July 9 is the feast day celebrated for the 120 Martyrs of China, persecuted for their faith between 1648 and 1930. On October 1, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II canonized 87 native Chinese and 33 foreign men, women and children who were killed in China because they refused to renounce Christ.

Most of the foreign missionaries were priests and members of religious orders.

Among the native martyrs was Ann Wang, a 14-year-old girl who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion. As she was about to be beheaded, she cried out, “The door of heaven is open to all,” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.

Another native martyr was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi. He was preparing to be baptized when he was caught and ordered to worship idols. When he refused, his captors cut off his right arm and tortured him, but he remained steadfast, telling them, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.” He was flayed alive.

The first native priest to become a martyr was Augustine Zhao Rong. Born in 1746, he was one of the soldiers who escorted Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to his martyrdom in Beijing. The bishop’s faith led Augustine to be baptized at 30. He was ordained a priest five years later, and was killed in 1815.