John Gabriel Perboyre
Missionary and martyr, born at Puech, Diocese of Cahors, France, on January 6, 1802; martyred at Ou-Tchang-Fou, China, on September 11, 1840. He is China’s first saint.
John Gabriel was one of eight children born to Pierre Perboyre and Marie Rigal. By reason of his piety, he was the model of his companions during his childhood. At age 16 he followed his brother Louis to the seminary, and entered the Congregation of the Mission of Saint Vincent on Christmas Day 1818. He was ordained in Paris on September 23, 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. Shortly after, he was sent to the seminary of Saint-Flour to teach dogmatic theology, and two years later, he was appointed superior of the preparatory seminary of Saint-Flour. His great sanctity and marvellous success induced his superiors, in 1832, to appoint him subdirector of the novitiate in Paris. Perboyre’s two maxims 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 brother died on a mission to China, and John Gabriel asked to replace him. In March 1835 he sailed for China, and began his mission in Macao in June, 1836. A widespread persecution of Christians began in 1839, the same year England had attacked China. Father John Gabriel was denounced to the authorities by one of his catechumens, arrested, tried on September 16, 1839, tortured by hanging by his thumbs and flogging with bamboo rods, and condemned to death on September 11, 1840.
John Gabriel was declared Venerable by Gregory XVI in July, 1843, beatified by Leo XIII on November 9, 1889, and canonized by John Paul II on June 2, 1996. His memorial is celebrated on September 11.
O my Divine Savior,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
I pray You
To destroy in me all that is not of You.
Grant that I may live but in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say, with Saint Paul,
“I live – now not I – But Christ lives in me.
- Saint John Gabriel
Reflection: Let us not forget to pray for missionaries, who are often isolated and seemingly abandoned amid the crosses of their difficult lives.