Billeder på siden

of the universe. It is for us, peoples of a more advanced civilization and a more fundamental religious faith, to show them that the ethical bases for such a society and such a position in the brotherhood of nations must rest on deeper foundations than any in Confucius' noble system, and bring them to discover for themselves the one foundation that has been laid, Jesus Christ, the Righteous.



By Rev. Father Leo Desmet, for Thirteen Years a Missionary

in Mongolia The Chinese Empire is divided into five ecclesiastical regions, and each region is subdivided into vicariates apostolic corresponding to our American dioceses.

Vicariates are presided over by vicars apostolic, who bear the title of bishop, but are directly dependent on the Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome.

The vicars apostolic of each region meet together every five years, to discuss the problems of administration, education and propaganda, and to ensure uniformity of method and discipline in the different vicariates. The result of their deliberations is sent to the Congregation of the Propaganda which appoints a commission to examine the proposed regulations. When approved the rules suggested become law for the missions represented.


Generally speaking the central organization of each vicariate is at the bishop's residence about which are grouped, as in the early ages, the higher educational institutions, namely the high school, the training school, the seminary.

In these schools the teachers aim to give the pupils a thorough knowledge of Chinese literature so that they may compare favorably with those of the public schools. Through the adoption of modern methods and text books, the pupils learn now-a-days as much Chinese in one year as they formerly did in three.

Outside the Chinese literature the course embraces bible history, church history, apologetics, history of China, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, Latin and French or English. Mathematics, physics and chemistry appeal most strongly to the positive mind of the Chinese, and no punishment is so much dreaded by the pupils, as exclusion from these classes."

The best disposed and most intelligent among the students become priests. The others who wish to stay in the service of the mission are sent to the training school where they are educated to be teachers or catechists.

The eloquence, resourcefulness and wit of these catechists is astonishing. Traveling with the missionaries, they were asked questions at night in the inns, concerning the missions, their scope and the reasons of Christian belief. It was a real delight to us to listen to their explanations, with their peculiar Chinese arguments and comparisons. The foundation of numerous conversions was laid by these familiar conversations which often were protracted late into the night.

Candidates for the priesthood have to spend two years on philosophical and three years on theological studies. Before being ordained, they have to work as catechists for one year under the direction of a missionary.

I remember that one day, when the doctor of the French legation in Peking came to my residence to study the bubonic plague, as he did not speak Chinese he held a long conversation in Latin with one of our Chinese priests. He was surprised at the ease with which the latter used that language.

Formerly no school instruction was provided for Chinese girls, except in some wealthy families who hired private teachers. If I am not mistaken the Catholic missionaries were the first to open schools for them. Although instruction was rather elementary, it enabled them to read in their difficult idiom the prayer book, the catechism of Christian doctrine, the bible history and other religious books.

"I find in the Calendrier annuaire of the Observatory of Zikawei (Shang Hai) twenty pages devoted to the meteriological observations made by the seminarians of Sung shu tsui, tze, East Mongolia: Wind, temperature, atmospheric pressure, rainfall and some special phenomena as rain and snow by clear weather, yellow wind were observed with great accuracy for three years.

To spread that instruction, the bishops have organized training schools for young women where they are taught something of the Chinese classics, and drilled in the principles of Christianity and the methods of presenting it. A great number of these young students become nuns and devote themselves to the care of the orphans, the teaching in girls schools, and the instruction of the new converts of their own sex.


Each vicariate is divided into districts, at the head of which is one of the more experienced missionaries. He is a consultor of the bishop and inspector of the different parishes; he makes up the statistics, distributes the money for the different works and takes care of the relations with the Chinese authorities. Very often he has to interfere in law suits. By the treaties, the Christians are free from local taxes imposed for purposes of the pagan religion such as building and repairing of pagodas, and holding theatrical performances in thanksgiving to the gods. Around old Christian centers, the non-Christians know and respect this exemption, but in the newer missions they often force the converts to pay these assessments. Should the latter refuse they are subjected to a thousand petty persecutions. The missionary tries first to settle the trouble on the spot, but this is often impossible, and then he must appear in court. On account of the many law-suits thus initiated the dean of the district is alone allowed by the bishop to have official relations with the mandarins. He generally knows the Chinese character well, and is not easily deceived by false reports.


Subdivisions of the district are known as parishes. In these are located a residence for one or more missionaries, a church, a school for boys, one for girls and often an orphanage. In Mongolia the parishes covered a large territory. Mine had an extension of 600 square miles: there lived


scattered among the pagans a Christian population of 1400 in 21 hamlets. The missionaries visit each village three times every year. The most important of these visits is in winter when the people are unemployed. According as the number and needs of our flock demanded, we remained in a village from four days to three weeks, holding service every morning and evening and preaching at each service.

In some hamlets is a chapel, with adjoining room for the priest to lodge in. Generally however we held services in some Christian home. Every traveler in Mongolia knows these Chinese houses: floor of clay, straw thatched roof, walls of mud mixed with straw, small square window set with paper instead of glass. No bed is in the room, but instead a kʼang that is a sort of oven or platform 2 feet high, underneath which passes the smoke from the kitchen fire on its way to the chimney. In winter with the k'ang as heating apparatus, with a sheep-skin coat, a fur cap and felt boots one could manage not to freeze. Life was pretty hard on these visits, especially on account of the uncleanness of the people, and we generally got acquainted with more than one kind of vermin.

During the day each Christian came to the priest to be examined on Christian doctrine and practice. After the evening service many Christians and pagans came to converse with the priest. The conversation covered such matters as Chinese customs of interest to us, and of western topics of interest to them. They asked questions about the different countries, the forms of government, the administration of the laws, the condition of the people, the charitable institutions, and the modern inventions; railroads, steamers, electric light, telephone, telegraph, etc.

Time spent in answering their sometimes childish questions was not lost: the people were made to feel more at home with the priest, their curiosity to learn of far off lands and happenings gave him a chance to explain the worth of Christian civilization. The close contact with his Christians, the personal interest he takes in each one of them (he knows them all by name) account for the attachment of the converts to their missionaries.

« ForrigeFortsæt »