The saints of the day for February 6 are St. Paul Miki and companions, martyrs.
These twenty-six martyrs are sometimes called the martyrs of Nagasaki and the martyrs of Japan. St. Francis Xavier brought the Good News of Christianity to Japan in 1549. Many received the Word and were baptized by St. Francis himself. Although Francis moved on and eventually died near the shores of China, the faith had grown in Japan. By 1587 there were over two hundred thousand Catholics. Missionaries from various religious orders were there. Japanese priests, religious and lay people lived the faith joyfully. In 1597, forty-five years after the arrival of Francis Xavier, a powerful Japanese official, Hideyoshi, listened to the gossip of a Spanish merchant. The merchant whispered that the missionaries were traitors of Japan. He suggested that these traitors would cause Japan to be defeated by Spain and Portugal. The claim was false and absurd. But as an overreaction, Hideyoshi had twenty-six people arrested. The group included six Franciscans from Spain, Mexico and India; three Japanese Jesuit catechists, including St. Paul Miki; and seventeen Japanese Catholic lay people, including children.
The twenty-six were led to the place of execution outside Nagasaki. They were fastened to individual crosses with chains and cords and had iron collars clamped around their necks. Each cross was hoisted and the base was lowered into a hole dug for it. Spears were thrust into each of the victims. They died almost at the same moment. Their blood-stained clothes were treasured by the Christian community and miracles happened through their intercession.
Each martyr was a gift to the Church. St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit catechist, had been a great preacher. His last valiant homily came from the cross as he encouraged the Christian community to be faithful until death. It was February 5, 1597. St. Paul Miki and his companions were proclaimed saints by Pope Gregory XVI in 1862.
Reflection: Stop for a moment today to pray for Christians who are persecuted throughout the world.
Prayer to St. Paul Miki and Companions
O proclaimers of the faith
even unto death,
death on a cross,
you who have followed
in the way of our Lord
loving your enemies
even as they killed you,
encouraging your brothers
even with your last breath –
may the blood you shed not be forgotten
by those of the nation in which you preached
and by all souls who seek God;
may it nourish the land
and bring it to bear much fruit
Pray that we who are so fearful here
may find the faith and courage
and so be blessed with the same grace
that imparts the peace of the kingdom.
"The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling 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 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."
~ Saint Paul Miki