Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saintly Saturday: Saint Gabriel Taurin Dufresse

"Plus on se connaîtra soi-même - écrit-il - plus on sera éloigné de ces sentiments d'orgueil." (The more you know yourself, the better able you will be to resist feelings of pride) - Quote of the day.
Saint Gabriel Taurin Dufresse was born in 1750 in the small village of Lezoux, in the diocese of Clermont, France.  While studying at the university, he was introduced to the Society for Foreign Missions by one of his professors. He entered their seminary in July of 1774, and was ordained as a priest that December. The following year he was sent to Macao, China, to serve as a missionary.   In 1776, he left Macao to travel inland toward the Szechwan province. After three months of travel, disguised as a Chinese man, he arrived to begin his work.

His first imprisonment was in Beijing, but he was soon released.  At the end of 1784, just 8 years later, the Emperor ordered the arrest of all Catholic priests.  Father Dufresse was arrested once again, but managed to escape.  He was hidden by one of the Chinese Catholic families of his parish. The auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Saint-Martin, fearful for the safety of the families of the diocese, ordered Father Dufresse to turn himself in to the pagan authorities. After more than six months in prison, Father Dufresse was released on the condition that he return to Europe and never again set foot in China.

He stayed away only three years before sneaking back into the country in 1789.  Four years later, he was made auxiliary bishop of the region due to his incredible success working with the people of his province. When Napoleon refused to allow missionaries to be sent from France, Bishop Dufresse began to recruit native men to the clergy. In 1805, persecutions against Christians resumed with such intensity that Bishop Dufresse was forced to change his residency almost daily in order to escape arrest. In May of 1815, he was recaptured and arrested, and he was beheaded September 14th, 1815. 

One of the more famous converts from St. Gabriel occurred while he was part of a convoy of prisoners. One of the guards was so moved by the patience of St. Gabriel that he converted and became a priest himself. That man was none other than Zhao Rhong, who took on the name Augustin and would himself go on to become a saint and a martyr for the faith.

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