Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It is truly rare to take someone out of their element and to have them respond so effectively, so quickly. It is even more rare to have someone voluntarily leave the life they are so used to and settle somewhere so foreign to them. Father Thierry Meynard shared with his audience how special someone like that really is when he lectured about Matteo Ricci, a sixteenth century Italian Jesuit three weeks ago. The event was titled “The Legacy of Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Mission in China" and chronicled the efforts of Ricci and the Jesuit China Mission. Although he lived healthily in Italy, Ricci happily packed his bags and made the permanent move to China where he took part in mission work until his death.

Matteo Ricci’s goal was not to evangelize China, but to aid China by linking the knowledge, science, and culture of the West with the East. Ricci was a well-respected and highly educated man in Italy, however he applied to do missionary work in 1577. It was 1582 when he led a group of Jesuits into China to share the Western ideas of science, art, and math to the imperial court. In their most prominent times, Ricci and his men were considered valuable to the emperor, manning many important positions in China. While it was not the Jesuit China Mission’s goal, they proved highly influential as many Chinese converted to Christianity, becoming priests and other members of the Church. Honestly what man does this? I know I would not be able to do so. Ricci declined potential personal wealth to provide wealth to foreigners. Matteo Ricci’s decisions and actions lets it known that his soul and approach to life was just as his name sounds, rich.

Another man in our readings that I felt was like Matteo Ricci was Shane, who shares a similar story as both men left the comforts of their lives to assist others. Like Ricci was figuratively adopted by the Chinese, Shane was adopted by the Starrett family and helped Joe maintain his farm for several months. While Shane’s true identity as a cowboy involves riding from town to town, he settled down with the Starrett’s and became a farmer. Shane even said, "I never figured to be a farmer, Starrett. I would have laughed at the notion a few days ago. All the same, you've hired yourself a hand." (40). Shane demonstrated his true character when he accepted Joe’s request to work with him. Shane’s gesture implies that while he has the free mind of a cowboy, he has a loyal heart. From the very beginning, the Starrett family demonstrated compassion and respect towards Shane, and he responded with the same approach. Like Bob and Marian came to realize, Shane only looks violent and rugged on the outside, while internally he is a civil and kindhearted man. Joe came to realize this early, as he said to Marian at the end of chapter 1, "He's dangerous all right." Father said it in a musing way. Then he chuckled. "But not to us, my dear. In fact, I don't think you ever had a safer man in your house" (10).

Matteo Ricci and Shane’s ability to efficiently adapt to new situations, especially ones that are unpopular at first thought, proves their significance as people. Ricci had a promising life in Italy as he was very well educated, a rarity at the time. With his knowledge, he could have made a financially successful life for himself, but declined the idea to benefit the world. Shane on the other hand left his “on the go” lifestyle as a cowboy to give the Starrett’s stability in their lives. He turned a new leaf and instead of riding from state to state, he improved the Starrett farm and ensured their home remained out Fletcher’s possession. While it was hard for both of them to turn down opportunities viewed favorable by society, they declined familiarity in efforts to make those around them better off.

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