11 Sep Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre
Today is the feast day of Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre. Ora pro nobis.
John Gabriel Perboyre was born in 1802 in the diocese of Cahors in France. From his earliest years he was noticed for his piety. As a young student in the minor seminary, he was loved and venerated by all his fellow disciples, who called him the Little Jesus. A year before he advanced to the Major Seminary, his vocation was decided upon: I want to be a missionary, he said, and he entered the Congregation of the missionaries of Saint Vincent de Paul at Montauban.
On the feast of the Holy Innocents, 1820, he made the four vows of the Vincentians. He was raised to the priesthood, 23 September, 1825, in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity, by Bishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, and on the following day he said his first Mass.
One of the novices who later was confided to his care, said: For many years I had desired to meet a Saint, and when I saw Monsieur Perboyre, it seemed to me God had answered my wish. Several times I said, You will see that Monsieur Perboyre will be canonized.' The two maxims of this Novice Master were: One does good for souls only by prayer. In all that you do, work only to please God, otherwise you would waste your time and effort.
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 Fr. Jean-Gabriel was one of the first victims. The events leading to his death bear a striking resemblance to the Passion and Death of Christ. A neophyte, like another Judas, betrayed Fr 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.
Those in attendance could not conceal their astonishment and could scarcely hold back their tears. Trample on your God, and I will free you! the mandarin cried out. Oh! the martyr replied, how could I so insult my Saviour? And seizing the crucifix, he pressed it to his lips. In 1840, after nine months' confinement in a fearful prison, he was strangled on a gibbet in the form of a cross.