Friday, February 6, 2009

St. Paul Miki & Companions

Japan, like China, has proved hard to win over to the Gospel. St. Francis Xavier first planted Christianity there in 1549, and it is said that by 1587 there were over 200,000 converts. But in 1588 the military leader Hideyoshi, who was the actual ruler under the shadow-emperor, ordered all Christian missionaries to depart. Some obeyed, but many stayed on in secret. In 1597 Hideyoshi apprehended 26 Christians, religious and lay. He had the left ears of 24 of them partly cut off, and then paraded them to Nagasaki through the villages, so as to frighten the spectators against having any more dealings with Christianity.

“The blood of martyrs is a seed,” a prominent church writer declared during the Roman persecutions. The truth of this adage has often been verified in other nations, but not yet in Japan. However, to judge by the Catholic martyrs Japan has produced, the Japanese have the makings of extraordinary Christians. May our prayers water their harsh spiritual soil so as to produce, at length, an abundant harvest of souls. -- Father Robert F. McNamara

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