Lives to Inspire: Matteo Ricci

Another Jesuit, Matteo Ricci, was a missionary to China. He spent many years studying Confucianism and seeking to find parallels in Christian teaching. He wanted to present Christianity in a way that would be understood and acceptable to Chinese culture.

Matteo was born in Italy and began to study law in Rome, but two years later responded to a call to become a Jesuit. As well as studying for the priesthood, he took studies of cartography, astronomy and other subjects.

He went on the mission to China via the Portuguese colony of Macau. He studied Chinese language and culture. He wanted to present Christianity in a way that the Chinese would understand using a knowledge of Confucianism. He dressed not as a European cleric, but a Chinese holy man.

He was eventually accepted in Bejing, mainly because his scientific knowledge added much to the Chinese understanding of the world and the heavens. All the while he was quietly converting people to Christianity.

Upon his death a debate rose up in the Catholic Church as to the legitimacy of his presenting Christianity in terms of Chinese culture – the Chinese rites controversy. Rome eventually ruled against such adaptations and the initial flourishing of Christianity in China lost pace.

Books on Matteo Ricci

Matteo Ricci

1552: Born Macerata, Papal States

1569: Studied law in Rome

1571: Joined the Jesuits

1578: Left Lisbon for Macau

1583: Left Macau for mainland China

1597: Made superior of Chinese Mission

1601: Ricci was invited as advisor into the Forbidden City in Bejing.

1610: Died in Bejing


He who is called the Lord of Heaven in my humble country is He who is called Shang-ti (Sovereign on High) in Chinese.”

Matteo Ricci in ‘True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven”

Today’s Scripture

Galatians 3: New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

26 ..for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Thought for the Day

The life of Matteo Ricci included much patience and study. He knew that he had to become familiar with the foreign customs and knowledge of the Chinese.
What do you need patience for in your life?
What do you need to understand better?