Saints Paul Miki and his Companions, Martyrs

Paul Miki, born into a rich family, was the son of a Japanese military leader. He was born at Tounucumada, Japan and educated at the Jesuit college of Anziquiama. He joined the Jesuits in 1580, and became known for his eloquent preaching.

The authorities, fearing the Jesuits’ influence, made them an object of persecution. Miki was jailed along with other Christians. He and his Christian companions were forced to walk about 1,000 km (600 miles) from Kyoto as a punishment for the whole community. On the way they sang the Te Deum, the Church’s hymn of praise and thanksgiving. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity.

Paul, still a Jesuit scholastic (i.e. a Jesuit in training) and aged 35, was crucified on 5-February 1597, along with 25 other Catholics. He preached his last sermon from the cross and it is maintained that, like his Master, he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was a Japanese.

Together with him died Santiago Kisai, also a Jesuit scholastic, and Diego Kisai (or Kizayemon), a Jesuit brother, in addition to 22 priests and lay people. This took place during the persecution of Christians under the Taiko, Toyotomi Hideyoshi – who ruled Japan in the name of the emperor.

Among the Japanese who died were: Francis, a carpenter who was arrested while watching the executions and then crucified; Gabriel, the 19-year-old son of the Franciscans’ doorkeeper; Leo Kinuya, a 28-year-old carpenter from Miyako; Joachim Sakakibara, a cook for the Franciscans at Osaka; Peter Sukejiro, sent by a Jesuit priest to help the prisoners, and who was himself arrested; Cosmas Takeya from Owari, who had preached in Osaka. Also killed was Ventura from Miyako, who had been baptized by the Jesuits, but had given up his faith on the death of his father. He subsequently became a Buddhist monk, but was then brought back to the Church by Franciscans.

All were canonized as the Martyrs of Japan by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

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