Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?

Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."

As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."

February 6: 26 Martyrs of Japan

Posted by Jacob

Christians in Asia have, throughout history, had a difficult road, spreading the faith and witnessing to the joys of Christ’s love. Missionaries in China have been martyred for their faith, as have those in other countries throughout the continent. Today, February 6, marks the feast day of the martyrdom of at least twenty-six of the faithful in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1597. The 26 Martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain (or Martyrs’ Hill), overlooking Nagasaki. Included in their number were priests, Franciscan and Jesuit brothers, and members of the Secular Franciscan Order. Many laymen were also martyred, including catechists, doctors, carpenters simple artisans and servants—some elderly, and some young children. All went to their deaths willingly, certain in their love for Jesus Christ, and in the saving grace and redemption of the Lord.

Historically, Christianity had a difficult struggle in Japan. The first recorded missionaries to Japan, arrived in August 1549. Jesuit priests, Saint Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, and Father. John Fernandez arrived from Spain with the hopes of forming a mission and spreading the word of God. Realizing the political implications of such a trip, Saint Francis Xavier visited the daimyo (local leader) of the area (Kagoshima), Shimazu Takahisa, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed, equating allowing the mission formation to opening trade routes with European powers. Saint Francis Xavier was recalled to India in 1551, but is credited with bringing tens of thousands to Christ in those two years.

While at first the imperial government of Japan was in favor of the presence of missionaries, again seeking to increase trade relations, the Spanish occupation of the Phillipines was taken as a warning sign. Catholic missions were re-interpreted as the advance scouts of colonialization, and Catholics and Christians in Japan began being actively persecuted. By this time, 1587, thirty years after Saint Francis Xavier had landed in Japan, it is estimated that as many as 300,000 Japanese citizens had become Christian.

Despite the edict of persecution, a strong Catholic community had grown outside of Nagasaki, under the direction of Saint Paul Miki. These Christian missionaires were eventually imprisoned, along with many of their followers, and on February 5, 1597, martryed for their beliefs. First, their faces were disfigured, by removal of parts of their noses and ears, common at that time. They were marched through towns and outlying public areas, their faces bloody and mutilated, as a warning to other Christians. This march lasted approximately one month, the prisoners moving steadily toward Nagasaki, and their eventual death. The martyrs were allowed to make their confession to two Jesuits of the convent in that town (who were later put on a boat, and sent from the country).Each of the twenty-six was fastened to a cross by cords and chains about their arms and legs, and an iron collar about their necks. The corsses were raised into the air, planted in a row, about four feet apart. Each martyr had an executioner near him with a spear ready to pierce his side. As soon as all the crosses were raised, the executioners lifted up their spears, and simultaneously pierced the martyrs. Their blood and garments were procured by Christians, and miracles are reported through their intercession. A Jesuit missionary, writing following his expulsion from the country, stated, “The astonishing fruit of the generous sacrifice of our 26 martyrs is that the Christians, recent converts and those of maturer faith, have been confirmed in the faith and hope of eternal salvation; they have firmly resolved to lay down their lives for the name of Christ. The very pagans who assisted at the martyrdom were struck at seeing the joy of the blessed ones as they suffered on their crosses and the courage with which they met death.”

Each of the twenty-six Martyrs of Japan are briefly discussed below. Each was beatified in 1627, and canonized in 1862.

Saint FRANCIS was a carpenter from Kyoto. He was elderly, but determined and unable to be deterred by the missionaries. He insisted on following the group during their march to Nagasaki, and was eventually arrested and included in the executions.

Saint COSMAS TAKEYA was a sword maker from Owari. He had been baptized by the Jesuits, and became a Franciscan tertiary. He served as an interpreter for the missionaries, and worked as a catechist with the Franciscans in Osaka.

Saint PETER SUKEJIRO was a young man from Kyoto, who was sent by Father. Organtino to care for the martyrs on their way to Nagasaki. His devotion to duty secured for him the grace of joining them in martyrdom. A native Japanese, he was a devoted Christian who remained a layman but served as a Franciscan tertiary, catechist, and an assistant to the Franciscan missionaries.

Saint MICHAEL KOZAKI, a native of Ise, was a 46 year-old artisan bow maker at the time of his death. He served as also as a hospital nurse, helping those in need. He was arrested as a Christian, following his association with the Franciscans, who recognized his skills as a carpenter and enlisted his assistance in building the Franciscan convents and churches of Kyoto and Osaka. His son, Thomas, was also martyred along side him.

