Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

Beatification Day: The 188 Martyrs of Japan

November 24, 2008

Today, Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, the retired archbishop of Tokyo, will preside at a Mass in which he will beatify 188 seventeenth century Japanese martyrs.  Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins will also attend as Pope Benedict XVI’s envoy. 

The Associated Press article, published Friday, is well done and worth reading in its entirety.  Clips:

TOKYO (AP) — Samurai warriors, housewives and children were crucified, thrown into hot springs and tortured, but refused to renounce their religion. Japan’s extraordinary but relatively unknown history of Christian persecution is finally receiving recognition in a beatification of 188 martyrs.

The upcoming ceremony on Monday bestows honors from the Roman Catholic Church that are one step short of sainthood for Japanese killed from 1603 to 1639. The ceremony is expected to draw 30,000 people to a baseball stadium in the southwestern city of Nagasaki.


The most intense persecution came under Tokugawa Ieyasu, who followed Hideyoshi, and the martyrs being beatified Monday were killed during that period.

Among them will be 16 people, including three children, whose fingers were chopped off and their foreheads branded with a symbol of the cross. They were thrown into the boiling waters of a volcanic mountain.

Another martyr, the Rev. Julian Nakaura, was one of the first Japanese to travel to Rome and receive blessings from the pope. He endured torture called “the pit.” Bound tightly with ropes, his body was hung upside down into a hole filled with excrement, until he died on the fourth day.

This comes soon after the election of Taro Aso, Japan’s first Catholic prime minister.

Be sure to check out my previous post on this beatification, for an interesting look at who’s included among this group.


Next Up: 188 Japanese Martyrs (and 28 more married couples) beatified

October 28, 2008

Following the beatification of the married couple Louis and Zelie Martin (parents of a great saint and Doctor of the Church) this past weekend, and the canonization of four new saints the previous weekend, we have another major saints-to-be event coming up very soon. 

On November 24, 2008, Cardinal Martins will beatify 188 martyrs of Japan.  The group is officially known as Peter Kibe Kasui and his 187 companions.  The beatification Mass will take place in Nagasaki. 

These martyrs all died during persecution of Christians in Japan between 1603 and 1639.  The seventeenth century was a period of violent persecution of the Church in that country, especially under the feudal regime known as the Tokugawa shogunate, which banned Catholicism.

There’s a very helpful list of all 188 of them here.  I’ve been looking it over and crunching some numbers, and here are some interesting facts about them.

Among those to be beatified are 120 males, 64 females, and 4 of undetermined sex.

Almost all of them (all but 5) were laypeople, and at least 84 of them were married.

There are 28 married couples included among them (both the husband and the wife were martyred), and several married couples martyred along with their children.  (Note this, because we all rejoiced at the beatification of a single married couple — the second in history — last weekend, inspired that they had raised a saint in the family.  Here we will have the beatification of 28 more married couples, all martyrs, many of whom are being beatified along with their martyr-children!)

There are at least 26 children included among them, as young as one year old

There are several teens among them (like 18-year-old Anthony Uchibori and 14-year-old Romanus Anazawa Matsujiro).

There is 1 professed religious (a Jesuit) and 4 priests (all Jesuit).

Though some of the news articles have noted that there are also “nuns” among them, I don’t see this reflected in the list.  (The mistake may be mine.)

It’s so easy to reduce this long list to statistics like this, but every name represents a person, a real story, real experiences, real suffering and a real death.

Included among them are several families.  For example, we find Leo Hayashida Sukeemon, his wife Martha Hayashida, their 20-year-old daughter Magdalen Hayashida, and their 12-year-old son Didacus Hayashida, all martyred on October 7, 1613. 

We see John Kyusaku, his wife Magdalena, and their 2-year-old daughter Regina, martyred together on June 5, 1614.

On the very same day, we also see that John Hashimoto Tahyoe, his wife Thecla, and their 5 children, Catherine (age 13), Thomas (12), Francis (8), Peter (6), and Ludovica (3) were martyred together.

Imagine the remarkable stories of faith and courage that are probably completely lost to history, even if we still have their names and dates!

Balthasar Kagayama Hanzaemon was martyred on October 15, 1619, along with his 4-year-old son Jacob. 

The young married couple Ludwig Jin’Emon and Anna, both 20 years old, were killed on January 12, 1629. 

And there’s the family of four: Anthony Anazawa Han’Emon, his wife Crescentia, their 14-year-old son Romanus and 11-year-old son Michael, all of whom died on January 12, 1629. 

And  there’s the Ogasawara family: the married mother and father, and their 6 sons and 3 daughters, all of whom were martyred on January 30, 1636, along with 4 people who worked as servants in their home.

Note, too: The beatification of these 188 martyrs follows upon the canonization of 26 martyrs of Japan by Pope Pius IX in 1862 (officially known as St. Paul Miki and companions); the beatification of 205 Japanese martyrs by the same pope in 1867; and the canonization of 16 Japanese martyrs by Pope John Paul II in 1987.