Missionary Saints – St. Paul Miki and Companions


Could you image the impact of your missionary witness inspiring people to maintain their faith–despite persecution–for 200 years? What acts of faith, hope, and love could so endure? Many of our parishioners today are worried their own children and grandchildren will not persevere in their faith in the Triune God.

On February 6, the Church remembers the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki, a group of native Japanese Catholics and foreign missionaries who suffered death for their faith in the year 1597. Three of the better known Martyrs of Nagasaki were all connected to the Jesuit order. Saint Paul Miki was in formation for the priesthood. Saint John of Goto was a catechist preparing to enter the Jesuits. James Kisai was a lay brother. These martyrs followed close on the heels of Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Paul Miki was native Japanese. Perhaps his parents personally encountered Saint Francis Xavier. Missionary saints make missionary saints. Sanctity can be highly contagious and easily transmissible.

After these martyrdoms, the Church in Japan was forced underground. Nearly 200 years later, when Catholic missionaries were permitted by the Japanese government to return, they discovered thousands of faithful Catholics. How did they go on believing, celebrating, and living their faith in Jesus Christ for generations in a place and time when to do so was criminal?

Perhaps it was because this story was handed down. While hanging upon a cross, Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “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.”

Meditating on these martyrs, and especially praying with the words Paul Miki spoke from the cross, can inspire us to consider the boldness of our own witness. Can we imagine that our acts of radical forgiveness would give others a glimpse of the vastness of God’s mercy they will never forget? Can we imagine enabling others to not only experience but also to share our joy in knowing Jesus? Could our generous, compassionate care for those in need be so memorable so as to inspire others long after we are gone? How might our telling of the story of salvation be told and retold for generations in our families? How might our authentic witness make a lasting impression?

Saint Paul Miki and Companions intercede for us.