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St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre

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Missionary and martyr, born at Puech, Diocese of Cahors, France, 6 January, 1802; martyred at Ou-Tchang-Fou, China, 11 September, 1840.

Jean-Gabriel was one of eight children born to Pierre Perboyre and Marie Rigal. By reason of his piety, he was the model of his companions during his childhood. While acting as companion to his younger brother, in the preparatory seminary of Moutauban, he felt the Divine call to the priesthood, and after obtaining the consent of his father to take the step, he entered the noviciate of the Congregation of the Mission, in the seminary of Montauban, December, 1818. On the feast of the Holy Innocents, 1820, he made the four vows of the Vincentians. He was raised to the priesthood, 23 September, 1825, in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity, by Bishop Dubourg, of New Orleans, and on the following day he said his first Mass. Shortly after, he was sent to the seminary of Saint-Flour to teach dogmatic theology, and two years later, he was appointed superior of the preparatory seminary of Saint-Flour. His great sanctity and marvellous success induced his superiors, in 1832, to appoint him subdirector of the novitiate in Paris. He continued in this office until 1835, when he had sought and begged and prayed for, permission to go to China, there to preach, to suffer, and to die. He left Havre on 21 March, and on 29 August, 1835, arrived at Macao, where he spent some time studying the Chinese language. On 21 December, 1835, he began his journey to Ho-Nan, the mission assigned him. In January, 1838, he was transferred to the mission of Hou-Pé, in which, as in that of Ho-Nan, he laboured zealously and with great success. In September, 1839, the persecutions against Christians broke out in Hou-Pé, and Jean-Gabriel was one of the first victims. The events leading to his death bear a striking resemblance to the Passion and Death of Christ. A neophyte, like another Judas, betrayed Jean-Gabriel for thirty ounces of silver. He was stripped of his garments and clothed with rags, bound, and dragged from tribunal to tribunal. At each trial, he was treated inhumanly, tortured both in body and in soul. Finally, he was taken to Ou-Tchang-Fou, and after unparalleled tortures, was condemned to death. The sentence was ratified by an imperial edict, and on 11 September, 1840, Jean-Gabriel was led to death with seven criminals. The holy priest was strangled to death on a cross.

[Jean-Gabriel was declared Venerable by Gregory XVI in July, 1843, beatified by Leo XIII on 9 November, 1889, and canonized by John Paul II on 2 June, 1996. His feast is celebrated on 11 September. -- Ed. ]

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