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Saint Gregory Grassi and Companions

Saint Gregory Grassi. OFM
Image: Saint Gregory Grassi, OFM | Whitworth Digital Commons | Whitworth University

Saint Gregory Grassi and Companions

Saint of the Day for July 8

(d. July 9, 1900)


Saint Gregory Grassi and Companions’ Story

Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries. When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia, and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people.

Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856, and sent to China five years later. Gregory was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi. With 14 other European missionaries and 14 Chinese religious, he was martyred during the short but bloody Boxer Uprising of 1900.

Twenty-six of these martyrs were arrested on the orders of Yu Hsien, the governor of Shanxi province. They were hacked to death on July 9, 1900. Five of them were Friars Minor; seven were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary—the first martyrs of their congregation. Seven were Chinese seminarians and Secular Franciscans; four martyrs were Chinese laymen and Secular Franciscans. The other three Chinese laymen killed in Shanxi simply worked for the Franciscans and were rounded up with all the others. Three Italian Franciscans were martyred that same week in the province of Hunan. All these martyrs were beatified in 1946, and were among the 120 martyrs canonized in 2000.


Martyrdom is the occupational hazard of missionaries. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed. The 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 had grown to 303,760 by 1924, and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests. Great sacrifices often bring great results.

The Franciscan Saints

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The Word That Accomplishes Its Purpose

This week, we hear from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and the theme of this short passage is the Word of God. How wonderful that we are hearing one of the greatest speakers of the Word precisely on this topic. How central to ancient Israelite religion was the Word! Biblical Israel knew itself to be a people to whom God uniquely had spoken. They savored his Word as it was preserved in the Torah and as it was spoken by the prophets and the sages of their religion. And the divine Word, Isaiah knows, is not a bland description of a state of affairs, but an effective principal. God’s Word makes things happen, changes things, brings life. Mass Readings Reading 1 – Isaiah 55:10-11 Psalm – Psalm 65:10-14 Reading 2 – Romans 8:18-23 Gospel – Matthew 13:1-23…

Seeds of Grace, and How We Receive Them

The parable of the sower is part of a collection of stories told by Jesus that form (at least structurally) the centerpiece of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Together they address the central theme of the Matthean Gospel: the kingdom of heaven. For if we want to enter God’s kingdom, we must allow our souls to become receptive, fertile grounds for the seeds of divine grace.  The existence of a kingdom entails the existence of a king. So, if we hear news of a kingdom, we want to know who occupies the throne. “Kingdom of Heaven means, in fact, lordship of God,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, “and this means that his will must be adopted as the guiding criterion of our existence.” In his highly celebrated Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, Pope Benedict goes into even more depth on a similar phrase used by Jesus—the kingdom of God. This latter term, preferred…

Fr. Connor Danstrom’s Music Seeks Out the Hard and Dark Places

Fr. Connor Danstrom is a priest, an accomplished musician, and host of the podcast “Three Dogs North.” He spoke to Jared Zimmerer last year about his EP Why the Water Came, and he has just released a new collection of songs called Doralydia, available now on Bandcamp. All digital sales will go to support the St. John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where Fr. Danstrom currently serves. Doralydia will be available on streaming services beginning July 1. Andrew Petiprin recently had an opportunity to ask Fr. Danstrom about his work. Both musically and lyrically, your songs very nuanced—perhaps not even obviously the work of a Christian, let alone a priest. I don’t think creative Christians are producing enough of this sort of mature art that could draw in people who aren’t ready yet for the specifics of Catholicism or the Gospel.

Doing the Necessary Inner Work

We need to balance the inner work required to fight racism, transforming our own hearts, in addition to outer work like advocacy.

The Family Bookshelf: Secular Books Can Complement Catholic Catechesis

Ashley Canter of The Family Bookshelf blog is a Catholic convert, a farmer’s wife, and the mother of five children. Having earned a BA in European history from Ohio University in 2006 and married soon after, she has enjoyed reading and writing through years of discernment, change, and parenting. Now settled on an organic dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, she chats with Word on Fire’s Robert Mixa about her belief that Catholic family life is enhanced by living liturgically, playing outside, and reading great books. During the pandemic shutdown, many parents have had to become the primary catechists of their children. From your experience teaching your children the faith, what has been especially effective? Thank you, Bob. We observe all the liturgical seasons of the Church year, and encourage the children to help. They might take turns blowing out the candles on the Advent wreath, or help hide the bean…

Heartbeats of Incarnation: Creativity in Crisis

During World War II, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay called “Learning in War-Time” in which he defended the continued pursuit of education during a time of global conflict. In his conclusion he admits the limits of human culture and its ultimate finitude in light of the eternity which Christians anticipate. And yet Lewis’ final words affirm that there is nonetheless some sort of echo of that eternity which the pursuit of knowledge makes visible, and which it may even reveal in a way: “If we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still.” The employment of the intellect opens up a window into the life of the divine mind itself, and…

Jesus of Nazareth, Breaker of Hearts

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Jesus of Nazareth directed the question to the scribes who lingered among us. He had landed in Capernaum only a short time earlier, and—after permitting him time to greet his hosts and joke and jostle with some of the children—we had brought him to see a friend of ours, recently struck down with a paralysis we could not understand. The scribes, who beyond their official capacities were naturally nosy types and self-appointed historians of our neighborhoods, had followed along, watching to see what he would do. What they saw was something quiet and mostly unspectacular, at least at first. The rabbi had squatted over our friend, surveying him with compassion—with a look of love that seemed at once familiar and detached, that asked nothing, expected nothing, demanded nothing. Seated head on, as I was, my heart was struck by the softness of…

Zechariah and the New David

Our first reading for this weekend is derived from the ninth chapter of the book of the prophet Zechariah, one of the twelve so-called minor prophets of the Old Testament. The background for the prophecy contained here is that Israel saw itself as the specially chosen people of God, whose mission was to bring the light of the Lord to all the nations of the world. At the time of David, this ambition seemed more realistic, but things fell rather quickly apart. And yet, oddly, they continued to hope. God would cause Israel to fulfill its destiny, precisely by raising up a king like David. Mass Readings Reading 1 – Zechariah 9:9-10 Psalm – Psalm 145:1-14 Reading 2 – Romans 8:9, 11-13 Gospel – Matthew 11:25-30…

Video Games and the Hero’s Narrative

After finishing the Lord of the Rings spin-off Shadow of War, I was looking for a new RPG (role-playing game), and Dragon Age: Inquisition seemed appealing. It checked off all the right boxes for me—at least when it comes to RPGs: Box #1: Does it take place in medieval times? Box#2: Can I use magic? Dragon-Age meets both of these requirements quite splendidly. Plus, I get to battle wild dragons, so call it an all-around win. Yet what draws me to this game and others like it is not so much the cool fight sequences, amazing graphics, or expansive world-maps as its epic nature—its ability to stimulate within my soul a feeling of gallantry. As I mention in other articles, video game culture is not as superficial as one may think. There is a reason so many people are drawn to it. Simply put, video games tap into…