The men, women, and children who died for the faith from 1597 until 1873 in that country. The faith arrived in Japan in 1549, when St. Francis Xavier landed at Satsuma. He was recalled to India in 1551, but he converted more than three thousand Japanese in that brief period. Thirty years later there were 200,000 Christians and 250 churches in Japan, with Jesuits and other missionaries working to spread the faith. Hideyoshi, the acting highest-ranked official of the emperor, the governor, called a taiko, had tolerance for the faith, despite the fear of his court. Many in Japan believed that the Europeans intended to invade the country, and that the Church was only a vanguard. On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians, including eight European missionaries, were publicly crucified at Nagasaki. Hideyoshi ordered the martyrdom in 1597 , and when he died the following year, a period of cooperative calm prevailed. For the next decade and a half the Christians flourished, with 130 Jesuits, joined by 30 Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and some secular priests staffing missions. Unfortunately, Tokugawa Ieyasu, a virulent enemy of the Church, became the shogun of Japan and published an edict abolishing Catholicism. Persecution began again, furthered by Tokugawa’s sons and heirs. In 1622, the “Great Martyrdom” took place at Nagasaki, claiming the lives of more that fifty Japanese and Europeans. Between 1624 and 1627, hundreds more were slain, imprisoned, or exiled. Most were burned alive, crucified, or beheaded, some with small children in their arms. In 1637, some 37,000 Japanese Catholics and their allies entered a fortress on Shimabara Peninsula in northern Kyushu to protest persecution of the Church and tyranny of the local daimyo, or hereditary clan lord. They were slain to a man by the shogun’s troops, aided by a Dutch ship’s cannons. In 1640, four Portuguese ambassadors were arrested and martyred for the faith, and their lesser-ranked entourage exiled. In 1642 and 1648, Jesuits and Dominicans tried to enter Japan and were martyred with unspeakable cruelty. The last known priest who tried to enter Japan was an Italian, Abbe Sidotti, who was arrested in 1708. He was imprisoned on the Kirishitan Zaka, the “Hill of the Christians,” and died there in 1715. There are two large groups of martyrs in Japan, representing the thousands of Christians who died for the faith from about 1614 to 1664. The first party of martyrs was headed by St. Paul Miki, who received canonization in 1862 by Pope Pius IX. A second gathering of martyrs was composed of thirty-six Jesuits, twenty-six Franciscans, twenty-one Dominicans, five Augustinians, and one hundred seven lay men, women, and children. They were beatified over the years by several popes, including Pius IX and Leo XIII. Pope John Paul II has also beatified and canonized several individual martyrs in Japan.
St. Rita was born at Spoleto, Italy in 1381. At an early age, she begged her parents to allow her to enter a convent. Instead they arranged a marriage for her. Rita became a good wife and mother, but ... continue readingMore Saint of the Day
Emma was a relative of Emperor St. Henry II and also known as Hemma. She was raised at Henry's court by St. Cunegund, and according to legend was married to Landgrave William of Friesach. Their two children were murdered during an uprising of mines owned by William. ... continue readingMore Female Saints
St. Michael the Archangel - Feast day - September 29th The name Michael signifies "Who is like to God?" and was the warcry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against satan and his followers. Holy Scripture describes St. Michael as "one of the chief ... continue reading
The name Gabriel means "man of God," or "God has shown himself mighty." It appears first in the prophesies of Daniel in the Old Testament. The angel announced to Daniel the prophecy of the seventy weeks. His name also occurs in the apocryphal book of Henoch. He was the ... continue reading
FRANCIS XAVIER, ST. (1506-1552). Born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on Apr. 7, he was sent to the University of Paris 1525, secured his ... continue reading
By Justin Soutar
During his visit to the United States this coming September, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the heroic 'Apostle of California.' Once that happens, the Golden State will have its own patron saint and the Church will have another great missionary role ... continue readingMore Christian Saints & Heroes