Today is the memorial feast of St. Paul Miki and his companions. His story is a little jarring and inspirational and teaches us modern Catholics a very real, very applicable lesson for life today.
Here is a brief history of the Saint, taken from the Liturgy of the Hours Breviary
“Saint Paul was born in Japan between 1564 and 1566. Entering the Jesuit order, he preached the Gospel to the people with great success. But when persecution against Catholics became oppressive, he was arrested along with twenty-five others. After enduring torture and ridicule, they were finally taken to Nagasaki and suffered crucifixion in 1597 on the vigil of this day.”
Here is a little more of the back story for your consideration. St. Paul Miki and his companions were tortured, each had one ear cut off, and they were made to walk a roughly thousand-mile journey to Nagasaki—a 30-day long walk in the freezing Japanese winter. This was to intimidate other Catholics along the way and to humiliate the victims. Among his companions who were martyred were two boys aged 11 and 13 years old.
St. Paul Miki forgave the Emperor and his executioners from his cross. Singling psalms and calling on the holy names of Jesus and Mary, He, and his companions, were ultimately killed not by their crucifixion but by executioners driving lances into their hearts.
There are a lot of lessons to learn from this story. But there is one in particular that should be pointed out.
The Japanese monarchy persecuted Catholics and the Church because it feared that the faith, which was growing very quickly, would become so powerful that the Christian world in Japan and in Europe may become powerful enough to invade and conquer Japan. They feared the moral force of the Christian faith. This remains true today.
The Church is still persecuted today in many regions of the world. This persecution of Catholics and other Christians includes bloody martyrdom. But in some places, even right here in America, the persecution is more subversive and sometimes leads to a bloodless martyrdom or a social rather than mortal martyrdom (technically called “white martyrdom” because it doesn’t involve blood).
The Catholic faith stands in opposition to many popular secular ideologies today. Adherents to those ideologies, fearing the threat against their “empire,” assault, harass, marginalize and otherwise persecute Catholics for their faith. But Jesus reminds us, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first”(Jouh 15:18) and “In the world, you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have already conquered the world” (John 16:33).
Let us never forget Our Lord’s words, and let us always remember his sacrifice on the Cross and the sacrifice of so many martyrs in our history—including St. Paul Miki and his companions‚—who refused to give up their faith, even if it cost their lives. Finally, let us always follow the examples of Jesus and the Saints and martyrs by living, not just believing in the faith.
Bonus: Here’s a link to a great chaplet you can pray to honor these 26 saints
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