Feast of Saint Paul Miki and the 26 martyrs
Today’s saints exhibited the love of God in such a concrete and profound way. Seeing their deaths as a participation in the death of Christ, and praying that it would bring their own executioners to repentance and belief in Christ.
On the way to Nagasaki, where they would be crucified, St. Paul Miki said “Like my Master I shall die upon the cross. Like Him, a lance shall pierce my heart so that my blood and my love can flow out upon the land and sanctify it to His name.” May we all imitate Christ in such a loving and forgiving way.
St. Paul Miki, pray for us.
Here is the words of St. Paul Miki’s sermon from the cross:
“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.
Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that no one of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians. Since this way teaches me to forgive my enemies and all who have offended me, I willingly forgive the king and all those who have desired my death. And I pray that they will obtain the desire of Christian baptism.”
And here is Saint John Paul II’s remarks on visiting martyr’s hill in Nagasaki:
“Today, I want to be one of the many Pilgrims who come to the Martyrs’ Hill here in Nagasaki, to the place where Christians Sealed their fidelity to Christ with the sacrifice of their lives. They triumphed over death in one unsurpassable act of praise to the Lord. In prayerful reflection before the Martyrs’ monument, I would like to penetrate the mystery of their lives, to let them speak to me and to the whole Church, and to listen to their message which is still alive after hundreds of years. Like Christ, they were brought close to a place where common criminals were executed. Like Christ, they gave their lives so that we might all believe in the love of the Father, in the saving mission of the Son, in the never-failing guidance of the Holy Spirit. On Nishizaka, on 5 February 1597, twenty-six Martyrs testified to the power of the Cross; they were the first of a rich harvest of Martyrs, for many more would subsequently hallow this ground with their suffering and death.
There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Christians died in Nagasaki, but the Church in Nagasaki did not die. She had to go underground, and the Christian message was passed from parents to Children until the Church came back into the open. Rooted in this Martyrs’ Hill, the Church in Nagasaki would grow and bloom, to become an example of faith and fidelity for Christians everywhere, an expression of hope founded in the Risen Christ.
Today, I come to this place as a pilgrim to give thanks to God for the lives and the death of the Martyrs of Nagasaki – for the twenty-six and all the others that followed them – including the newly beatified heroes of Christ’s grace. I thank God for the lives of all those, wherever they may be, who suffer for their faith in God, for their allegiance to Christ the Savior, for their fidelity to the Church. Every age – the past, the present and the future – produces, for the edification of all, shining examples of the power that is in Jesus Christ.
Today, I come to the Martyrs’ Hill to bear witness to the primacy of love in the world. In this holy place, people of all walks of life gave proof that love is stronger than death. They embodied the essence of the Christian message, the spirit of the Beatitudes, so that all who look up to them may be inspired to let their lives be shaped by unselfish love of God and love of neighbor.
Today, I, John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, come to Nishizaka to pray that this monument may speak to modern man just as the crosses on this hill spoke to those who were eye-witnesses centuries ago. May this monument speak to the world forever about love, about Christ!”
-Saint John Paul II