Beatified By: Pope John Paul II
A native of Valais, Switzerland, and the child of solid Catholic parents, Maurice Tornay early showed a disposition to piety and prayer. After secondary school, he joined the Canons Regular of Grand St. Bernard. This is the order best known for its ancient Alpine monastery on the Swiss-Italian border, whose members are alert to rescue of snowbound transalpine travelers. It is they, of course, who breed as their "assistants" the famous St. Bernard dogs.
These canons-regular also engage in wider missionary work. In 1936 Maurice asked to be assigned to their Chinese missions. It was at Weixi, Yunnan, China, that he finished his theological studies and received training in the local languages.
Ordained a priest in 1938, Father Maurice was assigned to educate the boys of the minor seminary at Houa-Lo-Pa. To do this he had to become, as he wrote home, both a mother and father to the students, teaching them how to dress, how to kneel down, and how to pray. Back in Switzerland he had suffered from stomach ulcers and followed a special diet. Once in the mission field he skipped the diet and ate the same food as his pupils.
In the spring of 1945, Father Tornay, at his own request, was named pastor of Yerkalo. The Yerkalo parish was the only one in all mountainous Tibet. Tibet, at that date, was a self-ruling country. Strongly Buddhist, it was dominated both in religion and in politics by local lamas (Buddhist monks); and these were naturally not fond of Christian missionaries. Fr. Maurice nonetheless braved the dangers involved. He sought in every way to become a Tibetan among Tibetans, showing great zeal for his flock.
He had not been at Yerkalo many months when the local lamas struck out against him. They broke into his residence, confiscated the church and rectory, and forced him into exile.
Fr. Tornay took up temporary residence in Pame, China. Many of his parishioners came through Pame on business, so he was able to keep informed on the situation "back home". Through them he learned, to his grief, of the persecution of his little flock. The lamas not only prevented them from assembling for prayer but tried to force them to apostatize from the Christian faith.
As a shepherd deeply grieved by the trials of his sheep, Father Maurice did his best to hearten and protect them. By messages sent back to them through travelers, he encouraged his Catholic Tibetans to stand firm in Christianity. He also asked the Apostolic Nuncio and authorities accredited to the government to give what help they could. Meanwhile he wrote to his confreres entreating their prayers for the people of Yerkalo. As Pope John Paul II observed in the beatification homily, Father Maurice "in the spirit of his order, in which everyone risks his life to save people from storms, tried every means possible to rescue these pilgrim Christians of the "Asiatic Alps"".
Finally, Father Tornay decided to go to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to seek audience with the ruling monk of the country, the Dalai Lama. He intended to beg from him an edict of tolerance that would protect Tibetan Christians in their free exercise of religion.
Unfortunately, the lamas who had ousted Tornay from Yerkalo discovered his plans and determined to thwart them, ambushing him and his servant on August 11, 1949, and killing them in cold blood.
Biography Provided By: Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish
Born in Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, on October 16 1890; her farmworker father moved his family to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio. Her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her ... continue readingMore Saint of the Day
St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sin even more than death! Since she was very ... continue readingMore Female Saints
St. Michael the Archangel - Feast day - September 29th The name Michael signifies "Who is like to God?" and was the warcry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against satan and his followers. Holy Scripture describes St. Michael as "one of the chief ... continue reading
The name Gabriel means "man of God," or "God has shown himself mighty." It appears first in the prophesies of Daniel in the Old Testament. The angel announced to Daniel the prophecy of the seventy weeks. His name also occurs in the apocryphal book of Henoch. He was the ... continue reading
St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 ... continue reading
By Justin Soutar
During his visit to the United States this coming September, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the heroic 'Apostle of California.' Once that happens, the Golden State will have its own patron saint and the Church will have another great missionary role ... continue readingMore Christian Saints & Heroes