SAINTS PAUL MIKI & HIS COMPANIONS
The initial growth of Christianity after Francis Xavier’s 1549 arrival in Japan led to opposition from Japanese leaders who feared that the introduction of Christianity was the first step in Spain’s effort to conquer their country, just as the Spanish had already conquered the Philippines. The Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan, banished all foreign ministers in 1587, but about fifteen Franciscans come to Japan from the Philippines in 1593. So, in 1596 Hideyoshi ordered the arrest of all missionaries. Police arrested six Franciscans, three Jesuits, fifteen Japanese tertiaries and two Japanese converts. They were condemned to be executed by crucifixion. They were tortured and crucified on 5 February 1597 at Tateyama (Hill of Wheat), Nagasaki.
Among the Jesuits was Paul Miki, still a Jesuit scholastic [Jesuit in training]. He was born about 1565 in Japan. He entered the Society of Jesus and was a successful preacher. From the cross he preached to the people inviting them to conversion. Miki was also the first Japanese religious to be martyred.
Finally soldiers pierced each prisoner’s chest with a lance. The hill on which they died became known as “Martyrs’ Hill.”
They were all canonized as the Martyrs of Japan in 1862 by Pope Pius IX.
“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.”
St Paul Miki (1564/6 – 1597)
He was born in Japan between 1564 and 1566. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel to the Japanese people with great success. When a persecution of the Catholics arose he was arrested together with twenty-five others. Mocked and tortured, they were eventually taken to Nagasaki on 5 February 1597, bound to crosses and speared.
See also the article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia on St Philip of Jesus, a Mexican Jesuit who was one of those martyred together with St Paul Miki, and an article in Wikipedia which contains some useful links.
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