St. Paul Miki (1565?-1597) and his companions were martyred in Japan at the end of the sixteenth century. A native Japanese, Paul entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) as a young man. He worked as a missionary brother, along with St. Leo Karasuma (a Korean layman), and six Franciscan missionaries from Europe, led by St. Peter Baptist of Spain.
Building on the earlier work of St. Francis Xavier (December 3), the missionaries preached the Gospel around the city of Nagasaki, and were initially very successful. However, the captain of a visiting Spanish ship foolishly (and falsely) boasted that the missionaries’ efforts were paving the way for a Spanish and Portuguese invasion of Japan.
The Japanese shogun (warlord) Hideyoshi, already envious of the missionaries’ success, used this as an excuse to begin a severe attack on all foreign influences, including Christianity. Many Christians were martyred, including Paul Miki, John Goto, and James Kisai of Japan; Peter Baptist, Martin de Aguirre, Francis Blanco, and Francis-of-St. Michael of Spain; Philip de las Casas of Mexico; Gonsola Garcia of India, and seventeen Japanese lay people. These were all crucified and pierced with a lance. While hanging on the cross, Paul Miki spoke to the Japanese gathered below: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: There is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”
1. Human boasting and political maneuvering can seem to complicate the Church’s mission, as happened with the Spanish captain and the Japanese warlord; however, the example of the Christian martyrs inspired and sustained the Japanese Catholics (and when Christian missionaries returned to Japan in the nineteenth century, they found a secret community of several thousand Christians still in existence).
2. As St. Paul Miki stated while on his cross, we are called to forgive our enemies; our willingness to do this is a powerful testimony to the truth of our faith.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- St. Dorothy (303) Virgin, Martyr, Patroness of Florists
- St. Titus (96), Bishop
image: Laureano Atlas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons