Saints, Feast, Family
- Traditions passed down with Cooking, Crafting, & Caring -
Saint of the day:
Saint Anna Wang
A patron saint of China
Saint Anna Wang ’s Story
In his homily on December 1, 2000, during the canonization of 120 Chinese martyr-saints, our Holy Father specially mentioned this courageous and saintly 14 year old girl, St. Anna Wang. The following is an account of eyewitnesses shortly before and after she offered her life to God.
On July 21, 1900, the Boxer bandits rounded up many Catholics and put them in one room called the East Room in Da Ning Village of Hebei Province. The head of the bandits told the Catholics: "The government does not allow anyone to believe in a foreign religion. You will be freed if you will publicly apostatize (give up this foreign religion); otherwise, you will be killed. Those who wish to apostatize may walk out of this room to the West Room. Someone is there to release you." Among the Catholic faithful were St. Anna Wang, St. Lucia Wang-Wang, her 5-year old daughter, and her 9-year old son, St. Andrew Wang Tianqing. After a while, the stepmother of St. Anna Wang walked to the West Room. Suddenly, she turned back and grabbed St. Anna Wang's arm in an attempt to pull her out of the East Room. St. Anna Wang struggled, holding onto the door frame and refusing to come out of the East Room. She cried out: "I want to believe in God. I want to be a Catholic. I do not want to leave the Church! Jesus, help me!"
The sky was getting darker. The bandits lit up a few candles that were stolen from the church. St. Anna Wong told her companions: "These candles are from the church. Look how beautiful these flames are! However, the glory of heaven is a billion, billion times more glorious than these beautiful flames!" She led everyone in the evening prayers, which turned out to be their last ones.
Next morning, the bandits marched all Catholics to the execution ground. Arriving there, St. Anna Wong led everyone in prayer and made an act of contrition.
Facing the church in the Wei Village and kneeling straightly, she folded her hands and prayed loudly with her eyes looking up the sky. She was radiant and dignified. Suddenly, she appeared to have been transcended to heaven, as if she were no longer in this world. Instead of acting as someone about to be executed, she appeared as if she were in the middle of a celebration.
The head of the bandits was so surprised when he looked at her. He raised his axe, yet stopped in the middle, hesitating and murmuring to himself unintelligently. Finally, he went in front her and appealed to her: "Leave your church now!"
Deep in her prayers, St. Anna Wang did not hear him. The bandit touched her forehead and asked her again whether she wished to deny her faith. St. Anna Wang woke up, took a step backward and screamed: "Do not touch me." After that, she calmed down and said: "I am a Catholic. I will never deny God. It is better for me to die."
The bandit refused to relent, talked to St. Anna Wang again: "If you deny your religion, I will marry you to a very rich family so that you will enjoy good days the rest of your life."
Anna replied with dignity and courage: "I will never leave my religion. Besides, I am already betrothed." Pointing to the Wei village, she continued: "I have been betrothed to the Wei village." In fact, she meant that she had dedicated herself to the Church in the Wei village, which is the bride of Jesus.
Extremely angered, the bandit cut off a piece of flesh from her left shoulder and questioned again: "Are you going to deny your church?" She answered: "No!" The bandit then raised his axe and cut off her left arm. Saint Ann Wang still knelt there, holding her hands towards heaven, smiled calmly and said: "The door of heaven is open" and whispering "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus". Then, she extended her neck. In a flash, her head rolled down to the ground. Like a pure white pigeon, her soul zapped to the kingdom of heaven.
An eyewitness noted: "Strange. After Saint Anna Wong was beheaded, she was still kneeling very straightly and did not fall down until a bandit kicked her body. Even after her holy body fell, she still lay on the ground very straightly."
There was an 80-year old Mrs. Wang Lau. She was a very fervent Catholic, honest and reliable. She knew St. Anna Wang very well. According to Mrs. Lau's account, "When Anna Wang was martyred, I saw her ascending to heaven, wearing a blue and green silk dress with a flower crown on her head. She looks very, very beautiful."
After the execution was over, the bandits put the bodies of ten martyrs together (the names of the other six martyrs are not known), and covered them with dirt. After 15 months, on November 6, 1901, the faithful dug the bodies out for a proper burial, believing that the bodies must have corrupted beyond recognition. However, to the surprise of many, the bodies were incorrupt. They all looked as if they were alive. All those present exclaimed that it must be a true miracle.
The funeral of St. Anna Wang was very grand and solemn. The faithful venerated her as a saint and prayed to her for miraculous cures, which she granted many times. It was also miraculous that her own family all repented. Her grandmother, who once ill-treated her, became a very fervent Catholic and enjoyed a holy death. Her stepmother, who once denied her faith, returned to the Church. Her father also returned to be a faithful Catholic. When he was blind, he prayed to his daughter to regain his sight, but this was not granted. He accepted that as God's wish for him to do more penance on earth for the benefit of his soul. On April 17, 1955, St. Anna Wang was beatified by Pope Pius XII. On October 1, 2000, St. Anna Wong, together with the other 119 martyr-saints, was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Machiazhuang, Weixian, Hebei, China
Chinese Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)
Chinese braised pork belly, or hong shao rou, is one of the most popular dishes in China, and for good reason! Each bite melts in your mouth and explodes with the amazing flavor of the sweet and savory sauce!
1.5 pounds thick pork belly (about 1.5 inches wide; skin on)
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1/2 inch ginger (sliced thin)
2 star anise
10 Szechuan peppercorn (optional if can’t find at grocery store)
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons cooking oil
7 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
In a wide pot or pan, add the three cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (the water level should be at least half the thickness of the pork belly). Add the pork belly and parboil for a minute on each side, just until the exterior is a bit firm. Remove the pork belly to a cutting board, and set the hot water aside (don’t pour it out!)
Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, Szechuan peppercorn, and cinnamon stick to the water and keep over low heat (we need this water to be hot since we will be adding it back to the pork and if it gets cold then it might cause the meat to toughen up)
Cut the pork belly into cubes about 1.5 inches on each side
In a Dutch oven or large pot, start heating up the oil over medium-low heat. Add 3.5 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Let the sugar sit undisturbed until you see it start to melt. Once it starts melting, you can use a single chopstick to mix it up a bit to speed up the melting process
When all the sugar has melted and turned into a dark amber color, add the pork belly. Cook while flipping the pieces for a few minutes until almost every side of each piece is covered with the caramel. Be gentle so you don’t break the pieces!
Add the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine and cook for a minute. Then add the water with all the spices and aromatics. Braise the pork belly over medium-low heat for 2 hours, stirring once every 30 minutes
After 2 hours, the pork should be fully tender. You can check by sticking a chopstick into the meat through the bottom. The chopstick should be able to easily pierce the entire piece. If you want it to be more tender, put the lid back on and keep braising until it reaches your desired tenderness
Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium. Add the remaining 3.5 tablespoons of sugar and mix. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has reduced significantly and thickened up. Stir every few minutes to prevent the meat from burning. You’ll know it’s done when the sauce is thick enough to start sticking to the meat
Remove the meat from the pot and then drizzle with some of the extra sauce. Serve hot with a side of rice and vegetables