Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Facts

Birth: 1910

Death: 1949

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


Bl. Maurice Tornay Comments



More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

34.

Image of St. Luke

St. Luke

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about ... continue reading | shop

35.

Image of St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born as Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894, in the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. He was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar and a martyr in the ... continue reading | shop

36.

Image of St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist was a contemporary of Christ who was known for evangelization and his baptizing of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was born through the intercession of God to Zachariah and ... continue reading | shop

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Paschal

St. Paschal

Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He studied at the Lateran, was named head of St. Stephen's monastery, which housed pilgrims to Rome, and was elected Pope to succeed Pope Stephen IV (V) on ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day
February 2016
S M T W T F S
123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
2829

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

An elder Mexican man makes his way to Mass in the early morning twilight of December 9, 1531. He is a peasant, a simple farmer and laborer, and he has no education. Born under Aztec rule, he is a convert to Catholicism, and each step he takes this morning is a step ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. John the Apostle

St. John the Apostle

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist St. John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee and Salome, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. John was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry. He is considered the same person as John the ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Ado of Vienne

St. Ado of Vienne

An archbishop and scholar, Ado was born in Sens and educated at the Benedictine abbey of Ferrieres. Abbot Lupus Servatus, an outstanding humanist of the time, trained Ado, and was impressed with the obvious holiness of the young man. A noble by birth, Ado renounced his ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of St. Agnes is honored with the blessing of two lambs (Wordpress).

Pope Francis continues tradition of blessing two lambs in memory of St. Agnes

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On Thursday Pope Francis celebrated St. Agnes' feast day in the Vatican by continuing the centuries-old tradition of blessing two lambs in her honor. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Traditionally, the lambs blessed on January 21 are under a year old and their first ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Is Valentine's Day...? (Take the quick survey!)
  • Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey
  • Stations of the Cross - Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother HD Video
  • Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?
  • St. Paschal: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Palm Sunday HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:22-25
22 He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 11th, 2016 Image

St. Paschal
February 11: Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He ... Read More