Saint Augustine Zhao Rong

St Augustine Zhao Rong was a Catholic priest and martyr who preached the gospel in the western Sichuan Province of China in the early 18th century.  

St Augustine Zhao-Rong, originally surnamed Zhu, was born in 1746 in Wu Chuan, Guizhou Province. When he was nearly 20, while serving as a sergeant in Wu Chuan County, he encountered Christianity during its introduction from Sichuan.

Persecution of Christianity began in 1748 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, leading to the arrest of many Christians, including a priest called Father Mei. Zhu Rong was moved by the teaching of Father Mei, and Zhu Rong quickly embraced Christianity and deepened his understanding of the faith. In 1752, on St Augustine’s feast day, Father Mei baptized and confirmed Zhu Rong, giving him the name Augustine. Recognising Zhu Rong’s strong faith, Father Mei entrusted him with various tasks, teaching him Latin and encouraging the study of books about the saints. 

Impressed by Zhu Rong’s loyalty and enthusiasm, another priest, Father Lou, sought his assistance. Recognising his outstanding faith, Father Lou appealed to the bishop for Zhu Rong’s ordination as a priest. At the age of 35, Zhu Rong became a priest, adopting the surname Zhao and so from then on was called Zhao Rong. 

Later, the bishop assigned him to care for all Catholics in the three counties of Guan Xian, Jin Tang, and Wen Jiang in western Sichuan Province. Zhao Rong tirelessly taught, zealously preached, devotedly fulfilled his duties, and heard confessions with care. In the 1815, during the reign of the Jia Qing, as Christian persecution began again, Father Yang urged him to leave the region, but being old and frail, Zhao Rong explained his inability to escape. He asked Father Yang to pray for his perseverance, courage, and steadfastness. 

One day a gangster questioned Zhao Rong about his belief in Catholicism. Zhao Rong replied that he not only believed in the Catholic Church, but that he also was a leader in the Church. The bandit reported him to state officers, leading to his arrest and subsequent transfer to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. In prison, Zhao Rong endured various forms of abuse. 

One day, officials pressured him to renounce Jesus, but Zhao Rong firmly replied, “I am willing to accept all kinds of punishments, but the one thing I cannot do is abandon my Lord Jesus Christ.” 

In prison the official ridiculed him in every possible way and ordered the prison officer to beat him. Zhao Rong was kept in prison to await his final judgement, but, due to his old age and inability to endure punishment, he died in prison. Then the officers buried him in Guan Shan. In 1822 Zhao Rong was moved to Feng Huang Mountain in Guangdong Province. On 27 May 1900 Pope Leo XIII declared Zhao Rong Blessed, and on 1 October 2000, Pope John Paul II canonised him as a saint together with 120 other Chinese martyrs. 

The Universal Church commemorates the feast of St Zhao Rong and Companions (Chinese Martyrs) on the 9 July of each year, though the Church in China observes his feast day on 27 January. 

St Zhao Rong, pray for us! 


By Fr. Joseph Liang

As I prepared, a week or so ago, a simple biography of the Chinese priest St Augustine Zhao Rong, martyred in 1815, his life inspired me on how to live out my vocation as a Chinese priest today. 

St Augustine Zhao Rong’s unwavering loyalty to his vocation serves as a poignant reflection on commitment and sacrifice. Despite facing persecution and challenges, he remained steadfast in his calling as a Christian and a priest. This challenges me to contemplate my own vocation and commitment since receiving the ordained priesthood during my ordination. As a priest, I have already made a commitment to love the Lord and serve the Church. 

This commitment is not just for a number of months or years, but is a lifelong dedication to the vocation of the priesthood. While I can keep my loyalty and enthusiasm for a few years, the real test is whether I can maintain it for my entire life. We know there are many temptations around, capable of attracting my attention and diminishing my energy. 

Every year, as I celebrate the feast of St Augustine Zhao Rong and the Chinese Martyrs, I am urged to stay true to my principles even when faced with difficulties. St Zhao Rong’s life invites me to ponder the depth of my dedication to my chosen path, inspiring me to persevere in my vocation with a sense of purpose and fidelity. 

St Zhao Rong encountered challenges during his life, yet his enduring faith remained unshaken. I acknowledge that I have faced my own trials in my priestly life. When I look back at the journey of my life, I truly have to give thanks to the Lord. It is the transformative power of enduring faith in God that made me strong, enabling me to stand with the Lord and navigate the complexities of my own journey with trust and perseverance.