Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Legionaires of Sheshan ..a story from China

If you take the number 36 bus northwest of Shanghai and can put up with it rattling through dense traffic for 30 mins,you reach the terminus of the route in the shade of the hill of Sheshan. 

On the top of the hill is a beautiful old church. You can walk up winding paths to the church as I did one cold January day, taking care of the black ice that rimmed the paths.

I came across three ladies who looked as if they were in their 70's, kneeling on the ice in front of a statue of Our Lady. They were praying the Rosary and I watched them for a while. They completed 15 decades, unfazed and unflinching as gusts of cold air rattled up the path and made me shiver.

When they finished and stood up, the youngest lady turned to me and smiled. I said 'hello' and asked where they were from. She told me that she and her companions were from a rural village about 2 hours away by bus.

I asked why she came. Her story was simple. She and her 2 friends are members of the Leigon of Mary. They worked in their tiny village, visiting the sick and the needy. Her 2 friends had visited a sick farmer taking him a hot meal every day and on one visit left him a miraculous medal. 

Another visitor saw the medal and reported the 2 ladies to the magistrate. (Its an offense for Christians to spread their faith in China). He sentenced them both to three months in a labour camp for the crime of spreading their religion.

They had just completed their sentence the previous day and had come immediately to the shrine of Sheshan to say thank you to Our Lady for helping them get through their sentence and also for the opportunity to do penance in a small way (Xiao - Xiao) in suffering for their faith.

I watched them walk slowly away up the hill to the main church. One had a limp. I wondered if their experience would stop them visiting the sick and giving out miraculous medals in the future..but I doubt it somehow..

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