Sunday, November 27, 2011


This Addict Is a Saint
By Jim Manney

Posted: 22 Sep 2011 01:11 AM PDT

"A friend of mine recently sent me a unusual holy card.  It honors St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, a Chinese layman who was murdered in 1900, along with dozens of other Catholics in his village, in the vicious persecution of Christians during the Boxer rebellion.  That’s not the unusual thing.  The Church has canonized many martyrs, including many Chinese martyrs.  What’s unusual about St. Mark is that he was an opium addict who was barred from receiving the sacraments for the last 30 years of his life.

Mark couldn’t receive communion because his addiction was regarded as gravely sinful and scandalous.  He prayed for deliverance from his addiction, but deliverance never came.  Nevertheless he remained a believing Catholic.  At his trial he was given a chance to renounce his faith, but he refused. It is said that he sang the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary as he was led to his execution.

Saints are exemplary people.  The Church creates them so we can learn from them.  So what can we learn from St. Mark Ji Tianxiang?

For starters, he shows that anybody can become a saint—even a man who was kicked out of the church for giving public scandal.  By canonizing him, the Church also signals a different attitude toward addiction than the one St. Mark’s pastors had a century ago.  Drug abuse is sinful, but addiction is also a disease of the mind and body.  Addicts today are not excluded from the sacraments because they are addicts.

I also marvel at St. Mark’s confidence in the mercy of God. He probably shared the village’s opinion of him—that he was serious sinner who was behaving terribly.  He must have felt despair in his futile struggles and perhaps some bitterness too. But he persevered in his faith.  I suspect that in his brokenness he met the suffering Christ.  In the end, he went to his death confidently, trusting that love would receive him.  May we all imitate St. Mark."

And may we all, IF POSSIBLE, put down the opium BEFORE we get martyred.

From Ignatian Spirituality. See also "The Addict Saint," by Max Lindenman (from which I cribbed the top photo). 



  1. I wonder if Francis Thompson, the English Catholic poet, might be considered another "addict saint" -- his poetry, if not his life, has certainly received the blessing of holy Church (despite some esthetic flaws)!

    But yes, may we all be given the grace to become un-addicted to whatever "drug" (actual or metaphorical) hinders our ability to receive God's gift of life!

  2. Ever since I read Max's NCR post about St. Mark-the-Drug-Addict, I have been asking St. Mark's help for a particular person.

    I just that St. Mark doesn't mind being petitioned every day, "St. Mark-the-Drug-Addict, please help ______ because you well know the struggle." !!! (because I have no idea how to pronounce St. Mark's last name)

  3. Unrelated to this post, but I wish you'd release what got cut from Shirt of Flame as an ebook! I'd like to read the unexpurgated version!

  4. ha ha, thanks, Dan--being an inveterate hoarder/recycler, nothing that's remotely any good ever gets thrown away in my literary "household"...a lot of the stuff has found its way, one way or another, into the blog. And whatever the book got winnowed down to I'm more or less happy with. The cover not so much, but the contents are probably just about "right"...

    I am thinking, though, of self-publishing a 7000-word plus piece on (yet another cheery subject) my experience with/healing from (20 years after the fact) abortion...and of course there's my went-against-medical-advice breast cancer LOTS more fun ahead, no matter which way you cut it!...thanks for the support...


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