I was sad to find that I allowed the feast day of St. Paul Miki and his companions(February 6th) to pass me by.
I first learned of St. Paul Miki from a hobby of mine which often seems rather incongruous with my love of religion: anime. In truth, not all anime is something a Christian should watch, but it has its high points.
One of them has the telling of the Christian martyrs of Japan. A sad story.
When St. Francis Xavier came to Japan, he found many converts to the Christian faith. The Japanese have a culture rich in loyalty, honor, and love of the community. There is little to be found among the traditional mores that conflicts with Christian virtue, excepting a sad lack of Mercy. Most do not know that practice of Seppuku is not suicide in the Christian sense (where a person despairs of life), but rather an ultimate act of obedience in which a person carries out their own execution.
Unfortunately, the government of Japan was long founded on the concept that its emperor
was descended from a deity. The Christian converts, naturally rejecting this belief (though still loyal to their country) were seen as traitors by a nation already leery of foreign imperialism.
Christians were lined up and ordered to stomp on or otherwise desecrate crossed and images of the Blessed Mother. Those who refused were crucified, among them the Jesuit priest and convert Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions. They died singing psalms and calling out the names of Jesus and Mary.
Today, Japanese continually exhibit a strange fascination with Christianity, a religion which is largely mysterious to them and misunderstood. Secualr Christian weddings are more popular than the traditional Buddhist or Shinto ones. Unfortunately, there are only a few Christians in living in Japan today, most of which are westerners. For the sake of the holy martyrs, and for the souls of the people of Japan, I pray that this will change.
St. Paul Miki, pray for us.