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Brother Peter: A Tortured Chinese Catholic Monk

May 22, 2010

Another Facebook find, this time from Catholic Global Network.

(The first half of the video is narrated, the second half is just instrumental.)

But his story doesn’t end here. Brother Peter was released and he came to America. He has written two books, an autobiography and a book of poems, available at Salve Regina Books & Gifts. The text from this site follows:

Dawn breaks in the Eastis the autobiography of Br. Peter Zhou Bangjiu, O.S.B., a Chinese Benedictine monk who was arrested by the Communist Chinese Government in 1956 and served 25 years in Chinese prisons and labor-reform camps for his faith and loyalty to the Pope. Presumed dead, Br. Zhou was joyfully reunited with his Benedictine family in 1985 and is now a member of a Benedictine monastery community near Los Angeles.

This is the heartbreaking yet also heartwarming account of his prison life in China.

The author looked upon his prison hardships, humiliations and torture as the three men in the Old Testament Book of Daniel (Dan. 3:13-29) who were thrown in the furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar but escaped unscathed while joined by a fourth man, singing songs of praise . Br. Zhou suffered joyfully with God for His glory and the salvation of souls, while he sang praises to Him in classical Chinese poetry. His enduring faith and loyalty to the Church in the face of intense suffering permeates this book.

Br. Zhou’s story will move readers to tears and bring them closer to God.

In prison, Br. Zhou composed 2,000 poems, where without pen or paper, each poem was committed to memory. He began the work of recalling them from memory after being reunited with the Benedictines in America, and has had many translated into English.

The second book in this set, The Mountain Pierces the Blue Sky , is a collection of 175 poems spanning the years 1960 to 1993, of which the first 56 were composed in Chinese prison. The poems are beautifully translated into English. Some of the Chinese original poems also appear in the book in Chinese calligraphy personally rendered by Br. Zhou.

In the words of Br. Zhou (Dawn breaks in the East pg. 78):

Poetry seemed the most suitable tool to express …feelings and ideas.

Chinese classical poetry in particular seemed to me a passionate and beautiful literary style to express one’s emotions and ideas. This literary style had been used for centuries to express sorrows and joys, partings and reunions, to pour out sentiments and complaints, to paint the scenery of wind, flowers, snow and moon, to picture the tender feelings of a man and a woman.

Why should this literary form be used only for these things? Why should we not also use it to praise God and let it serve the cause of man’s salvation? Insofar as even nature, by its goodness, traces day and night the Creator, why should not poetry with its meters also give praise to God and thus participate in this grand mission.

Indeed, why not?  

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