Stalin — a murderer of at least 20 million people — once said, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." In mid-19th-century China, a civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion cost upwards of 30 million lives.
The July 9 feast of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions is a reminder that the persecution of Christian missionaries and native Chinese, which began in the mid-17th century, continues into our time. Augustine had been a soldier assigned as a prison guard for the French missionary bishop Louis Gabriel Dufresse, whose martyrdom in Chengdu moved Augustine to request baptism.
Thereafter, Augustine became a priest and was ultimately tortured and killed in 1815. Later, in the Boxer Rebellion, 30,000 Christians would be slaughtered.
There are magnificent witnesses in China today (a premier example is Cdl. Zen, still indomitable at the age of 88). The insouciance with which some timorous Western ecclesiastics have cast a blind eye to the persecution of the Catholics in China will be remembered as a dark blot on the history of our time.
Mao killed at least 40 million. His "Cultural Revolution," which executed upwards of 3 million, excited mobs of youths as agents of government repression. Monuments of ancient culture were destroyed. These included nearly 7,000 priceless works of art in the Temple of Confucius alone as part of the frenzied attack on the so-called Four Olds: Old Customs, Old Habits, Old Culture and Old Ideas.
In our own country, the debutant-ish radicalism of hysterical youths (whose misguided idealism makes a venomous brew when mixed with poor education) is exploited by more sinister strategists. James Madison described such mobs as "united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."
Young people, eager to condemn the immorality of forebears while exulting in their own undisciplined lives, recently pulled down a statue of St. Junípero Serra. It was reminiscent of the attack on the Franciscan mission in Alta, California on Nov. 4, 1775, when 600 native warriors pierced the friar Fr. Luis Jayme with 18 arrows as he called to them, "Love God, my children!"
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the one Iraqi combatant to receive the Medal of Honor, has said that our universities are turning out "Peter Pan" adolescents who would profit better if they joined the Army, where they would be taught how to be adults.
After the destruction of the statue of St. Junípero Serra, the wise archbishop of San Francisco did not issue any polemics. He simply went to the site of the vandalism and said the exorcism prayer of St. Michael. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12).