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February 29

St Auguste Chapdelaine - February 29

Saint Auguste Chapdelaine

Priest, Martyr

(1814- 1856)

“It is the good God who protects and blesses me.

Saint Auguste Chapdelaine

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life in France

Auguste was born in La Rochelle-Normande, France on January 6, 1814. He was the youngest of nine children born to Nicolas Chapdelaine and Madeleine Dodeman. Following grammar school, Auguste dropped out to work on the family farm.

Entered Seminary

He early felt a call to the priesthood, but his family opposed it, needing his help on the farm, due to his physical abilities. However, the sudden death of two of his brothers caused them to re-think, and they finally approved. Auguste entered the minor seminary at Mortain on October 1, 1834, studying with boys half his age. It led to his being nicknamed Papa Chapdelaine, which stuck with him the rest of his life.

Ordained and Off to French Foreign Missions

At the age of 29, Auguste was ordained on June 10, 1843. He was an associate pastor from 1844 to 1851, in Boucey, France. He finally obtained permission from his bishop to enter the foreign missions and was accepted by French Foreign Missions. Although Auguste was two years past their age limit, his zeal for the missions made them approve him anyway. Auguste stayed long enough to say a final Mass, bury his sister, and say good-bye to his family, warning them that he would never see them again. He left Paris, France for the Chinese missions on April 30, 1852, landing in Singapore on September 5, 1852. They finally landed in Macau on Christmas Day and reached Hong Kong on January 10, 1853.

Robbed in China

Due to being robbed on the road by bandits, Auguste lost everything he had, and had to fall back and regroup before making his way to his missionary assignment. Chapdelaine went illegally to the Chinese interior to proselytize Christianity. The local mandarin Zhang Mingfeng was no doubt disposed to take such a harsh line against this provocation by virtue of the ongoing, Christian-inspired Taiping Rebellion, which had originated right there in Guangxi and was in the process of engulfing all of southern China in one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.

Celebrated His First Mass in China

After a stay in Guangzhou in the Kwang-si province, Auguste moved to Guiyang, capital of the Guizhou province, in the spring of 1854. In December, Auguste went, together with Lu Tingmei, to Yaoshan village, Xilin County of Guangxi, where he met the local Catholic community of around 300 people. Auguste celebrated his first mass there on December 8, 1854. He was arrested in Su-Lik-Hien and thrown into the Xilin county prison ten days after his arrival.  He was released after sixteen or eighteen days of captivity.

Auguste ministered to the locals for two years, converting hundreds. His work, however, created envy and jealousy. According to the chronicles of the time, a certain Pé-San, a man of corrupt morals, having learnt that a woman he had seduced had converted to Christianity, denounced the presence of the missionary to the magistrate of Sy- Lin-Hien, an arch-enemy of Christians, accusing the clergyman of stirring up the people and fomenting unrest.


The “heroic” magistrate in question, Zhang Mingfeng, sent guards to Yan-Chan to arrest Fr Chapdelaine; however, the latter, forewarned, had fled to the house of a Christian writer in Sy-Lin-Hien. On 25 February 1856, guards surrounded and searched the house. Father Chapdelaine, four other Christians, and the host’s second son were arrested. Overall, some 25 people were taken into custody, beaten with bamboo sticks, chained and collared. Auguste was returned to Su-Lik-Hien and sentenced to death for his work.


Like Jesus, Auguste said very little in his own defense. Furious at was considered to be disrespect, the official had Auguste flogged 150 times on the cheeks. The very first lash drew blood. We can only imagine what damage the other 149 blows did. Next Auguste received 300 lashes with a cane on his back. They stopped only when they saw Auguste could not move.

But when they went to drag Auguste back to his cell, after only a few steps, he rose and began walking as if in perfect health. The Chinese couldn’t believe their eyes. Auguste told them, “It is the good God Who protects and blesses me.”

His Martyrdom

Auguste had not sought out martyrdom. Not long before his arrest, he was reputed to have said, “He Who gives us our lives demands that we should take reasonable care of the gift. But if the danger comes to us, then happy those who are found worthy to suffer for His dear sake.” Nonetheless die he did.

They next placed Auguste in a custom-made cage. His head fit through a hole in the top, and it was just tall enough for him to barely touch his toes on the ground. Furthermore, the cage was constructed to hold his arms in place so that he could not use them to pull himself up in order to breath more easily. Thus, he was always hovering between suffocation and barely breathing.

On February 29, 1856, they beheaded Auguste and he died with Saint Lawrence Pe-Man and Saint Agnes Tsau Kouy. They needn’t have bothered, though. He had been beaten so badly and his body had been so tortured, he was already dead.

Martyrs of China Canonized

Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Auguste and other Chinese martyrs on October 1, 2000, the same day (perhaps not coincidentally) as the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The next day the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily released an article showing all the ways those canonized were actually bandits and other types of miscreants. It accused St. Auguste of raping women, of living with a woman named Cao, and of bribing officials on behalf of “bandits”.

Beatified:           May 27, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII

Canonized:        October 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day:          February 29, February 28 (On non-leap years)

Patron Saint:     None



All-powerful, ever-living God, you gave Auguste Chapdelaine and the martyrs of China the courage to travel overseas to China to spread the Gospel. Auguste’s efforts resulted in torture and a painful death for Christ. Lord turn our weaknesses into strengthes so we can do “missionary” work in our own towns with those we meet spreading the Gospel in acts of kindness to the poor, sick and less fortunate.

How will you today spread the Gospel and demonstrate the love of Christ to others?


Saint Auguste Chapdelaine, you were brave and courageous suffering the death for Christ. Help all Christians to value their faith in easy times so that when times of persecution come, we may stand upright in the storm.

Saint Auguste Chapdelaine, pray for us.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Saint of the Day: Saint Auguste Chapdelaine

AsiaNews – Museum praises murderers of a Catholic saint, “enemy of the people”

Catholic Online – St. Augustus Chapdelaine – Saint Auguste Chapdelaine

Soul Candy – Feb 28/29 – Saint Auguste Chapdelaine, MEP, (1814-1856), Priest, Martyr of China

The Wanderer – Catholic Heroes . . . St. Augustus Chapdelaine

Wikipedia – Auguste Chapdelaine