St. Mark Ji
Died: july 7th, 1900
FEast: July 7th
Mark Ji was born in Southeastern China in what is now the city of Hebei in 1834 to a Christian family. He became a doctor, and was well-enough off that he was able to serve patients who could not pay for free. He was loved and well-known within his community until his 30s when he developed a violent stomach illness. He used opium to treat himself for it, which was a common practice at the time, but he soon became addicted. His reputation and respect fell off as this was discovered about him, when addicts at this time and place were treated as a scandal. It was not understood, yet, what addiction does to the mind, and so Mark Ji, believing it was all his fault, went to confession regularly and prayed incessantly for an end to what he was told was a grave sin. After a few years, his priest told him to stop coming to confession until he was able to do something about his problem.
Shunned from his community and likely in a deteriorating position with his family, he still clung to his faith, even if he believed God felt the same was about him as his community did. He continued to attend Mass even though he was not allowed to take Communion for the last 30 years of his life.
In 1900, however, Chinese nationalists rounded up non-Chinese and Christian people, including Mark and his family. They were imprisoned, and many people were unhappy to be near him even in jail, offended by his habits and thinking he might be the first to deny his faith. He was given the chance to be set free if he would renounce his faith, but he would not. As his entire village was put to death, Mark Ji asked only that he could be killed last so that no one else would have to die alone. He reportedly sang the Litany of Mary as he waited to be executed.
Be with us and with the loved ones of all of those who suffer from addiction. Help us to know what to say and do, and when. remind us of God’s mercy and forgiveness that we are called to mirror. May we ever strive to work to end addiction at its sources and causes. Amen.
Mark Ji wears his doctor’s coat and a stethoscope in this image, and he is well-kept, which I found an important thing to portray in an attempt to counter stereotypes about people suffering from addiction. His face is thin, though, as it was a common opium side effect to suffer, and his expression is one of despair. He looks almost confused, wondering why this would be a burden he would be chosen to bear, especially when told it was all his choice, no matter how much he hates it. He carries needles in his coat, hidden almost unnoticeably, just like his shirt printed with poppy flowers, which are the plant that produces opium. Despite his best efforts, though, these are things he cannot hide.