Saint Francis Regis Clet

A short sentence in the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) (4:12), taken by Francis Regis Clet to encourage his missionary confreres to a profound experience of fraternity and as a support in their mission, can also be used as a synthesis of his life: A three-ply cord is not easily broken. He was a man of his time, a believer with a strong faith, a missionary (in China) to the end.

1748, 19 August Birth
1769, 6 March Entrance in the Congregation of the Mission
1773, 27 March Ordination
1792, 15 October Arrival inChina
1820, 18 February Death by strangulation on a cross
1900, 27 May Beatification
2000, 1 October Canonization with 119 Chinese martyrs
18 February Feast day

Francis Regis was the tenth of fifteen children in the family of César and Claudine Clet.

The steps of his life – student with the Jesuits in Grenoble, Diocesan Seminarian, brilliant student, response to the call of the Congregation of the Missionin Lyon – were only the steps that Providenceopened for the “three-ply cord” to grow and develop.  He was professor of theology at Annecy, Superiorof the Community and later, Director of the Internal Seminary of the Congregation of the Missionin Paris.

The storms of the Revolution only strengthened the roots of the “three-ply cord” of the life of Francis Regis.  From the moment he took the boat for Chinain April 1791 – only arriving in Kiang-Si in October of 1792 – he knew where the Lord was leading him.  For nearly thirty years he was entirely consecrated to the Chinese mission and adapted to the new lifestyle as well as a difficult language. The situation was dangerous because of persecutions and he had to avoid being recognized.

Francis Regis was imprisoned in Jinjiagang and later at Nan-Yang-Fou.  After months of suffering he was condemned to death. False witnesses were brought: “You came to Chinasecretly, you have perverted numerous people by preaching your doctrine, and according to the law, you must be strangled to death.”  Francis Regis died near Ou-Tchang-Fou.  In his suffering unto the cross he was able to think of his Master and discover the meaning of his path which gave him the strength to go to the end.

The Motherhouse of the Congregation of the Missionpreserves his body to teach today’s sons of Saint Vincentwhere they are to go, how generously they are to live, never forgetting that “in life as in death, we belong to the Lord.”  (Rm 14 :8)