Monday, April 24, 2017

The Wise Man from the West (Ignatius Press)

Fr. Matteo Ricci was an Italian Jesuit priest who lived from 1552 to 1610. He was also a founding member of the Jesuit China missions. He arrived in China in 1582, and it was here that he received his name "Wise Man." Vincent Cronin, was a British writer and popular historian, who is known for his writings on famous historical figures such as Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and Catherine the Great. The fact that chose to write a book on Fr. Ricci is a testament to how important this missionary was in history. That book is entitled The Man from the West, and I would like to tell you a little bit about it.

The book begins with Fr. Ricci experiencing a call to missionary work in China. We then see their beginning time in China, getting acclimated with the land and culture, and meeting some of the government officials. We then see him preparing to meet the emperor, Wan-Li, because he believed that would help him gain ground in the missionary work. We then see the many struggles Fr. Ricci experienced in his vocation, including being held prisoner and clashing with the Buddhists. The book, naturally, ends with his death and also the death of the mission work he started as well, not because of him but because of a change in political climate mixed with a change of the evangelization method the newer missionaries used.

Fr. Ricci was a great priest and a great man. His method of evangelization was much more tolerant and open-minded, compared to others who followed after him. He didn't go into China with a mission of convert or perish. He came in with a sense of love and understanding. He tried to understand their culture and what made them who they were. He took Asian works and had them converted to Latin, and took Western works and had them converted to Chinese. This showed respect to the people, their past, and their culture. It was through this these methods and simply exuding Christ's love that he was able to succeed in a hostile situation. I really found this book to be a fascinating read and appreciated the style with which Vincent Cronin wrote as it made the history come alive and shed light on a great man in Catholic history who many might not know about. It is truly a fascinating read, and one I think you should pick up when you have a chance.

This book was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.