Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beautiful Martyrs

Today's the Feast day of St. Anthony Mary Claret, tomorrow's the Feast day of one (of the 3) of the 7 archangels whose names we know: St. Raphael, who appeared to Tobias. Raphael means Medicine of God in the hebrew.

And I was reading this just the other day, its so beautiful, the way the martyrs lived and died. Here is the link to the District of Asia's most recent newsletter with a huge dossier on Japanese Catholicism, including a letter by St. Francis Xavier himself. Here's a beautiful excerpt from an article from the newsletter: A Pilgrim's Diary of a very Memorable Japanese Pilgrimage.

"Then, after an intense walk in a light rain, while reciting the Rosary for Asian and especially Japanese vocations, we arrived on the bank of the Kamo river which crosses Kyoto, and were shown, inserted in the hedge on the side of the road, a simple stone-monument, with some Japanese inscription on it. This monument which was put up in spite of much opposition only a few ten years ago, recalls the martyrdom of 55 Catholics, on October 6, 1619. That day is called “The Great Kyoto Martyrdom”.

(When I came home I found the following details on that event:)

There were more than 300,000 Catholics in Japan at that time. That is why the Shogun (highest military commander), fearing his authority was seriously in danger, decided, under the influence of his Buddhists advisers, to eliminate the Christians.
In The Christian century in Japan (1951), one can read of an Englishman who was there, on that very day of October 6, 1619, and who describes how he saw ‘fifty-five persons of all ages and both sexes burnt alive on the dry bed of the Kamo River, and among them little children of five or six years old in their mothers’ arms, crying out, ‘Jesus, receive their souls!’ ” Here is the description of one of these executions:

“The ordeal was witnessed by 150,000, according to some writers, or 30,000 according to other and in all probability more reliable chroniclers. When the fagots were kindled, the martyrs said sayonara (farewell) to the onlookers who then began to entone the Magnificat, followed by the psalms Laudate pueri Dominum and Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, while the Japanese judges sat on one side ‘in affected majesty and gravity, as in their favorite posture’. Since it had rained heavily the night before, the faggots were wet and the wood burnt slowly; but as long as the martyrdom lasted, the spectators continued to sing hymns and canticles. When death put an end to the victims’ suffering, the crowd intoned the Te Deum.” (C.R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, University of California Press, 1951, pp.342,343, 349)

These 55 Martyrs are among the 188 Martyrs that were declared Venerable last June 1, 2007, and should be beatified in the very near future. And among them is this heroic family of John Hashimoto Tahyôe, his wife Thecla and their five children, Catharina 13, Thomas 12, Franciscus 8, Petrus 6 and Ludovica 3. During the execution, the fire actually freed Catharina who was tied to a separate cross at a short distance from the cross where her mother and the 3 youngest children were tied together. She ran to her mother saying, ‘Mother, I can’t see!’ Her mother replied, ‘pray to Jesus and Mary’. The last thing bystanders saw of the mother was that she was drying tears from her 3 year old baby who was in her arms. After the flames and the smoke abided, the mother was still seen holding her youngest, tight in her arms, both dead.

The image of them offering their lives along with those of their children became a symbol of the martyrdom of the Japanese Church. (cf. The Great Kyoto Martyrdom: October 6, 1619, Yūki Ryōgo, 1987)"

Certainly very beautiful and most admirable! Deo gratias et Mariae. I am reminded of something I read in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, Chapter 13.

Divers admonitions and exhortations.

1 Let the charity of the brotherhood abide in you. 2 And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels. 3 Remember them that are in bands, as if you were bound with them; and them that labour, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have; for he hath said: I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.

4 "Marriage honourable in all"... Let marriage be honourable in all-- That is, in all things belonging to the marriage state. This is a warning to married people, not to abuse the sanctity of their state, by any liberties or irregularities contrary thereunto. Now it does not follow from this text that all persons are obliged to marry, even if the word omnibus were rendered, in all persons, instead of in all things: for if it was a precept, St. Paul himself would have transgressed it, as he never married. Moreover, those who have already made a vow to God to lead a single life, should they attempt to marry, they would incur their own damnation. 1 Tim. 5. 12.

6 So that we may confidently say: The Lord is my helper: I will not fear what man shall do to me. 7 Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, 8 Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. 9 Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace, not with meats; which have not profited those that walk in them. 10 We have an altar, whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle.

11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore to him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to his name.

13 "Bearing his reproach"... That is, bearing his cross. It is an exhortation to them to be willing to suffer with Christ, reproaches, persecutions, and even death, if they desire to partake of the benefit of his suffering for man's redemption.

16 And do not forget to do good, and to impart; for by such sacrifices God's favour is obtained. 17 Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you. 18 Pray for us. For we trust we have a good conscience, being willing to behave ourselves well in all things. 19 And I beseech you the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 And may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the blood of the everlasting testament,

21 Fit you in all goodness, that you may do his will; doing in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 And I beseech you, brethren, that you suffer this word of consolation. For I have written to you in a few words. 23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty: with whom (if he come shortly) I will see you. 24 Salute all your prelates, and all the saints. The brethren from Italy salute you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen.

Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee; Save Souls!

Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)

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