Wednesday, February 6, 2013

St. Paulo Miki

Today we travel to the Far East, specifically Japan. Japan might not be the most populous Catholic area, but there are many Japanese Catholics that played important roles in spreading the faith. One example is Saint Paulo Miki, who is one of the 26 Martyrs of Japan. He converted many Japanese people to Catholicism and stood for his beliefs in the face of enemies.

Paulo was born into a wealthy Japanese family, with his father being a prominent Japanese military leader. He was educated by the Jesuits and joined the Society of Jesus in 1580. I was very happy when I saw this because I was also educated by Jesuits at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. It is amazing to see how universal the Catholic Church is, and how people will devote there lives to spreading the Catholic faith.

Miki was known for his gift of preaching, gaining many converts. However, the Japanese emperor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was fearful of the power of the Jesuits in Japan, so he started persecuting Catholics. St. Paulo Miki was jailed along with his fellow Catholics. They were also forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto to Nagasaki. Along the way they sang Te Deum, an early Christian hymn of praise.

Miki was crucified when he arrived at Nagasaki, which has the largest population of Japanese Catholics. Giving his last sermon from the cross, he forgave all of his executioners. He was martyred alongside 25 other Catholics who were persecuted in Japan.

St. Paulo Miki spoke the truth in his words:

"The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only 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 to 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."

Missionaries did not return again to Japan until the 1860s, finding no traces of Christianity. However, to their surprise, there was still a large population of Catholics in Nagasaki, who had secretly kept the religion alive, perhaps to the credit of Paulo Miki.

I greatly enjoyed learning about this amazing man. A Jesuit, a martyr, and a saint, St. Paulo Miki inspires me and hopefully many people to stand up for their faith in the face of enemies. Even in distant lands, there are those who follow the will of God.

Luke Knudson

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