Saint JAMES KISAI was sixty-four at the time of his death. He was a Jesuit lay brother, a man of deep devotion to the Passion of Christ, and a member of the Society of Christ. He had known a life of hardships, and excelled in his kindness and peace of heart. Born in Okayama, he responsible for the care of the guests at the Jesuit residence.

Saint PAUL MIKI, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. He was born in Tsunokuni district, the son of a brave soldier, Miki Handayu. Educated as a boy in the Jesuit schools, Paul Miki treasured his vocation to spread the gospel over everything else, and was near being ordained as a priest. He was recognized as the most eloquent preacher in the country, and continued preaching until the moment of his death, responsible for the conversion of on-lookers at the executions. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “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.” Saint Paul Miki was only thirty years old at the time of his death.

Saint PAUL IBARAKI was born in Owari of a noble samurai family. Baptized by the Jesuits, he led a poor life near the Franciscan convent of Our Lady of the Angels, running a small sake brewery to support his family. Despite his poverty, he gave all he had to those poorer than himself, and preached the Gospel to those who would listen

Saint JOHN SOAN de GOTO was only nineteen at the time of his crucifixion. Born in the Goto islands to Christian parents, he studied with the Jesuits in Nagasaki, and then at the Jesuit school in Shiki (Amakusa). He trained as a catechist, and assisted the missionaries as a painter and musician. He is remembered for an innocent spirit and joy, even in death.
Saint LOUIS IBARAKI was the youngest to be martyred. Only 12 years of age when he went to his cross, Louis is reported to have kept singing and laughing as they cut off one of his ears. He remained courageous and filled with the hope of Christ through the long march to Nagasaki. On the way up the Martyrs’ Hill, a man tempted the Louis to renounce his faith. He would not yield, but eagerly asked, “Where is my cross?” When they pointed out the smallest one to him, he immediately embraced it and held on to it “as a child clings to his toy.” Father Francis Blanco wrote of Louis, on the eve of his martyrdom, "We have little Louis with us, and he is so full of courage and in such high spirits that it astonishes everybody.”

Saint ANTHONY DAININ was another young boy to be martyred. Only 13, Anthony served as an alter boy to the Franciscan convent in Osaka. A member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Anthony, like Louis, went to his cross with joy. He reportedly sang on the cross, until the spear pierced his heart. His mother, like Our Blessed Mother, watching from the ground below the cross, is said to have wept bitter tears, but refused to renounce her faith.

Saint PETER BAPTIST had lived a merit-filled and holy life. He had served as the Superior of the Franciscan Mission in Japan. Hailing from Spain, he worked with lepers, and come to Japan to guide his flock during the time of persecution. Fifty at the time of his death, Saint Peter Baptist embraced his martyrdom, ready to be reunited with his Savior.

Saint MARTIN LOYNAZ OF THE ASCENSION was born in Vergara, Navarre, Spain. Prior to living in Japan, Saint Martin was assigned to Mexico and the Philippines. Thirty at the time of his death, he reportedly had a fondness for singing. He is remembered for a gentle spirit, purity of heart, and his practice of spending all night, each night in prayer.

Saint PHILIP OF JESUS was a 24 year old Spaniard born in Mexico City. Educated by the Franciscans, he became a priest. By chance, during a voyage form the Philippines to Mexico, his ship ran aground in Japan. He was soon arrested, and martyred along with the others.

Saint GONZALO GARCIA was born in India. Having been catechized by Jesuits, he entered the Franciscans as a lay brother, and worked closely with St. Peter Baptist. He is reported to have been a shy man, who spoke Portuguese with a stutter, but when he confronted Hideyoshi, absolute ruler of Japan, his Japanese came out without flawlessly.

Saint FRANCIS BLANCO was born in Monterrey (Galicia, Spain) and came to Japan with St. Martin of the Ascension. He is remembered for being a quiet, plain spoken man, who was extremely intelligent and thoughtful.

Saint FRANCIS OF ST. MICHAEL was a Spanish missionary, sent first to the Philippines, and later to Japan. 53 at the time of his death, he was quite unassuming in life, but recognized for his “good heart, physical strength and simplicity.” Generally silent, and committed to penance and sacrifice, Saint Francis died in silence.

