Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Paul Miki & Companions, February 6,2018
The fertile missionary fields of Japan were first cultivated by Saint Francis Xavier in 1549. In 1597, the Japanese authorities, fearing foreign influence, began a campaign of persecution with the execution of Paul Miki and his companions on February 5,1597 including 16 Japanese laymen, four of whom were boys. Fearful that the missionary represented the vanguard of an impending conquest by European forces, the Shogun Hideyoshi ordered the men to be marched 400 miles from Miyako to Nagasaki, with blood streaming down their faces as a sign of their disgrace (their ears had been cut). In Nagasaki, each was bound to a cross and killed with a lance. After 1627, villagers were forced to walk over fumie, pictures of the Madonna and Child. Those who refused were exiled or killed. When repeated persecutions failed to destroy the Faith, authorities focused their energies on forcing mission priests to apostatize. A brutal torture known as “the pit” was invented for this purpose. In 1638, Japan was definitely closed to foreigners. The Japanese martyrs were canonized in 1862. Missionaries were again allowed to enter in 1865 A.D.