Taken from “The Hidden Child of Medjugorje” by Sister Emmanuel
When God called His servant Fulton Sheen back to Himself, in 1979, millions of Americans mourned his death as if they had been left orphans. For years, he used every possible means to reach hearts through media, and soaking in every word of his, the people were fascinated. Gifted with a rare charisma, he was a blend of natural eloquence and the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, through his witness, people knew that God was alive, magnificent and desirable. Archbishop Sheen shone so brightly that TV channels were fighting over him, knowing that his broadcast would shatter all ratings on record. His popular show, “Life Is Worth Living,” reached about thirty million viewers every week.
This Archbishop, master of evangelization, had a secret. Like all truly great men of God, he privately cherished a chance of revelation in his life. It was an episode when an abundance of grace had floored him, and set him on a path from which he would not deviate for anything in the world. To understand that experience, we have to transport ourselves back to China in the 1950’s, at the peak of the Communist crackdown . . .
The Tiny Steps of a Child
In a parochial school, children diligently recited their prayers. Sr. Euphrasia was pleased because two months ago, many of the children had received their First Communion, and took it very seriously; from the bottom of their hearts. She smiled as ten year old little Li asked: “Why didn’t the Lord Jesus teach us to say ‘Give us our daily rice?’” It was a very difficult question to answer, since these children ate rice morning, noon and night.
“Well, it’s that ‘bread’ means ‘Eucharist’,” answered Sr. Euphrasia, whose heart radiated much brighter than her theology. “You ask the good Jesus for daily Communion. It’s true that for your body, you need rice. But for your soul, which is worth much more than your body, you need bread. That is the Bread of Life!”
In May 1953, when Li made her First Communion, she had asked Jesus in her heart: “Always give me that daily bread so that my soul can live and be healthy!” Since then, Li had received Holy Communion everyday, but she was aware of the fact that the “bad people” (the Godless Communists) could prevent her from receiving Christ at any time. So she prayed ardently that it would never happen.
She would never forget the day they entered the classroom and screamed at the children: “Right now-give us all of your idols!” Li knew very well what they meant. Terrified, the children gave up their pious, carefully hand-painted images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. Then, in a fit of anger, the Captain pulled the Crucifix off the wall, threw it down to the ground and trampled it screaming: “The New China will not tolerate these grotesque superstitions!”
Little Li, who loved her picture of the Good Shepherd so much, attempted to conceal it in her blouse. It was the special image given to her for her First Communion. But a loud slap on her cheek sent her crashing to the floor. The Captain called Li’s father and humiliated him before tying him up with a rope.
That same day, the police made a sweep of the village, cramming all the inhabitants they could find into the tiny church. The Captain proceeded to bark out a new kind of “sermon” ridiculing the missionaries and the “agents of American imperialism.” Then, with a thundering voice, he ordered the soldiers to fire at the tabernacle. All together and at once, the congregation drew a long breath and increased the intensity of their prayers.
The Captain turned back to the crowd and screamed: “Let’s see how your Christ can defend Himself – here’s what I think of your ‘Real Presence’ – the Vatican’s trick to exploit all you people!” Saying this, he grabbed the ciborium and threw all the Hosts onto the tile-floor. Stunned, the faithful shrank away from his gaze and choked their cry. Little Li froze in horror.
“Oh, no,” she thought. “Look what happen to the Bread!” Her innocent and righteous little heart bled for the Hosts strewn all over the ground. “Isn’t anyone going to help Jesus?” she wondered in amazement. The Captain continued his tirade of insults, interrupting his blasphemy only to let out spurts of guttural laughter. Li silently wept.
“Now, get out!” yelled the Captain. “And woe to the one who dares to return to this den of superstition! He’ll answer to me!”
The church quickly emptied. But besides the angels always present around Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to adore Him, there stood another witness who had not missed a moment of the drama. It was Father Luke from the Missions Etrangeres (Foreign Missions). One month previously, foreseeing the takeover of the village, the parishioners had hidden him in a small recess of the choir, which gave him a view of the church. He sank into prayers of atonement for the sacrileges committed against Jesus and suffered because he was not able to come to Jesus’ defense: one wrong move on his part, and the parishioners who had hidden him would be arrested for treason.
“Lord, have mercy on Yourself,” he prayed in anguish. “Stop this sacrilege! Lord Jesus!”
Suddenly, a creaking sound broke the heavy silence in the church. Slowly, softly, the door opened. It was little Li! Barely ten years old, there she was, approaching the altar with the tiny steps of a Chinese girl. Father Luke trembled: she could be killed at any moment! Unable to communicate with her, he could only watch and beg all the saints in Heaven to spare this child. The little girl bowed for a moment and adored in silence, just as Sr. Euphrasia had taught her. She stayed with Jesus in adoration for one hour, knowing that she was supposed to prepare her heart before receiving Him. Her hands joined together, she whispered a mysterious prayer to her dear Jesus – mistreated and abandoned. His eyes glued to her, Father Luke stared as she lowered herself down to her hands and knees; and with her tongue, took up one of the Hosts. She remained there on her knees, eyes closed, turned inward face to face with her Heavenly Friend.
