Martyrs of Japan
The Martyr of Japan have a story to tell of what it truly is to be Christian. Jesuits first brought the faith to Japan in the 16th century and were followed soon after by the Franciscans. The church grew rapidly, and it is estimated that by the end of the 16th century that there were more than three hundred thousand believers in Japan. Unfortunately there were problems due to rivalries between Franciscan and Jesuits and because of intrigues by both the Spanish and Portuguese governments.*
Concerned, the Japanese government had 6 Franciscans and twenty of their converts, crucified and then stabbed at Nagasaki, on 5 February 1597. A nobleman tempted the youngest, a boy to renounce his faith, but instead the boy asked to be shown his cross and embraced it. The church grew. From 1614 until 1854 a programme of persecution began, in which Christians were crucified, buried alive, and tortured. Churches were destroyed. But the Japanese Christians proved true martyrs indeed (the word martyr means witness). Despite a lack of clergy and contact with the official church, there were still practicing Christians, worshipping underground, when contact with the west was reestablished.
Two things are to be learned. First, we should all learn from the example from the Japanese Christians, and persevere, no matter what. The second thing we should learn, is that it is very important to concentrate on establishing indigenous pastors from early on, so that if the missionaries are driven out, the church may continue on in its fullness.
Collect: Heavenly Father, despite much suffering, your church in Japan continued through persecutions. Grant that we observing their perseverance, would have the courage to follow where they lead the way, proclaiming Christ with our very lives. This we ask in his most blessed name. Amen,
*It is likely that Christianity reached Japan centuries earlier by means of the Assyrian Church.