Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jesuits in XVIIth Century China

"We have come from Europe, to this end of the world to join ourselves with the Chinese gentiles and to make with them one Christian body," said Father Manuel Dias (Yang MaNuo), who arrived in the Middle Kingdom the year this blog's namesake died, quoted by Henri-Marie Cardinal de Lubac in Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man.

"What?" questioned Michel Le Tellier, S.J., quoted by and in the same. "If so many learned men believe it is worth their effort to study such subjects as, for example, the origin of Romulus or Aeneas' arrival in Italy or the Dynasties of the Egyptians or the customs of Sparta and Athens and thousands of things like this belonging to antiquity, whose only use is to fill the mind with dry and sterile knowledge, do we believe that it is not worth their curiosity to want to know the spirit and customs of a nation as famous as that of the Chinese, whose Empire, the oldest that has yet been seen, surpasses that of the Romans as much by its magnificence as by the multitude of its subjects?"

"If the Jesuits applied themselves to discover in Chinese history some trace of the religion professed by Noah... ought they not be thanked for it rather than accused of a crime?" asked a contemporary historian. "Did not St. Paul endeavor to extract from the writings of the pagans, and from the midst of idolatry, some enlightenment that he might utilize to disperse their darkness; and following his example did not the holy Fathers do likewise?"

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.