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February 18

St Francois Regis Clet - February 18

Saint Francis Regis Clet

Priest and Martyr

(1748 – 1820)

“Always be fervent servants of God and never give up the faith.

Saint Francis Regis Clet

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Francis Regis Clet was born on August 19, 1748 in Grenoble, France. He was named for the recently Canonized fellow-Grenoblian, Jesuit St. John Francis Regis. Francis was the 10th of 15 children born into a farm family. After completing studies at the Royal College (founded by the Jesuits), he followed his elder brother and sister into vowed religious life.  

His Priesthood

 In Lyons, on March 6, 1769, Francis entered the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) or Lazarists. There, he made his vows in 1771, Francis was ordained priest in 1773.

Rector and Director of Novices of Annecy

That same year, Francis went as professor of moral theology to the diocesan seminary at Annecy. He was affectionately called “the walking library” because of his encyclopedic knowledge and academic discipline.   In 1786, he became Rector of Annecy and two years later, Director of Novices in Paris. His zeal and learning produced excellent fruits.

Director in Paris

In the sixteenth year of his stay at Annecy, Francis was sent to Paris for the election of a superior general of the congregation. He did not return, for the new superior general appointed him director of the internal seminary, at the motherhouse in Paris. Scarcely a year had elapsed when the sacking of St. Lazare, on the eve of the taking of the Bastille, scattered his flock. Many of the young men returned to the dismantled house the next day and gathered around Francis. However, the fury of the revolution prevented their remaining.

Missionary Life in China

It was at this period in his life that his ambition to become missionary was manifested. Francis  petitioned to go to China as a missionary several times, but his superiors did not accede to his request until 1791.   At the age of 43, he replaced another priest who had to withdraw from the assignment at the last minute.   A confrere, in writing about Clet’s assignment to China, noted:  “He has everything you could ask for – holiness, learning, health and charm.”

Francis was sent to China in 1791. After a six month sea journey from France and some transition time in Macao, which included assuming the dress and customs of the Chinese people, Francis arrived in Kiang-si in October of 1792 as the only European in the area. The first post assigned him was in Kiang-Si, one of the most destitute Christian settlements in China.

Francis had great difficulty in acquiring the language, which he never fully mastered. The next year,  he was sent to Hou-Kouang where he laboured for 27 years. Death soon deprived him of his two brother-priests and for several years, Francis ministered alone to a vast district. In spite of difficulties, he succeeded in keeping up the fervour of the Christians and bringing many pagans to fold.

Superior of Missionionaries

In 1793, Clet joined two Chinese confreres in Hou-Kouang in the Hopei Province. There, both of his companions died within his first year, one in prison and one from exhaustion.   In that year, Clet became superior of an international group of Vincentian missioners scattered over a very large territory, and he himself pastored an area of 270 thousand square miles.   In that leadership capacity, he developed standards so that there would be a uniform approach to ministry (sacramental and catechetical) among the missioners. Francis laboured for 27 years in Hou-Kouang.

Betrayed

In July of 1812, his church and schoolhouse were destroyed, but Francis escaped. In 1818, the persecution broke out again with renewed fury. After several remarkable escapes from the seaching parties, Francis was betrayed by a Chinese Christian, for the 1500 dollars set on his head, and was taken on June, 16, 1819. Like the missionary St Paul, Francis endured ignominy and forced marches in chains over hundreds of miles. He had to undergo the greatest cruelty for five weeks, but not a word of complaint escaped him. During the tortures in imprisonment, he was remembered for his serene and smiling countenance at all times. 

His Martyrdom

Being transferred to another prison, Francis was treated more humanely and found there Father Chen, a Chinese Lazarist, from whom he could receive the sacraments. Pending confirmation of the sentence by the emperor, he wrote: “I prepare for death, often repeating with Saint Paul:  ‘if I live, it is for Jesus Christ and death will be for me a gain’.”

On January 1, 1820, however, sentence of death was passed on him. Francis’s execution took place on Feb 18, 1820 in Wuchang, China. Francis was tied to a stake erected like a cross, and was strangled to death, the rope having been relaxed twice to give him a three-fold death agony. His remains rest in the chapel of the mother house of the Lazarists, in Paris. On October 1, 2000, Saint Francis Regis Clet was canonized by Pope John Paul II with over 100 other Martyrs of China.

Beatified:           May 27, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII

Canonized:        October 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day:         February 18

Patron Saint:    None

Source:

Reflection

For many of us in the United States, getting to a church is no more than a five minute drive or even a walk in some cities. However, Saint Francis Regis Clet was pastor of region in China that was over 270,000 square miles. So, we are blessed in being able to have mass given by a priest and have the blessed eucharist every day. In addition, we are blessed with the freedoms to celebrate our Catholic beliefs without fear of being tortured as Saint Francis Regis Clet was in China.

When is the last time you thanked your priest for the convenience of being able to celebrate mass and partake of the blessed eucharist? 

Prayers

Saint Francis Regis Clet, you trusted deeply in God’s providence in your life.  With God leading the way, you walked peacefully to your cruel death in China. May your martyrdom teach us how to live a peaceful holy live trusting God right up to our own death.

Saint Francis Regis Clet, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 18 February – Saint Francis Regis Clet CM (1748-1820) Priest and Martyr

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Jean-François-Régis Clet

Chinese Martyrs – St. Francis Regis Clet 1748 – 1820

Magnificat Canada (Sanctoral.com) – Saint Francis Regis Clet Lazarist Missionary, Martyr (1748-1820)

New Advent – Randolph, B. (1909). Blessed Francis Regis Clet. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Vincentian Encyclopedia – Francis Regis Clet

Wikipedia – François-Régis Clet

Video Link

Chinese Saint of the Week- #25 St. Francis Regis Clet – YouTube (Queen of China Catholic Ministries)