Each second seemed an eternity to Father Luke. He feared the worst. If only he could speak to her! But soon the child went out just as quietly as she had come in, almost hopping along.
The purging continued as the volunteer brigade searched the entire village and surrounding area. This type of terror was happening all across “New China.” The peasants didn’t dare to move. Hiding in their bamboo homes, they knew nothing about the future and couldn’t take tomorrow for granted. Yet, every morning our little Li slipped away to find her Living Bread in the church. Reproducing the same scenario from the previous day, each time she adored for one hour and then took up one Host with her tongue and disappeared. Father Luke was chomping at the bit: Why didn’t she take them all? He knew exactly how many there were: thirty-two. “Doesn’t she know she could pick up several of them at once?” he thought.
No, she didn’t know. Sr. Euphrasia had been very clear about that: “One Host per day is enough. And never touch the Host; we receive it on the tongue!” The little girl perfectly conformed to the rules.
One day there remained on the ground only one more Host. At daybreak, the child scurried into the church as usual and drew near to the altar. She knelt to the ground to pray, very close to the Host. Father Luke had to muffle a cry. Suddenly a soldier, standing in the doorway, aimed his gun at her. A single dry pop was heard, followed by a loud burst of laughter. The child immediately collapsed. Father Luke thought she was dead, but no! He watched her struggle and crawl up to the Host, he saw her put her tongue over it. Then, a few convulsions shook her body, before it finally relaxed.
Little Li was dead – but not before she had rescued all the Hosts!
Holy Hour, Every Day
Archbishop Fulton Sheen revealed a secret at the age of 84, two months before he passed away, during an interview on national television. “Your Excellency,” began the interviewer, “you have inspired millions of people world-wide; what about you, who has inspired you? Was it a Pope?”
“It was neither a pope, nor a cardinal or any other bishop- not even a priests or a nun! The one who has inspired me was a small ten year old Chinese girl.”
It was then that Archbishop Sheen revealed his intimate secret by telling the story of little Li. He explained how the love this little child had for Jesus in the Eucharist so impressed him that, on the day he first heard it, he made a promise to the Lord that every day of his life, until death, come what may, he would spend one hour in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Archbishop not only kept his promise, but he never missed a chance to promote the Love of Jesus in the Eucharist. Tirelessly, he invited the faithful to spend a daily Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament. For him, there wasn’t a shadow of doubt: it was this unknown and poor child from remote, rural China who was the spark that had ignited this immensely fruitful apostolate.
On that day, in front of their TV screens, all America understood that millions of hearts touched by this great preacher had also been touched by little Li. It was this innocent child with her thirty-two heroic visits to Jesus scattered all over the floor, who paved the way for him to lead millions to adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Behind the blossoming of many Consecrations, vows and vocations inspired by the most popular American prelate there was the little Chinese martyr and her union in blood with the Lamb.
Sister Emmanuel writes in her book, The Hidden Child:
Dearest Little Li, if I have dedicated this book to you, it is because you are my favorite hero! But I have to admit that I have another interest in doing so: you are not finished yet! Look, there aren’t just thirty-two Hosts lying on the tiles any more, but thousands and millions!
Every day Jesus is shot at, laughed at and trampled upon. The number of sects that profane the Eucharist is growing. In almost ever parish, every Sunday, there are a few Catholics who receive Communion even as they live in grave sin, those sins that the Bible refers to as “abominations” and that kill the soul. Jesus is tortured today as never before, Little Li. (Not to mention the indifference of so many “chosen ones” who become absorbed in the world’s affairs, oblivious of the immense love that Jesus has for them.) In France, so many tabernacles have been abandoned, covered in dust! And sometimes, if someone wants to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, a locked door meets him. In America, tabernacles have often been banished to some corner of the church, if not into the sacristy. Sometimes, we can’t even find a kneeler, and woe to him who dares to go down on his knees during Consecration; it’s unacceptable and may be grounds for exclusion from some churches.
How many Sr. Euphrasias do we still find teaching Catechism? Most children are so ill-prepared to know and love Jesus. It is so rare in families to hear parents speak openly of Jesus as they would of their greatest friend. On the contrary, they ignore Him, and so, children believe that He does not really exist and get lost in atheism.
I could go on and on but, surely from Heaven, you can see so much better than I can. You aren’t done Little Li! The truth is, when you lived your martyrdom in China, you were just beginning! Come help us! As you stood by Archbishop Sheen, come and stand by every priest today, every bishop, every ordained minister and each Christian person. Reveal to us the hidden Child, your great friend! Transmit to us your unadulterated love for Jesus, that radical and tender love of your innocent heart.