Biography of Jesuit missionary to China Provides Exemplary Model of Evangelization

‘In this classic, Matteo Ricci and the other Christian missionaries to China truly come alive, reminding all of us that the heart of the New Evangelization still resides in going out of ourselves and boldly proclaiming the loving mercy of Christ, no matter the cost’

Matteo Ricci and Paul Xu Guangqi

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS - Kircher

A new edition of the book, The Wise Man from the West by Vincent Cronin, is the amazing story of the famous Jesuit missionary priest to China, Fr. Matteo Ricci.  He arrived in China in 1582 and died there twenty-eight years later, having developed a deep knowledge of and love for the country, the culture and the people. For this, Fr. Ricci was revered as a “Wise Man” by the Chinese. 

Before Ricci’s heroic mission, China was an unexplored land bordering on the vague, mysterious Cathay, and the West was no more than a rumor to the learned Mandarins, a distant unknown region lying beyond the bounds of geography. In the person of Father Ricci these two worlds met, and Vincent Cronin dramatically recreates the romance, the crossed purposes, and the potential tragedy of that meeting. He shows us ancient China, the timeless state, with a civilization older than that wherein Christianity first found expression.

Because Ricci loved this civilization and honored it, he was able to teach his strange new Christian doctrine with tact and sympathy. He carried much of the technological and philosophical wisdom of the late Renaissance Europe, and thus found favor among the Mandarins, the men of learning who enjoyed high status at the Imperial Court. He learned Chinese to discuss with them the problems in science and technology, and also questions of religion and the hereafter. He lived as a great scholar among great scholars and left behind him a memory worthy of the Christian faith he served. 

Well researched and written with an enchanting style, Cronin relied almost entirely on contemporary material only recently assembled, including Father Ricci’s own letters and reports, and his account of China written in Peking before his death. The seed of Faith was sown and the crop, even after a century of atheistic communism, continues to grow in present-day China.

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., the author of the Foreword of this book, writes, “Matteo Ricci was, by any standards, an extraordinary man. One concludes from reading this riveting book just how pertinent Ricci remains to both modern China and to the Church, ever ancient and ever new.”

The Wise Man from the West is “a delightfully told story of a truly remarkable man,” says Rodney Gilbert of the New York Herald Tribune.

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., the host of EWTN Live, says, “The binoculars of history have brought his life into focus so that Chinese and Western Christians can appreciate both his wisdom and his sanctity and see that both are worthy of emulation. This book focuses us today on someone who may be canonized at last and teach us his brilliant ways to evangelize.” 

“In this classic, Matteo Ricci and the other Christian missionaries to China truly come alive, reminding all of us that the heart of the New Evangelization still resides in going out of ourselves and boldly proclaiming the loving mercy of Christ, no matter the cost,” says Fr. David Meconi, S.J. of St. Louis University.

About the Author:

Vincent Cronin (1924-2011), was a British historical, cultural, and biographical writer, well-known for his many historical biographies and for his two-volume history of the Renaissance. Acclaimed for his scholarly and elegantly written works, he was as one of the finest popular historians of his generation, best known for his biographies of Louis XIV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, and Napoleon.

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