Saint MATTHIAS of MIAKO is somewhat of a mystery. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, apparently, although given his faith, he would likely disagree. Little is known about his age, place of birth, or details of his Christian life. Rather, the persecutors were said to be looking for a Matthias, and when no one stepped forward, Saint Matthias of Miako stepped forward and offered himself as martyr. Matthias was not listed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as one of the twenty-six Christians to be slain as examples.

Saint LEO KARASUMARU was the younger brother of Saint Paul. Having converted to Christianity in his youth, Saint Leo became the main supporter of the Franciscans upon their arrival. He assisted with negotiating building, buying land, establishing a hospital—tasks that the friars were having difficulty accomplishing without him. Saint Leo is remembered as a zealous catechist and a man of prayer. He was a leading figure among the lay martyrs.

Saint BONAVENTURE of MIAKO led a life of loss and suffering. He was baptized as an infant, but soon after, his mother died, and his stepmother sent him to a Buddhist monastery to live. As he matured, he discovered his baptism, and visited the Franciscan convent in Kyoto, where he met Saint Paul Miki. He reportedly prayed for his father's faith and the conversion of his stepmother on the way to his cross.

Saint THOMAS KOZAKI was the third of the young boys to be crucified alongside the other martyrs of Japan. Only fourteen at the time of his death, he was already Christian when he became acquainted with the Franciscans while helping his father as a carpenter, and stayed at the Franciscan convent once the job was finished. He was straightforward, unhesitant and totally committed in his service to God. He is remembered for his beautiful heart and blunt speech. His farewell letter to his mother survives: “Dear Mother: Dad and I are going to heaven. There we shall await you. Do not be discouraged even if all the priests are killed. Bear all sorrow for our Lord and do not forget you are now on the true road to heaven. You must not put my smaller brothers in pagan families. Educate them yourself. These are the dying wishes of father and son. Goodbye, Mother dear. Goodbye.”
Saint JOACHIM SAKAKIBARA was a 40 year old native of Osaka. He worked as a physician, treating the poor of the region for free. In gratitude for his baptism, received from a catechist when he was gravely ill, Joachim helped out in the construction of the Franciscan convent in Osaka and served as a cook. He is remembered for his kindness and readiness to serve.

Saint FRANCIS NAGASAKI (also known as Saint Francis of Miako) was a physician who later was converted to Catholicism by the Franciscan missionaries. He became a Franciscan tertiary and served as a catechist. 48 years old, Saint Francis was a zealous preacher. Like Saint Joachim, he lived next door to the Franciscan convent, treating the sick without pay, and leading them to Christ.

Saint THOMAS DANGI was a pharmacist who following his conversion, changed his violent temper into a zealous disposition of love for all. A Franciscan tertiary, he opened his shop next to the Franciscan convent of Our Lady of the Angels, and while selling medicine, found opportunities to preach the Good News of Christ.

Saint JOHN KINUYA was 28 years old native of Kyoto. A silk weaver by trade, he had recently been baptized and moved his shop next to the convent. He is remembered for kindness and outpouring of love, as well as exquisite silks which captured the glory of God.
Saint GABRIEL was a 19 year old native of Ise. Converted by Brother Gonzalo, he made quick progress in his way to God, overcoming many obstacles. Gabriel worked as a catechist, especially with young people.

Saint PAUL SUZUKI was a 49 year old from Owari. Having been Christian for over a decade at the time of his death, he excelled in his apostolic zeal and was one of the best catechists helping the Franciscans. He was also responsible for St. Joseph's Hospital in Kyoto.

Each of these brave men gave their lives for the Word of God. While Christian missionaries were driven from Japan shortly following these executions, Christianity was not lost to the people of Japan. Two hundred and fifty years later, when Christian missionaries were allowed entrance to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground. These Christians lacked clergy, had no viable copies of the Scriptures, and possessed few instructions in the doctrines of the faith. What they did retain was a firm love and commitment to Jesus as Lord, the legacy of the early Martyrs of Japan. Today in Japan, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom, and while not extremely large in number, is growing.

O God our Father, who art the source of strength to all thy Saints, and who didst bring the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith that we profess, even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Day 37 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Courage and Zeal for the Gospel!
Requested Intentions: Priests and leaders of the Church (L); The rest and repose of a dearly departed friend (J).
Special Intentions: Novena to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, for those who are struggling in the face of personal trials and tribulations, unemployment and financial stress, natural disasters (including the poor of Haiti), poverty, war, and exploitation. May Our Lady of Prompt Succor hasten to help us


Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment. If you wish to submit a prayer request, however, please do so above, using the "Contact" tab.