Wednesday, February 13, 2019
The 26 Holy Martyrs of Japan (Mass in Some Places)
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Reproduction of a painting of the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki which originally appeared in the Church of Sao Paulo in Macau, China, now ruined.

February 13: Mass in Some Places

In the back of the Missal in some places on February 13th is the feastday of the Holy Martyrs of Japan. While we may be familiar with the story of St. Francis Xavier's missionary work in Japan or the miraculous appearance of Our Lady in Atika, less known is the story of these heroic martyrs.

The 26 Christian martyrs included Franciscans, Jesuits, and laypeople who were led from town to town and exposed to the insults of the people. They were crucified at Nagasaki and pierced by spears in 1597.

The Roman Martyrology entry on February 5th reads:
At Nagasaki in Japan, the passion of twenty-six martyrs. Three priests, one cleric, and two lay brothers were members of the Order of Friars Minor; one cleric was of the Society of Jesus, and seventeen belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis. All of them, placed upon crosses for the Catholic faith, and pierced with lances, gloriously died in praising God and preaching that same faith. Their names were added to the roll of saints by Pope Pius IX.
The imperial government at first supported the Catholic mission and the missionaries, thinking that they would reduce the power of the Buddhist monks, and help trade with Spain and Portugal. However, the government increasingly saw Catholicism as a threat. Christianity was suppressed by the Japanese government at the onset of the 17th century despite the fact that there were as many as 300,00 Catholics in Japan by the end of the 16th century. These heroic martyrs died on February 5, 1597. By 1630, Catholicism had been driven underground. Two-hundred and fifty years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of "hidden Catholics" that had survived underground.

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst consecrate the first fruits of the faith in Japan with the blood of the holy martyrs Peter Baptist, Paul, and their companions who died on the cross in imitation of Thee: grant that while celebrating their feast today, we may be spurred on by their example. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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