Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 6 - St. Paulo Miki & Companions


St. Paulo Miki (パウロ三木) was born in Settsu Province into a rich family, son of the military leader Miki Handayu (三木半太夫). His father, along with 72 other bushi, were baptized in the castle of Iimori in 1563. He was also baptized and took the name of Paulo.

He was educated by Jesuits in the "seminariyo" of Azuchi - the construction of which was finished in 1580 - and in Takatsuki, eventually joining the order as a lay brother (being dubbed イルマン iruman in Japanese, from the Portuguese irmão, "brother") and becoming a preacher; this would continue for eleven more years.

In the fall of 1596, a Spanish ship, the San Felipe, en route to Mexico from Manila was wrecked off the coast of Shikoku. While Japanese officials confiscated the vessel’s cargo, a remark by the ship’s captain was interpreted to mean that missionaries intended to help in the conquest of Japan by Spain. Toyotomi Hideyoshi quickly ordered the arrest of several priests and laymen.

Paulo, along with two of his novice brothers, John Soan De Gotó and James Kisai was among those arrested by order of Toyotomi in late 1596 to early 1597. They were in the residence of the Jesuits in Osaka when they were arrested. The three were brought to a prison in Kyoto, where they were joined by six Franciscans and fifteen members of the Franciscan third order (such as Gonsalo Garcia, Pedro Bautista Blasquez, and Felipe de Jesus). Ishida Mitsunari, a vassal of the Toyotomi clan, originally planned to have Paulo and the other Jesuits to be released, but this eventually did not come to fruition.

They were bound with rope and had their left ear cut off - a departure for the original order given, which stipulated that their noses and both their ears should all be chopped off. Then, to warn other hiding Christians of the punishment that would await them if they were caught, they were paraded through the streets of Kyoto. It was then decided that these 24 people were to be executed in Nagasaki by crucifixion (磔, haritsuke).

Eventually, for one month Paulo and the 23 other priests and converts were crowded in carriages for the six-hundred mile ride from Kyoto to Nagasaki. Along the way, two more prisoners had joined the group, arrested for trying to comfort the victims. The total number of victims had now become twenty-six.

Paulo and the others were led up Nishizaka Hill (西坂), the final mass of land greeting Nagasaki Bay. The road to Omura divided the hill. One side of the road was scattered with human remains, where common criminals were executed; the other side was covered with new, green wheat. The government official in charge of the executions, Terazawa Hazaburo, had been persuaded by influential Portuguese to give the martyrs a more decent place of execution than those of criminals.

The victims were then fastened to crosses - each one tailor-made for the martyrs - with metal bands and ropes, with the hands, feet and neck being kept in position by the rings and the rope keeping the victim bound to the cross through the waist. Fixing Paulo to the cross proved to be difficult, as he was too short and his feet would not reach the lower rings. Under the pressure of time, the executioner had to do without the rings, and strapped Paulo's chest to the cross with a piece of linen, stepping on his chest in the process. A missionary standing by protested, but Paulo assured him: "Let him do his job, Father. It does not really hurt."

The crosses were lifted and slid into holes in the ground, twenty-six stretching in a row from the bay to the road. The martyrs raised their eyes to heaven and sang different hymns and psalm, including the Sanctus, the Song of Zechariah and the Te Deum. Finally, one of the prisoners chanted, "Jesus, Mary. Jesus, Mary."

In front of Paulo's cross was the death sentence Toyotomi had declared:

"As these men came from the Philippines under the guise of ambassadors, and chose to stay in Kyoto preaching the Christian law which I have severely forbidden all these years, I come to decree that they be put to death, together with the Japanese that have accepted that law."
Fastened to his cross, Paul Miki gave his final defense and said in a loud voice:

"All of you who are here, please, listen to me. I did not come from the Philippines, I am a Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus. I have committed no crime, and the only reason why I am put to death is that I have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord. At this critical time, when, you can rest assured that I will not try to deceive you, I want to stress and make it unmistakably clear that man can find no way to salvation other than the Christian way.

The Christian religion commands that we forgive our enemies and those who have wronged us. I must therefore say here that I forgive Taikō-sama* and those resposible for my death. I have no hatred for Taikō-sama; indeed I wish that he and all the Japanese would become Christians.

*Taikō-sama (太閤様): Taikō (a retired kampaku) combined with the honorific -sama; usually used in contemporary sources, usually foreign, to denote Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
And then lifting up his heart to heaven, he said: "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Come to meet me, you Saints of God." Eventually, soon the victims and even the bystanders chanted in unison, "Jesus, Mary...Jesus, Mary!"

But not all chanted. Fray Felipe de Jesus could not sing, as the sitting prop in his cross was too low, and the whole weight of his body hung from the ring around his neck, choking him to death. With the little strength he had left, Philip invoked three times the name of Jesus. Two executioners then put an end to the sufferings of the Mexican martyr by piercing him with spears.

The death of Felipe signalled the start for the executions, There are four men to carry them out, two for each end of the rows. Their lances have long, sword-like blades protected with sheaths. After taking positions, they remove the scabbards and stand at attention.

A guttural yell, a sudden thrust, and the two spears cross each other in the chest of the martyr. Sometimes the blades come through the body at the shoulders. The death is almost immediate. If the victim does not die, another thrust to the neck will give the coup de grace. And so it was that Paulo Miki and the twenty-five others who were crucified in Nishizaki on February 5th of the year 1597 gave up their lives for Christ.

(Homepage of the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum here)


(Hebrews 13:1-8)

Brotherly love must continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember the prisoners as if imprisoned with them; those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body also.
Marriage must be honored among all and the bed undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor abandon you"; so we may confidently say: "The LORD is my helper, (and) I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you, reflect on the outcome of their conduct and imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

(Ps 27:1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc)

R. The LORD is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
R. The LORD is my light and my salvation.
Even when an army encamps against me, my heart will not fear.
Even if war rises up against me, in this I will be confident.
R. The LORD is my light and my salvation.
For He will hide me in His booth in the day of trouble;
He will hide me in His tent, on a rock will He lift me up.
R. The LORD is my light and my salvation.
Your face, O LORD, I seek; hide not your face from me!
Do not push your servant away in anger;
You are my Help; do not cast me off.
R. The LORD is my light and my salvation.


(Mark 6:14-29)
King Herod heard about Jesus, for Jesus’ name had become known. And some were saying, "John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead, and that is why mighty powers are at work in him." But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others said, "He is a prophet, or like one of the prophets." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised up."

For Herod himself had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not (because Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he enjoyed listening to him).

And a day of opportunity had come, when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his chief men, and the chiliarchs, and the leaders of Galilee; and when his daughter, Herodias, came in and danced, she pleased Herod and those who reclined at table with him; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you." And he swore (many things) to her, "Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, up to half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptizer."

And at once she came in with haste to the king and made her request, saying, "I want you to give me, on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer immediately."

And being very dejected, the king did not want to reject her because of his oaths and because of those reclining at the table. And the king sent an executioner at once to bring his head; and he went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard this, they came and took his corpse and laid it in a tomb.

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