About St Mark Xi Tianxiang Image

St Mark Xi Tianxiang is a Chinese Catholic martyr from the 1800s who was addicted to opium his entire life. While he was not able to overcome the addiction during his life, he never stopped fighting it and was given the gift of martyrdom to ensure his salvation.

Read the full St Mark Xi novena on the novena page. You can also learn more about novenas here.

Who Was St Mark Xi Tianxiang?

St. Mark Xi Tianxiang was born into a Catholic family in 1834 in what is now Hebei, China. He was educated as a doctor, was a well respected member of his community, and a devout practitioner of the faith. In fact, he was so serious about living a good Christian life that in deference to using his skills to enrich himself, he chose to serve the poor, often for free.

Soon after marrying and starting a family, he fell ill to a stomach ailment and treated himself with opium, which was common practice at the time. Unfortunately, this led to the development of an opium addiction. And thus it came to pass that the once well-respected medical doctor became, now, a scandal and a shame to his family and friends.

Mark Ji did not excuse his evil habit, but, instead, fought bravely against it by attending holy Mass, receiving the sacraments, and earnestly praying to God.

However, despite his best efforts, he was unable to overcome his addiction. One day, after several years of continuing in this state, Mark Ji’s confessor, believing he did not have a firm purpose of amendment, denied him absolution until such time as he could reduce or eliminate his drug use.

This was a hard blow for St. Mark Xi Tianxiang since he had been trying for years to overcome his addiction with the help of the sacraments, and now those were being taken away.

But even though he was unable to quit the drugs, and he could not receive the sacraments, Mark Xi did what he was still able to do, pray and attend Mass. Year after year he fought to overcome his addiction but without success.

After many years, he began to pray that he would die a martyr, as that seemed to him the only way he could achieve salvation.

One day, Mark Ji, along with one of his sons, six of his grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law, were rounded up for their faith as a result of the Boxer Rebellion. When asked to apostatize, Mark Ji’s family, following his example, would not do so, despite threats of torture and even death. Upon receiving their death sentence, one of Mark Ji’s grandsons asked him, Grandpa, where are we going?

To which he replied, We’re going home.

Mark Ji begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his family would have to die alone and he stood beside all nine of them, strengthening them in the Faith, as they were beheaded. And on July 7th, 1900, after 30 years without the sacraments, St. Mark Xi Tianxiang, opium addict, public sinner, scandal of his community, died a martyr for Christ singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Mark Xi Tianxiang’s story is a shining example of humility, hope, and perseverance.

Humility for those who rashly judge others. Everyone knew Mark Xi was an opium addict. Everyone knew he had ruined his life. Everyone knew he wasn’t really serious about quitting his addiction because, if he was, he would have been able to do it and make a good confession. Everybody knew that except two people; St. Mark Xi and God. He was serious about quitting; he just hadn’t been able to do it.

Hope for those beset by a deep habit of serious sin or who have been denied absolution and think salvation is out of reach.

Mark Ji hoped beyond all hope and believed against all odds and against all evidence to the contrary.

We don’t know how or why or when God will give His grace. That’s up to Him.

All we know is that we must keep trying. We do not have a license to quit just because we are unable to overcome a sin or habit no matter how hard we try. St. Mark Ji was unable to overcome his sin no matter how hard he tried, but, because he never stopped trying, that’s why he became a saint.

We don’t achieve victory on our own. God is the One who grants the victory, not because we were successful, but because we tried, really tried.

And perseverance for those who either fabricate excuses to abandon the narrow way or those who do not think their efforts will avail of anything. St. Mark Ji proved the sincerity of his life and his faith by how he died.

So too for us, our death will show us and others who and what we really were all along, and death is not the time to find out that we have been deceiving ourselves. Final perseverance depends on current perseverance. Do not abandon God and He will not abandon you.

St. Mark Xi Tianxiang was beatified on November 24th, 1946, by Pope Pius XII.

St. Mark Xi Tianxiang was canonized on October 1st, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

His feastday is July 7th.