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Feast of St. Joseph Freinademetz

Author: Michael Ertl, SVD
Subject: Joseph Freinademetz
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2024
Saint Joseph Freinademetz
Saint Joseph Freinademetz

29th January “Feast of St. Joseph Freinademetz”

Visitors to the birthplace of St. Joseph Freinademetz in Oies often ask why this China missionary from Val Badia was canonized. Apart from the miracles recognized for beatification and canonization, in the case of Joseph Freinademetz it can be said that he lived his life as a man, Christian and priest with extraordinary depth and dedication. Right up to his last days.

So, now I’m ready; now it’s time to go up.” This is what Josef Freinademetz, already suffering from typhoid fever, said when he reached the central house of the Divine Word Missionaries in Taikia on 19 January 1909. Until the day before, he had been in charge of the annual examination at a school for catechists, but now his strength was no longer sufficient. When he was put into a car there, he said to the sick brother accompanying him, “This is the last journey.

For months, parts of South Shantung had been ravaged by a typhoid epidemic, which also claimed the lives of some of the first Steyl missionary sisters. The town of Yenchowfu, where Josef Freinademetz had once again taken over the leadership of the mission during the bishop’s absence, was particularly affected. The sick there were very close to his heart: “When you are ill yourself, you feel what would do you good and we owe the Chinese the same. We have come to serve.

The following day, he made his final instructions. In it, he asked his confreres to forgive him for his mistakes and to remember him at Mass after his death. He assured everyone that he was dying with complete trust in the mercy of the divine heart and the intercession of Mary. After receiving the last rites, he asked that three pictures be placed above his bed. A picture of the Sacred Heart, a picture of a guardian angel and his patron saint, St Joseph.

Saint Joseph Freinademetz
Saint Joseph Freinademetz

In the days that followed, his health deteriorated noticeably. The breviary, which he clung to until the end, had to be taken away from him. Neither a course of Chinese medicine nor the American doctor from the neighbouring Protestant mission who had been summoned were able to alleviate his pain. One by one, confreres from the neighbouring mission stations arrived to bid him farewell and to be blessed by him.

Joseph Freinademetz died on Tuesday 28 January 1908. The Superior General in Steyl, Arnold Janssen, was informed in a telegram: “The worst blow that could hit our mission has hit it today.” A Chinese catechist confesses: “I feel as if I have lost my father and mother.”

In the first biography, which Bishop Augustin Henninghaus published in China in 1920 at the request of the Generalate of the Divine Word Missionaries, the epilogue reads: “It was the simple path of a missionary life that we have followed in our memories. Nothing extraordinary, as some readers might expect, can be found in these pages. We hear nothing of brilliant miracles, nothing of mass conversions such as we encounter in the lives of other apostolic men. Not even of a glorious, bloody martyrdom. The whole character of the man we have dealt with here bears this trait of plain simplicity.

 

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Michael Ertl, SVD
Michael Ertl, SVD

Michael Ertl was born in Germany in 1966. He entered the Congregation of the Divine Word in 1989. After training as a pastoral assistant and professing perpetual vows in St. Gabriel (Vienna), he spent three years in Chile, where he worked in parish and school pastoral. Back in Europe, he spent 14 years in a contemplative community in Belgium and served as novice master in Berlin. From 2018-2022 he was Spiritual Director of the “Centro Ad Gentes” in Nemi. In 2022 he was transferred to ITA and since then he lives in the house of St. Joseph Freinademetz in Oies.

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