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March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Friday, February 6, 2009

St. Paul Miki and Companions - 6th February 2009




When the first missionaries, like St. Francis Xavier, came to Japan in 1549 they were welcomed. Many Japanese became Christians. When the leader Hideyoshi took command, he feared that Christians would take over the government. In 1587 he banished them and destroyed many of their churches. Some missionary priests stayed and went into hiding, dressing like Japanese in order to minister to the Christians.

More than 3,000 Christians were martyred in Japan. On December 8, 1596, Hideyoshi arrested and condemned to death the friars of Miako. Among them were three Japanese Jesuits, six Franciscans (four of them Spanish), and seventeen Japanese laymen. Charged with attempting to harm the government, they were sentenced to crucifixion. Some of these men were very young: Louis was 10; Anthony, 13; Thomas, 16; and Gabriel, 19. The best known is Paul Miki, who was a Japanese of a noble family, a Jesuit brother, and a brilliant preacher.

The twenty-six men were tortured and then forced to walk more than 300 miles from Miako to Nagasaki through snow and ice and freezing streams. Along the way they preached to the people who had come out to see them. They sang psalms of praise and joy. They prayed the rosary and told the people that such a martyrdom was an occasion of rejoicing, not of sadness. Finally, on February 5, they reached Nagasaki, where twenty-six crosses awaited them on a hill now called the Holy Mountain. It is said that the Christians ran to their crosses, singing. Soldiers bound them to the crosses with iron bands at their wrists, ankles, and throats. Then they thrust them through with lances. Many people came to watch the cruel deaths. Hideyoshi and his solders had hoped the example would frighten other Christians. Instead, it gave them the courage to profess their faith as the martyrs had.

In 1858, Japan again permitted Christianity in Japan. Missionaries found thousands of Christians still in Japan. For two hundred years they had carried on the faith in secret.

Born in a wealthy family in 1562 at Tounucumada, Japan, the son of a military leader, Paul Miki felt a call to religious life from his youth. He became Jesuit in 1580 after being educated at the Jesuit college at Anziquiama. He became a successful evangelist, and when the political climate became hostile to Christianity, he decided to continue his ministry and was soon arrested. On his way to martydom, he and other imprisoned Christians were marched 600 miles so they could be abused by, and be a lesson to, their countrymen; but all of them they sang the Te Deum on the way His last sermon was delivered from the cross: "The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ's example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain".

He died by being stabbed with a lance while crucified at Nagasaki, Japan. Paul Miki and his companions were canonized in 1862 by Pope Pius IX.

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