Per questo ha detto: “Io sono la vita”. Tutto quello che possiamo desiderare lo troviamo nel Crocifisso, nel Vangelo e nell’Eucaristia: non c’è altra via, altra verità, altra vita. Perciò siamo tenuti ad attaccarci a Lui solo, ad apprendere null’altro che Lui e a seguirlo senza interruzione».

Durante la persecuzione, il Padre viene tradito da un vile cristiano che sedotto dalla taglia posta sul missionario, rivela il suo nascondiglio. 

Il Padre viene catturato a Tcha-yuen-keu, il 26 settembre 1839 e condotto a Kwang-Ytang, dove subisce un primo e lungo interrogatorio, accompagnato da crudeli torture. Trasferito il giorno seguente a Ku-gheng soffre altri interrogatori e torture, rinchiuso poi nelle malsane prigioni di Wuchang, dove rimane otto mesi tra atroci sevizie e sofferenze; in attesa che la sua condanna a morte, pronunciata contro di lui dal tribunale locale, sia ratificata dall’imperatore. 

Martire

In quel triste periodo, P. Jean-Gabriel ha una certezza: “Non possiamo salvarci se non conformandoci a Gesù Cristo. Dopo la morte non ci sarà chiesto se saremo stati sapienti, se abbiamo occupato posti importanti, se ci siamo guadagnati la stima degli uomini, ma ci sarà chiesto se ci siamo applicati a conoscere e imitare Gesù Cristo. Se Dio non troverà in noi alcun tratto del Modello divino, saremo senz’altro respinti; ma se ci saremo conformati a questo Modello saremo glorificati: i santi in cielo non sono altro che immagini di Cristo glorificato come in terra lo furono di Cristo sofferente e dedito alle opere della sua missione”. 

Lui, il missionario ardente, ormai vicino a essere sacrificato, dalla sua fanciullezza, aveva sempre fatto così: essere conforme a Gesù. 

La ratifica dell’imperatore giunse al mattino dell’11 settembre 1840. A mezzogiorno, il P. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, 38 anni di età, veniva crocifisso come Gesù e finito a colpi di spada. Tutto si era compiuto, proprio come lui aveva desiderato, quando ancora si preparava al sacerdozio: la vita e il sangue per Gesù.

Le sue spoglie mortali, deposte sulla “Montagna rossa”, il cimitero della città dove era stato giustiziato, poterono essere traslate in Francia nel 1860 e deposte nella Casa-madre della sua Congregazione. Papa Gregorio XVI sin dal 1843 aveva iniziato la sua causa di beatificazione. Il 10 novembre 1889, Leone XIII lo iscrisse tra i beati. Giovanni Paolo II lo iscrisse tra i santi. 

In una sua conferenza spirituale, come leggiamo nella Liturgia delle Ore il giorno della sua festa, l’11 settembre, egli aveva detto, tutto cristocentrico, così com’era: “Teniamo sempre Gesù Cristo davanti agli occhi, cogliamo i suoi sentimenti intimi e appropriamoci delle sue virtù, del suo stile, della sua vita”.


Autore: Paolo Risso