In the United States and all countries across the globe, the topic of drug addiction is commonplace on social media, television, and in the news. We may even know someone who has struggled is or is struggling with the tragic disease. As Catholics, we pray for the intercession of saints to ask that they pray on our behalf for deliverance from our vices. Saint Maximilian Kolbe is often asked for intercession on behalf of drug addictions and drug addicts. While not canonized, some may pray to the Venerable Matt Talbot as well. Who else can we pray to for their intercession on behalf of those struggling with drug addiction?
Saint Mark Ji Tianxiang was born the year 1834 in the northern province of Hebei, China. He was raised in a Catholic family and grew up to be a Catholic man of good morals. He went to medical school and became a doctor, treating the poor of his community for free. One day, he came down with a violent case of a stomach illness that left him incapacitated. The common home remedy of the time in China was opium, and while it helped his stomach pain, he also became addicted and dependent on the drug.
Despite his addiction, he continued to pray for deliverance and went to confession often to try and free himself from its grips. Tianxiang struggled for years with his addiction, until finally, his confessor told him to stop coming after so many visits to the confessional. Addiction was not seen a disease in the 19th century, so his confessor thought he had no desire to repent and cease sinning. His confessor had him barred from receiving all sacraments and told Tianxiang to come back when he had the desire to do better.
Tianxiang still struggled with his addiction and decided to continue praying and asking the Lord for deliverance from his affliction. For thirty years, he went to Church daily despite not being able to receive any of the sacraments. For those same thirty years, he remained addicted to opium. He prayed that he may die a martyr as he couldn’t see any other way out of his addiction.
In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion in China turned public opinion in China against Catholics. One day, his family, including his son, two daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren were rounded up by the Boxer Rebels to executed. He begged his captors that he may be executed last, so none of his family had to die alone. One by one, he watched each of his family members beheaded until finally, he was the last left. At the time of his execution, he died singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Saint Mark Ji Tianxiang was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on October 1st, 2000. His individual feast day is celebrated July 7th, while the entirety of the Chinese Martyrs are celebrated on September 28th. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Saints are only sinners who keep trying.”