Catholicism in China – it is one of the most interesting news topics that ought to be considered for Catholics in today’s world. With its current booming number of baptized Catholics and history of persecution, China and its Catholicism remain a matter filled with intrigue, misconception, and hopeful discovery: intrigue because of the vast interest and curiosity revolving around the subject, misconception because of the false impressions coming from the world about the lives of Catholics in China (especially regarding the political scheme), and hopeful discovery because of the blessings from God that exist in this country that have yet to be viewed by the world.
For thousands of years, China has been a country that has fascinated the minds of everyone who has come across an image, reading, or film of it. The stark difference of it from the Western world leaves the West with a mixed sense of fear and wonder. Christianity as a whole has largely been associated with the West. To conceive of such a religion in a place far different from the West is a hard concept to grasp by Westerners. Yet, one should keep in mind the origins of Christianity. It has not always existed in such familiar places. It was in Israel that Jesus Christ was born. There it was that Christianity first was born. Egypt for more than 1,500 years has harbored Christians throughout the ever-changing world. If places such as these have been bases for Christianity, is it so farfetched to believe that the same could happen in modern China?
The truth is that Catholicism in China has been on a rapid rise. Large numbers of Chinese agnostics and non-Catholic Christians are becoming baptized Catholics. In China, it is not surprising to find a Mass where fifteen or so adults are being baptized. Yes, adults. Though babies are also baptized, the large number of adults being baptized is a spectacle not often seen in the West. This sweeping wind of adult believers testifies to the honest faith and search for Truth of the Chinese people. Many are seeking what has been missing in their lives and finding it in the Catholic Church. This certainly is a matter of intrigue; a land previously focused on Buddhism, Confucianism, and Communism is now making a move towards Christ. Granted, Catholicism is a minority in this largely secular place, but that is not stopping honest truth-seekers from coming to the Church in the hope of living a better life with God.
Nonetheless, the misconceptions about Catholicism in China tend to prevail. Some may ask if one is allowed to go to Mass in China. The answer is, absolutely. There are numerous Catholic churches spread throughout the country, and each big city will have several of them. They offer Sunday Mass in Chinese regularly and often times in other languages as well. Daily Masses are also celebrated in many parishes. For example, Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai offers two daily Masses per day along with several Sunday Masses, one being in English. Both Chinese natives and foreign visitors come together in church and celebrate the beauty that exists in God. It is a sight to see.
There is great hope for Catholicism in China. Chinese priests in general are quite friendly, down to Earth, and enjoy serving the people in many ways. Most priests sing during different parts of the Mass every Sunday. They sprinkle the people with holy water, use incense, and give thought-out homilies. As far as Mass in China goes, the minimum effort is not the case. The congregation is packed with devout believers who pray and sing. Many, especially elderly people, receive Communion in a very respectful manner. Some of these Chinese Catholics have been Catholic their whole lives, perhaps over eighty years, and are still willing to kneel during the consecration of the Mass. They are quite familiar with Catholic doctrine, the saints, and the pope. The rosary is a daily part of their lives. When one begins to discover the Catholicism that exists in China, there is no doubt that the inspiration to change will be knocking at the door of one’s heart.
Do not be surprised that there are places in our modern world where Catholicism is growing. Although the decline of the Church in the West has led many to forget about Christ, China is giving Christ a home more and more as His name begins to be known by people who want to know Him.