In 1592 the persecution was renewed, and several Japanese converts received the crown of martyrdom. The emperor Tagcosama, one of the proudest and most vicious of men, was worked up into rage and jealousy by a suspicion suggested by certain European merchants desirous of the monopoly of this trade, that the view of the missionaries in preaching the Christian faith was to facilitate the conquest of their country by the Portuguese or Spaniards.
Three Jesuits and six Franciscans were crucified on a hill near Nangasaqui in 1597. The latter were partly Spaniards and partly Indians, and had at their head F. Peter Baptist, commissary of his order, a native of Avila, in Spain. As to the Jesuits, one was Paul Miki, a noble Japanese, and an eminent preacher, at that time thirty-three years old. The other two, John Gotto and James Kisai, were admitted into the Society in prison a little before they suffered. Several Japanese converts suffered with them. The martyrs were twenty-six in number, and among them were three boys who used to serve the friars at mass; two of them were fifteen years of age, and the third only twelve, yet each showed great joy and constancy in their sufferings. Of these martyrs, twenty-four had been brought to Meaco, where only a part of their left ears was cut off, by a mitigation of the sentence, which had commanded the amputation of their noses and both ears. They were conducted through many towns and public places, their cheeks stained with blood, for a terror to others. When the twenty-six soldiers of Christ were arrived at the place of execution near Nangasaqui, they were allowed to make their confession to two Jesuits of the convent in that town, and being fastened to crosses by cords and chains about their arm. and legs, and an iron collar about their necks, were raised into the air, the foot of each cross falling into a hole prepared for it in the ground. The crosses were planted in a row, about four feet asunder, and each martyr had an executioner near him with a spear ready to pierce his side; for such is the Japanese manner of crucifixion. As soon as all the crosses were planted, the executioners lifted up their lances, and at a signal given, all pierced the martyrs almost in the same instant; upon which they expired, and went to receive the reward of their sufferings. Their blood and garments were procured by Christians, and miracles were wrought by them. Urban VIII ranked them among the martyrs, and they are honoured on the 5th of February, the day of their triumph.
|Detail of the Twenty-six Japanese Martyrs relief pictured below.|
The three photos above were from a wonderful blog maintained by Japanese Jesuit priest Father Hiroshi Katayanagi. You can visit Father's blog here. Among his beautiful photos are those of a recent pilgrimage he made in Nagasaki. One photo that struck me was the one of the Catholic physician Dr.Takashi Nagai whose spiritual book Song for Nagasaki recounts the impact the Nagasaki bombings had on his family, himself and his faith.
So on this, the feast of St. Paul Miki, Jesuit priest who died at the same age as our Lord, and in the same manner of death, and along with his companion, let us hold them as models for our own Christian life. They walked hundreds of miles to their place of execution. They were killed for their faith but never did they despair. They instead praised God with recitations of the psalms and prayers as they were being martyred. They died steadfast and strong because of their deep faith.