An account of a Chinese Jesuit’s imprisonment by the Chinese Communists that is a moving testament of faith and compassion, as well as an informative primer on the relations between the Chinese government and the Catholic Church.
Wong’s account is the result of a collaboration with Devaux, who took down the memories and recollections he related to her over a long period of time. Each chapter, narrated in the first person, is preceded by a summary of the history of the relevant era, as well as a brief explanation of then-appropriate religious thinking and practice. The later chapters, on the current tensions between the Vatican and the Chinese government-run Patriotic Church, are particularly interesting. Now in his 80s and living in California, Wong was reared in Shanghai. His family were Buddhists, but Wong attended the local Jesuit high school, converted to Catholicism, and felt himself called to a religious life. He affectionately recalls his seminary studies in California, his ordination, his return to China in 1946, and his subsequent years of teaching and studying. In 1949, the Communists took over China, and for a while the Party allowed the various denominations to continue their work. By the mid-1950s, however, they began arresting and expelling priests. In 1955, Wong was arrested, interrogated, and could thereafter be addressed only as “1327.” At times the rations he received were so scanty that he could see the metal of the bowl under the grains, but he prayed, visualized happy times in his past, and kept his faith in both God and man. Next he was sent to a prison camp, where he had to work long hours in the rice fields. Without ever being tried or sentenced, Wong would be imprisoned for 25 years, until the Chinese, recognizing that religion could not be quashed, released him in 1980.
Quietly affecting and instructive.