Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

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

72.

Image of St. Veronica

St. Veronica

The woman of Jerusalem who wiped the face of Christ with a veil while he was on the way to Calvary. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ's face." ... continue reading

73.

Image of St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guip˙zcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called I˝igo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to ... continue reading

74.

Image of St. Mark

St. Mark

The second Gospel was written by St. Mark, who, in the New Testament, is sometimes called John Mark. Both he and his mother, Mary, were highly esteemed in the early Church, and his mother's ... continue reading

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Martha

St. Martha

"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, and her brother. Apparently ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day

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 St. Lucy

St. Lucy

Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

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


Image of St. Gabriel, the Archangel

St. Gabriel, the Archangel

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



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Alphege

St. Alphege

Bishop and prophet, called "the Elder" or "the Bald." Also known as Elphege, he was the bishop of Winchester, England. There he ordained St. Dunstan. A holy prophet, Alphege is ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Peter Chanel

St. Peter Chanel

In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day - April 28) The protomartyr of the South Seas, St. Peter Chanel was born in 1803 at Clet in the diocese of Belley, France. His intelligence and ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and

In the Major Legend, St. Bonaventure Points us to St Francis - and the Lord Jesus Christ

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On July 15th in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the life, holiness, work and death of a great Bishop and Doctor named Bonaventure. He was born in 1218, became a Franciscan Friar in 1243, and died in 1274. A friend ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Gospel, John 11:19-27
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 29th, 2014 Image

St. Martha
July 29: "Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter