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Nagasaki and Townhouse #9 both celebrated a 400th anniversary on Thursday,
6 February, 1997. Nagasaki reminds us of atomic devastation, but 450 years ago it was home
to the first Christians of Japan, descendants of Francis Xavier's converts and the
site of the first Christian martyrs of Japan. Townhouse #9 is named to honor Saint Paul
Miki, S. J. who died in Nagasaki 400 years ago this Thursday, 6 February. Death days
are celebrated by Catholics because it coincides with one's birthday into Eternal
Paul ìwas a Jesuit scholastic, one year away from ordination to the priesthood and
only 27 years old, born in 1564 he died a martyr for his Faith in 1597.
Paul was the first
Japanese member of any Catholic Religious order, and had it not been for his martyrdom
he would have been the first
Japanese priest. He was the son of a well-to-do Japanese military chief, living near
Kyoto, and as such had the right to wear the bright, noble kimono of the Samurai.
Paul Miki's family became Christian when he was about five years old. At the age
of 22 he joined the Jesuits. Paul proved himself to be an excellent disputant with leaders
of other religious sects and was recognized as an eloquent speaker who preached with
such fervor and eloquence that he changed the minds of many listeners who were not
Paul Miki lived during Christianity's most rapid increase - the 200,000 conversions
which occurred in Japan during the 40 years follow ûing Francis Xavier. This forward
thrust ended when the military General Toyotomi Hideyoshi seized power. Initially
indifferent to the work of the Jesuits, Hideyoshi changed his mind in 1587 and decreed that
all missionaries leave the realm. None of the 100 Jesuits obeyed this order, but
instead they went underground to continue to serve and comfort the Japanese Catholics.
Their Jesuit companions were doing the same thing serving the Catholics in England under
Queen Elizabeth's gruesome persecution of Catholics. Many Jesuits both in Japan and
England succeeded in outwitting - at least for a time - both Hideyoshi's and Queen
In 1596, just a few months before his ordination to the priesthood, he was arrested
with two companions at the Jesuit residence in Osaka. Their ears were cut off as
a sign of disgrace and they were paraded through many towns as a warning to other
Christians. Finally a few weeks later [ Paul Miki and two other Jesuits were crucified along
with 23 other Christians. Bystanders described Miki's remarkable composure during
this ordeal dressed in his Jesuit cassock (although he had the right to dress as
a Samurai) and delivering one last sermon from the cross there in Nagasaki in 1597.
Paul Miki's story is related in a number of books in our Nyselius Library, one of which is Wings of Eagles, by Francis Corley and R. Willmes (BX4655.C6). Paul Miki was not only the first religious but also in the first group of martyrs of Japan.
- Jesuit history . . . an abbreviated summary
- Jesuit Education . . . its history, directions and purpose
- Spiritual Exercises . . . which has changed millions of lives
- Retreat in Daily Life . . . what is involved in an Ignatian retreat?
- FU Ignatian Tradition . . . that elusive quality so much misquoted
- All Saints . . . veneration of the saints . . . why?
- Saint Thomas . . . forgiveness . . . Easter Sunday and Low Sunday
- Computer/Teaching Notes . . . Humberto Eco and Murphy's laws
- PAUL MIKI'S 400th anniversary the first japanese Jesuit martyr (TH #8)
- JESUIT GEOMETERS: 56 Jesuit geometers of the early Society
- COMPANIONS OF JESUITS: A tradition of collaboration
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