Today (Feb 6) is the feast of the martyrs of Nagasaki. Missionary priests, brothers, and their lay helpers were tortured and crucified together on what is now known as Martyrs’ Hill after refusing to renounce Christ. These were not the only martyrs in Japan in the late 1500s and into the 1600s. Many followed as the Emperor set out to wipe out all of Christianity. He seemingly succeeded. Visibly there were no Christians in Japan for over 250 years.
At mass today, I learned that in the 1860s when missionaries were able to return they discovered there were indeed Catholics practicing the faith, underground. Often without priests or sacraments, they passed down the faith taught to them along with the story of the martyrs who would not renounce it.
The United States is a little over 200 years old. That should give you some perspective of how many generations of Catholics were born from the death of those twenty-three men. It is nothing short of a miracle coupled with the determination of the people of God, the Church.
Those martyrs never knew how their lives and deaths would bring forth fruit, except from the perspective of eternal life. We also may not have the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of our faithfulness but when we believe and live our faith the Church cannot die. It cannot die even if our buildings or institutions are destroyed due to forces we have no control over. Jesus said the gates of hell would never destroy the Church. We are the Church and we must not be afraid of the threats all around us. Christ will always bring fruit out of good seed sown, whether we see it or not.
Martyrs of Nagasaki, pray for us that we may persevere in the faith!
Picture: Cruxifixion of 26 Christians of Nagaskaki, Japan by Eustaquio Maria de Nenclares, 1862. Public domain. Retrieved on Wikimedia Commons.