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For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs, d. 1597
During the 1550s, St. Francis Xavier evangelized much of Japan and made hundreds of thousands of converts to Christianity. Some forty years later, one of those, Paul Miki, a Jesuit scholastic studying for the priesthood, and twenty-five others died for their faith at Nagasaki. The group included Jesuit and Franciscan priests, brothers, laymen, a doctor, teachers, a soldier, old people, and young altar servers. Their nationalities included Spaniards, a Mexican, and an Indian, as well as native Japanese. Of this group of twenty-six, Paul Miki became the best known. As he was dying on the cross, Paul, who was native Japanese, preached to the crowds and prayed for his executioners.
The Shõgun who had these martyrs killed wished to wipe out Christianity in Japan, calling it a religion brought by foreigners intending to conquer the country. A great show was made of the killing. The victims were maimed and then led, bloodied, through several towns to a hill, known today as Holy Mountain, for their execution. This action was meant to terrorize the people into giving up their Christian faith.
When missionaries returned to Japan almost three hundred years later, they initially found no sign of Christianity. After they were established, they found thousands of Christians living around Nagasaki who had secretly preserved their faith, a tribute to the steadfastness of Paul and the others, as well as to St. Francis Xavier. Paul and his companions were beatified within a few years after their deaths, but were finally canonized in 1862.
We celebrate the memorial for all of these saints on February 6.
Paul's message today: Like many other martyrs, Paul forgave and prayed for his slayers. It is never easy to forgive those who have hurt us in some way, but if Paul could forgive those who killed him, can’t we forgive those who have caused us to suffer in some lesser way?