Walking with the Saints
Jesuit priest Francis Xavier was sent by Spain to develop a mission in Japan. The daimyo (powerful feudal lords) who were hoping to create a trade agreement with Europe gave permission. The Daimyo was hoping the Catholic mission would lessen the influence of Buddhist monks and help trade with Spain and Portugal. Increasingly they saw Catholicism as a threat and began to persecute Christians. Christianity was banned and those Japanese who refused to abandon their faith were killed.
The 26 Martyrs of Japan were a group of Catholics who were executed by crucifixion on February 5, 1597. Their feast day is celebrated by the Anglican church on February 6th. They included four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Portuguese (all of whom were Franciscan missionaries), Three Japanese Jesuits, and Japanese members of the third order of St. Francis Including three young boys.
These individuals were raised on crosses and pierced through with spears.
Think about that.
Imagine the agony those men suffered because of their belief in something we take for granted. They lived the gospel passage “… For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
At this time Catholicism was officially outlawed. These Martyrs chose to obey God’s law. Despite the lack of clergy, followers continued to observe the Christian / catholic teachings as best they could until the Western missionaries returned in the 19th century.
Today there are roughly two million Christians in Japan. It is a small number of the population but came from great sacrifice. Could I have made this sacrifice? Could you?