Feast day: February 6
St. Paul Miki is the foremost martyr remembered of the 26 Jesuits, Franciscans and Secular Franciscans who literally died like Christ on February 5, 1597, on a hill near Nagasaki, Japan. A Jesuit novice, St. Paul Miki, together with his companions, was crucified on a cross and then pierced with a lance in his side. He is remembered for his joy in dying like Our Lord and used his last moments on earth to evangelize the bystanders, even from the cross on which he hung.
Japan was first introduced to the Catholic faith in 1549 by St. Francis Xavier, who had modest success in evangelizing. However, the efforts of more missionaries in Japan allowed for a small Christian community to develop there. Initially the Japanese leaders were open to the spread of Christianity, but by 1596 the Christian faith was outlawed and all believers who refused to deny their faith were to be arrested.
It was in this atmosphere that St. Paul Miki and his companions were arrested and forced to make a long march to the city of Nagasaki. Although tortured along the way as a means of intimidating any Christian onlookers, St. Paul Miki instead turned his suffering into a means of evangelizing the crowd by discussing the Catholic faith even as he hung on the cross. Here are some of the words reported to have been said by St. Paul Miki as he died:
“The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”
As they suffered, St. Paul Miki and all of his martyred companions were known for their joy at having the honor to be allowed to suffer and die as Christ had. St. Paul Miki uttered from his cross, “Like my Master, I shall die upon the cross. Like him, a lance will pierce my heart so that my blood and my love can flow out upon the land and sanctify it to his name.”
Instead of obliterating the Faith, the martyrdom of St. Paul Miki and his companions encouraged its spread. When missionaries were allowed to return two centuries later to Japan in the 1860s, they found thousands of Christians observing their faith secretly near Nagasaki. The martyrdom of St. Paul Miki and his companions is also a foreshadowing of the death and destruction caused in 1945 when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki as a means of ending World War II.
Dear Lord, help me to have a faith like St. Paul Miki and companions that is so in love with you that it will give me the strength to follow you anywhere you call me to go. May I rejoice in your call to me no matter the sacrifice by knowing that you bring good out of all difficulties. Help me to rejoice in doing your will and see opportunities to evangelize in even seemingly impossible scenarios.
O God, strength of all the Saints,
who through the Cross were pleased to call
the Martyrs Saint Paul Miki and companions to life,
grant, we pray, that by their intercession
we may hold with courage even until death
to the faith that we profess.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.