The Little Girl Who Inspired Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s Vow
The Catholic Church, in her 2000-year history, is never wanting in awe-inspiring stories of heroism and martyrdom.
From the persecutions of ancient Rome to the Communist atrocities of the 20th century, the Church always had faithful sons and daughters who exhibited extraordinary courage and resolve in face of the most extremes of adversities. One little known story though no less edifying is that of a little Chinese girl-martyr at the time when China had just been run over by the Communists. It is the poignant tale of a little girl’s faith, zeal and keen Catholic sense overcoming fear and oppression.
The narrative that follows is an adaptation of the English translation of an unnamed priest’s first hand account of the events that happened during the Communist takeover in China (presumably around 1949.) The story was extracted from a collection of beautiful Eucharistic stories and miracles compiled by Fr. Karl Maria Harrer and published originally in German (Die schönsten Eucharistischen Wunder.)
When the Communists first came into town, the parish priest started to feel uneasy about his fate not knowing how the intruders would act. During each day that passed, he paid keen attention to every din or commotion that transpired outside the church as he knelt in prayer inside. He was on edge expecting to be executed at any moment.
Just a day after the unwelcome band of soldiers arrived, someone paid him a visit. Thinking it was the police, he was struck with terror. Could this be his end? But contrary to his worst fears, the man at the door turned out to be cordial. As they conversed in Chinese, he was told to proceed with his daily routine. As they parted, his guest accepted a cigar, bowed and eventually left seemingly contented.
Days, weeks and months passed without any untoward incident. He would run into soldiers in the streets but they would only look at him with a straight, cold face but not without a dose of curiosity. Once, he felt perturbed when a certain inspector dropped by to see him.
Turning the tables
One beautiful summer’s day, just when things seemed to be settling down, the dreadful gang of communists finally descended on the town to turn things upside-down. Four soldiers and the inspector unceremoniously barged into the priest’s school house.
The inspector announced to the shocked schoolchildren that sweeping and drastic changes would be implemented from then on. In one fell swoop, the fearsome commander and his cohorts began tearing down the crucifix, holy pictures, blackboards and statues from the walls and laid them on the desks.
In a stentorian voice, he barked orders at the terrified children to put the articles in a box and to take them to the toilet while he threatened them with his handgun. In spite of the harsh treatment, the children resisted but eventually complied reluctantly.
An icon of resistance
But deep back in the room, sat a little girl in her desk; unmoving, with hands folded, and lips tightly shut. As the inspector caught sight of her, he immediately rushed in her direction and shouted curses at her. Mad as hell, he threatened her, “Take this!” But the girl only looked down and hardly flinched thus sending the rest of the terrorized children to gawk with bated breath.
Amidst the ghastly silence, a shot rang out shattering glass and driving the children into tears and screams. The violent disturbance attracted curious townsfolk to gather in front of the school.
The inspector kept on shouting furiously. And yet the little girl remained silent, still frozen like a statue, a big tear rolling off her cheek. At the point of losing composure at the girl’s staunch yet quiet defiance, he turned his ire at the crowd and snapped, “Go find this girl’s father and bring the townspeople here in the church!”
Desecration of the Hosts
As the church filled with people, the little girl’s father was ushered in with hands bound behind his back and placed to the right of the communion rail. Immediately, the girl was forcefully shoved into the communion rail.
The inspector spoke to the crowd and mocked the people’s belief in the Real Presence. And in a malicious and sarcastic tone, he announced that they were tricked into believing that God is present in the tabernacle. In fact, he told them he and his gang of soldiers would stamp on the Hosts with their boots to show nothing would happen.
Then the soldiers rushed on to the tabernacle and forced it opened with their revolvers. The tense crowd watched in silent disbelief. The inspector seized the ciborium, took the lid off and scattered the Hosts on the sanctuary floor.
Egging on his soldiers, he ordered them to go and step on the Hosts. And without hesitation they carried out the dastardly act. Not content with that, he taunted the crowd, “Do you still believe in those fairytales your priest told you?”
Turning to the child’s father he asked him if he still believed. No sooner did the father say yes did the inspector order him to be hauled away.
A non-commissioned officer then entered the scene who spoke with the inspector. They reached an agreement and the inspector submitted to higher authority. The crowd was told to disperse leaving the little girl alone in the communion rail.
The soldiers incarcerated the priest in the church’s coal bin where a small opening allowed him to see the area of the sanctuary where the Hosts lay strewn on the floor as well as the little girl who was leaning on the wall.
A beautiful lady
While peering through the opening, the priest saw a lovely young woman clad in beautiful garments enter and smile. As she hugged her, she said, "Poor child! Poor little one, what have these men done to you? Come with me. Will you?" The child broke into sobs and sought comfort in the woman’s arm and they left.
Witnessing a marvel from his cell
As time went by, the priest lost track of hours and days while imprisoned in the coal bin. He endured the stillness of the surroundings and at times he heard sounds he wasn’t used to. One morning, he heard the door open quietly. Through the little opening, the priest saw the little Chinese girl sneaking ever so carefully into the sanctuary, kneeling and bowing in homage. As she lowered her head, she took a desecrated Host with her tongue. She raised her head, folded her hands, closed her eyes and prayed in silence. Several moments later, she arose and departed.
Every morning the priest witnessed the uplifting scene that became a source of comfort inside the dark and somber environs of his makeshift prison cell. There he eagerly waited the break of dawn expecting to see the sweet, enchanting, little girl receive and adore the Host. Though it occurred many times, he couldn’t recall how often times she came to practice the soul-stirring daily ritual.
A Heroic Death
But alas, the day of final reckoning arrived. As the little heroine went through her daily pious exercise one morning; knees bent, hands folded and absorbed in deep prayer, the church door behind her burst open. Tumultuous screams stirred the air and a shot rang out.
As the priest hurriedly looked through his peephole, he saw the pallid little girl crawl agonizingly along the floor as she reached a Host to receive Holy Communion. When the soldier drew near to check on her, she tried in vain to pull herself up and to fold her hands. Instead she fell on her back and hit her head on the floor with a thud. The little Chinese girl-martyr lay dead motionless on the floor. For a moment, the soldier stood hesitant not knowing what to make of his deed and its fatal outcome. Finally, he turned around and stormed out of the church.
The moving yet harrowing scene left the priest in a state of shock. While he pondered on that painful experience, his prison door opened and the same soldier went in to announce that he was free to go.
Without any hesitation, he scampered towards the sanctuary to see the lifeless little girl. As he knelt besides her, the soldier approached him and uttered, “Sir, if in every town there was such a little girl, no soldier would ever fight for the Communists!”
Fortunately, the priest still had time to give the little martyr a decent burial. As he left the cemetery and walked along the road, a man approached and invited him into his car. He dropped him off at the border.
The story above moved Archbishop Fulton Sheen to make a vow to pray a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the rest of his life. But who wouldn’t be? Indeed, the little Chinese girl’s zeal to receive and adore the desecrated Hosts on the sanctuary floor is really worth emulating much more in our days when lukewarm Catholics take for granted the Real Presence in the church tabernacle. Her acts of reverence put to shame those who present themselves before the Blessed Sacrament in questionable attire or those who fail to show respect by observing silence. May this little Chinese girl-martyr be a shining and glorious example for all of us. May she spur us to make a firm resolve the next time we visit a church to thank Our Lord Jesus Christ for the privilege and opportunity to adore Him FREELY in the Blessed Sacrament!
HARRER, Karl Maria, Die schönsten Eucharistischen Wunder, Heft 1-5 (je 48 Seiten) Miriam Verlag
The Little Chinese Girl-Martyr of the Holy Eucharist,