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Regis Francis Clet

The writings of Francis Regis Clet give evidence that living the Gospel in fidelity is preparation for martyrdom. The courage to die for one's faith flows out of the faithful response to daily responsibilities, great and small.

Practical Approach

At 70 years of age, while Clet was fleeing from his captors, he showed his practicality and his cryptic humor:

I want none of this world's goods, apart from a decent watch; only one of the ones you sent two years ago was any good. The others began by gaining an hour every day, and later two hours; then they all contracted a recurrent fever which led to their deaths, so if you've anything in the line of a decent watch I'd like you to send it along, and some money after it.

Missionary Experience

Clet knew that ministry must be supported by faith, anfidelity in prayer d standards.

I could, of course, be making a mistake (in going to China), but at least I'm in good faith. If God doesn't bless my attempt, I'll cut my losses, admit I was wrong, and in future be more on my guard against the illusions of my imagination or vanity; the experience will teach me a bit of sense.

Conversions of pagans are rare here; they see the scandal of some bad Christians and they refuse to be instructed in a religion so badly lived-up to by those who profess it; these see only the bad and shut their eyes to the vast majority who live lives in keeping with the Gospel ... I could have baptized a far greater number than the 100 adults who were reasonably well instructed. They were strongly urging me to grant them this favor, but they didn't seem well enough prepared.

Since I haven't got the spirit of prayer I don't draw the blessings of heaven on my pastoral work. Having only a mediocre interior life, my pastoral work does not rise above that level.

Be on your guard against indiscreet zeal, wanting to get everything done at once; this ruins a missionary's health and forces him to take time off for convalescence.

I urge you to take care of your health because I've always said that it's better to live for the glory of God than to die for it; and also for the work of the Congregation of which you are a member; this is especially so in China where priests are so scarce.


Despite his admirable qualities which eminently suited him to the role of Superior, Francis Regis Clet found the leadership duty difficult and sought to be relieved.

I've a great dislike of being Superior, but they forced me to accept, in spite of my obvious unsuitability.

I can now die happy since I have a successor who can repair my stupid mistakes and I seriously urge you to make him my replacement pure and simple. I've never had the knack of getting myself either loved or feared; I'm tired of being in charge.

While I am still alive and before fast-approaching death snatches me away to appear before the awesome Judge Who will demand an account of my stewardship, it seems a good idea to pass on some advice to my confreres whose care has been entrusted to me in spite of my unsuitability and reluctance.

What increases my joy and my trust is that you* came without any sinister prejudice against this European with whom you have to live; because of this I am confident there will be complete understanding between us, understanding which will underlie all our plans for the glory of God. If at any time I was to become prejudiced against you, or you against me, from that moment on no more good could be achieved.

*Note: Fr. Song was a Chinese confrere who was difficult for Clet and challenged his leadership, but fortunately saved all Clet's letters for posterity.


During his persecution, Clet was held in 27 different prisons.

In Ho-Nan the mandarins who dealt with me were rather cruel; but the ones here a very kind; they are considerate towards us and invite us to sit down when the Court hearings are too prolonged; on three occasions they got us dinner when they heard we hadn't eaten and once they asked if it was a day of abstinence and when we said no they got us meat.

As I often heard in France of dungeons and gloomy cells where prisoners are locked up until the end of their trial, I feel obliged to give you a brief description of Chinese prisons if only to make Christians blush at being less human than the Chinese toward the unfortunate victims of human vengeance. I can speak from experience.


He frequently declared his unworthiness of martyrdom.

Because of persecution, I see no gleam of hope for martyrdom; anyway, I've no trouble in convincing myself that I don't deserve it.

My life is almost over; I've just been told I'll be executed shortly, perhaps tomorrow. Make sure you don't think of me as a martyr; my imprudence jeopardized both our house in Peking and some Christian communities who are now being persecuted, so I can be thought of only as someone who murdered several souls, who is guilty of want of respect towards God, and who is only getting what he deserves.

Rightly or wrongly I have done the job you gave me; all that's now left is to prepare for dying which attracts me more than living on. I must admit I think I'm better off than you; here I am not far from the harbor, I hope, while you are still out on the open sea. But have confidence; the storms which will toss you about will drive you toward the harbor.

Food for Thought

Catholic universities will be particularly attentive to the poorest and to those who suffer economic, social, cultural or religious injustice. This responsibility begins within the academic community but it also finds application beyond it.

Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (40)