In 1597, Fr. Paul Miki, twenty-two other men, and three boys were martyred for their faith on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan. Paul was a Jesuit priest who was born in Japan. He was known as a famous preacher. His companions were two other Jesuit priests, six Franciscan priests, seventeen lay people, including catechists, a doctor, cook, carpenter, and a translator, and three altar boys.
Nine years before, the Emperor had ordered all Christians out of Japan. He feared that they would take over the country. Paul and his friends stayed behind and continued to do God’s work.
They were arrested and sentenced to death in December, 1596. They were tortured and forced to march three hundred miles to the hill where they were going to be executed. During their journey, Paul and his companions kept their faith and courage by praying and singing together. People came out of their homes to see the prisoners as they marched by. Their example inspired many Japanese citizens.
Paul and his friends were crucified. Before he died, Paul forgave those who persecuted him. He said, “Ask Christ to help you become happy.”
Nearly three hundred years later, missionaries returned to Japan. They saw no sign of the Christian faith when they began their work. However, they quickly learned that many people had kept the Catholic faith alive in secret over the years.
The Church honors Paul Miki and his companions as saints. Their example helps us to remember that making God part of our lives is the only way to true happiness.
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