ARCHBISHOP Dominic Tang SJ, exiled by the Beijing government from his diocese of Canton, has written a brief account of his 22 years in prison from 1958 to 1980, (which has been published by Aidan Publicities and Printing, Flat F, 5/F Yip Cheong Centre, 10 Fung Yip Street, Chaiwam, Hong Kong.) He emerged from prison an emaciated figure, with cancer of the rectum, broken in body, but not in mind and spirit, after 22 years of horrendous and endless interrogations by the Chinese Communists.
Archbishop Dominic Tang SJ foresaw that his vocation to be a bishop was a vocation to be imprisoned, and he prepared himself by asking God for the grace to realise this vocation.
This was the daily pattern he set for his spiritual life. "Every morning, after rising, I recited the prayer of the Apostleship of Prayer, offering the day to God. Then I would say the `Veni Creator' (Come, Creator Spirit) because every day there were many events which needed the light of the Holy Spirit."
"Then I would do half an hour of meditation, meditating on the deeds of Jesus, his miracles; I meditated especially on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. I liked best to meditate on the Passion of Jesus, and to recite some Latin prayers of the Mass which I remembered. (But in the last few years, I remembered very little)."
"I would recite the prayers of Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ and then make a spiritual Communion. This became a habit. No matter whether I was brought for questioning or not, I recited daily 15 decades of the Holy Rosary in place of the Divine Office. I would also recite five more decades asking Our Lady to protect our diocese of Canton. As I had no rosary beads, I had to rely on my fingers for the counting of the beads."
"My favorite prayer was an Ignatian prayer: `Suscipe Domine' Take, 0 Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given them all to me, to Thee I return them, all are thine, dispose of them as Thou wilt."
"Grant me only Thy love and Thy grace, with these I am rich enough and desire nothing more. The devoted son of St Ignatius of Loyola made the Spiritual Exercises the centre of his life and his source of renewal and reform."
"During my imprisonment," he writes, I had sufferings of all kinds: the pain of being alone, interrogations by the judges and the pleading of people could weaken my will. I had to train myself to have an unbending spirit and a firm will. Every day, I resorted to prayer and meditation. If I had to appear for interrogation, I would not miss my prayer or be lax about it; I would find some other time to make it up."
"Every day I said a certain number of prayers and prayed with sincerity and humility. This was the way to train my will and to keep my faith in the truth intact without going away from the right path or losing my faith."
During his 22 years in prison Archbishop Tang never received any letters from relations or friends, and no visitors from the outside world.
In society people help one another. In prison the Archbishop was obliged to face everything alone.
There is a happy ending to his story as in 1981 the Archbishop was received by the Pope on the occasion of his Ad Limina visit, and presented by the Holy Father with a ring on which was the image of Jesus, flanked by Sts Peter and Paul, to replace the episcopal ring stolen from him by his Chinese Communist captors 22 years before.