The Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
The church recalls the martyrdom of Paul Miki and 25 others who were crucified on this day in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1597. Christianity first came to the shores of Japan in 1549 under the direction of St. Francis Xavier. Under his inspiration, the church in Japan grew perhaps numbered close to 300,000 adherents. Such growth did not go unnoticed and a member of the ruling elite, Tokugawa Ieyasu attempted to diminish Christianity by killing 26 of its adherents in a gruesome spectacle repeating the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesuit to the core of his being, Paul Miki never missed a teachable moment and continued preaching about why he was crucified and the importance of Christ in his life.
Continuous persecution of the Christian community in the first half of the 17th century seemed to have achieved the goals of the persecutors: an extinction of the faith. But the blood of martyrs nourished a hidden church that came to light in the 19th century.
Although, as this quote from the Second Vatican Council States, martyrdom is a grace given to a few, the example of the martyrs reminds us of those who continue to suffer for the faith and the invitations we need to accept in standing for what we believe.
“Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love. And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, paragraph 42)