Tuesday, 6 February 2007

St Paul Miki and his companions

The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God's goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated, 'Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.' Brother Francisco Blanco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

Our brother Paul Miki saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To this congregation he began by proclaiming that he was a Japanese and a Jesuit, and that he was dying for preaching the gospel. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing, and he ended with these words:

As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no route to salvation except the one that Christians follow. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the emperor and all who have brought about my death, and I beg them to seek Christian baptism.

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in that of Luis most of all. When a Christian in the crowd called out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands and his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed upon him.

Antonio, hanging at Luis' side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names of Jesus and Mary. He began to sing a psalm, '0 Praise the Lord, all you children!' He had learned this at the catechetical school in Nagasaki, for among the tasks given to the children there had been included the learning of some psalms such as these.

The others kept repeating, 'Jesus, Mary!' Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.

Then, according to Japanese custom, four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, 'Jesus, Mary!' And a storm of anguished weeping then arose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one - one thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.

Part of a contemporary account of the martyrdom of St Paul Miki and his companions in Japan on 5 February 1597 as it appears in Celebrating the Saints (The Canterbury Press, Norwich 1998)
Photograph of a panel in Yokohama Cathedral by Frederic Ronga

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