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Vincentian, Beijing, China, Catholic, Chinese, Francis Clet, John Gabriel Perboyre


The American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), once wrote that, “The mass of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality.” And in this vein Vincent de Paul (1581- 1660) said that, “Love is inventive to infinity.” I would like to begin my comments about the Vincentian footprints in China by acknowledging that, based on my research, the Lazarist footprints there were at their root directed toward the goal of charity. And while I will necessarily recount instances of conflict, both cultural and religious, I acknowledge that much of the confluence that transpired between Vincentian missionaries and Chinese natives was facilitated by the motives of friendship and altruism that inspired the Vincentians to travel to the Asia. I shall confine my remarks to three general topics: a brief sketch of the lives of Francis Regis Clet, CM, (1748-1820) and John Gabriel Perboyre, CM, (1802-1840); an account of their imprisonments and executions; and finally, a discussion of the legacies these two missionaries left behind during and after China’s imperial era. I shall also share a few anecdotes regarding my recent encounters with Vincentian footprints during my last few trips to Beijing, Tianjin, and Wuhan


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