Perhaps you could say that I'm acting. But in acting this part, there is no on-stage and off-stage, no audience and back-stage. For this part, the curtain never goes down.
I still remember how I had met Zhang Yi-xiong.
One day, as I was driving along Guangfu Road in Hsinzhu, I suddenly saw that a very old lady had fallen down on the road. Moreover, it was clear that she could not get up. I stopped my car and went to help her up. Just at this moment a young man was riding by on his motorcycle. He also stopped and came over to help me. The two of us lifted the old lady into the backseat of my car. I asked the young man to sit in the back and look after the elderly lady. He immediately agreed. This young man was Zhang Yixiong, and he accompanied me while I sent the elderly lady to the Hsinzhu Provincial Hospital.
On the way, I took a look at Zhang in the rearview mirror and discovered that he had a particularly gentle manner. He gently held the elderly lady and allowed her to rest on his shoulder while he was also holding her hand. Although they did not speak, it was clear that he was comforting her.
After we arrived at the hospital, the woman was placed on a bed in the emergency room, where the doctor said that there was no problem. It's only that she is old. Next, I called the local police station and told them about this woman. Most coincidentally, the son of the woman had just gone to the station to look for her. He immediately came to the hospital. This "son" however was already seventy years old, so the woman was in her nineties.
As I was making phone calls to various places, Zhang Yixiong never left her and was taking care of her. Moreover, with one hand, he was holding her hand tightly, while, with the other, he was gently patting her. At times, she seemed to be saying something. But none of us could understand what she was saying. Her eyes never left Zhang Yixiong for a single moment and his never left her.
After the elderly woman's son had come, I depart-ed. I took Zhang Yixiong back to get his motorcycle on Guangfu Road. Out of curiosity, I asked him if he was a priest. He had a patience and gentleness that was rare for a young man of his age.
Hearing my question, he was very happy and said that he was not a priest, but was a student in the drama department of the College of Fine Arts. What was most interesting to me was that he told me that he was acting and soon he was to play the role of a priest. So, as soon as he got into the car, he started to perform the role of a priest. He asked what impression I had of his performance. I naturally responded that I did not know at all that he was performing.
He then told me one more interesting thing. Even though he was performing a role at the beginning, once he arrived at the hospital, it was no longer a role. The elderly woman's dependence on, and trust in, him caused him not to want to leave her for a single moment. Moreover, she was holding his hand very tightly. He felt that the time in the hospital was a kind of new experience for him, and it gave him a very beautiful memory.
Zhang Yixiong was a very talkative person. He told me that his father was a professor in the Information Science Department of Tsinghua University. As it turned out, his father and I were friends. Such are the coincidences in our world.
Afterwards, I went a number of times to see Zhang Yixiong perform. Acting is outside of my competence, so I had no right to say whether or not he was a good actor. I could only say that he performed his role accurately. His father told me that his son was very dedicated. Before he performed his role as a priest, he had found a priest and lived with him for two weeks as well as also studied Christian doctrine. Then there was the time when he was to play a worker on road construction. That time he really went and spent a week doing hard labor. No wonder his acting was so successful.
What left me very surprised was that Zhang Yixiong finally did decide to become a priest. I was quite curious how it was that a young man so lively and active was willing to become a priest. Later, after contacting his father, I learned that his son had become a Catholic because of his meeting some priests in preparation for his role. As for his decision to become a priest, it was not unexpected because his father knew that his son was indeed a very dedicated and serious person, even though there were many smiles and much laughter on the outside.
Many years later, I accepted an invitation to go to Zhang Yixiong's ordination as a priest. The ceremony was very solemn and dignified, and at one point he had to prostrate himself on the ground, which was most dramatic. At that time I was thinking, "Zhang Yixiong, Zhang Yixiong, please don't be acting again."
I learned that Zhang Yixiong's first work as a priest was to look after college students. He could sing and play the guitar so it would of course be easy for college students to relate to him. A year later, he suddenly said that he hoped to take the light and warmth of our Lord Jesus to the darkest corners of our world. Accordingly, he received his bishop's permission to do work in a prison. He also wrote to me and said that he wanted to play the role of a good priest. He knew that this work was very difficult.
I often contacted Zhang Yixiong's father who said that even though his son was very dedicated and devoted to his prison work, many prisoners did not respond well to his efforts. One word can describe the prisoners' response: "Indifference." Last week, however, I read a newspaper article that described how Father Zhang was very well received by the prisoners. Many of them liked to go to his Mass.
Using all of my connections, I had the prison warden invite me to visit. My main purpose was to see exactly how it was that Fr. Zhang was so well received by the prisoners. Half-way through my tour I saw what seemed to be a janitor cleaning a toilet. He looked up and called out, "Aren't you Professor Lee?" I immediately recognized him. So it was that our Fr. Zhang was cleaning the toilets. I was almost speechless.
The warden told me that Fr. Zhang had indeed become the prison's janitor. I discovered that he was doing all kinds of things: cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, washing windows, trimming bushes. He lived in the prison and ate with the prisoners. Since he was a priest, he had Mass every day. The prison arranged the time so that he could have class for the prisoners who were studying in the afternoon and then have Mass and preach in the evening. Although he was a priest, he was also a real janitor.
As I was leaving, Father Zhang saw me off and warmly said good-bye. I asked him why he was successful this time. He said that this time he was acting the part of Jesus Christ. He had thought about it for a long time and eventually saw the light. If Jesus Christ came to our world, he would not be preaching from on high. He would indeed be humbly serving everyone. Therefore he decided to become a janitor. He began by cleaning toilets and living all day in the prison. Many prisoners left the prison. It was only Fr. Zhang who never did. Even on the eve of the Lunar New Year, he was still there. On the second day of the New Year, he returned home to be with his family, but immediately returned to his prison.
I asked him, "Are you still acting?"
He said, "Perhaps you could say that I'm acting. But in acting this part, there is no on-stage and off-stage, no audience and back-stage. For this part, the curtain never goes down."
In leaving the prison you have to go through many doors. There is one steel door that the prisoners are forbidden to go through. Zhang Yixiong stopped in front of this door. I walked through and he remained behind. He waved to me from inside as I went to the outside. Now I know the meaning of "the curtain never goes down."
fall down 跌倒、滑倒
come over 過來
look after 照料、照顧
look for 尋找
take care of 照顧、照料
as soon as 一…，就…
no longer 不再
dependence on 信賴、依賴
trust in 相信、信任
turn out 原來、結果
as well as 也，同樣
no wonder 難怪
as for 至於
Lunar New Year（n.）農曆新年
on-stage and off-stage 台上台下
in front of 在…之前