The commemoration of St. Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions serves as a stark reminder of the fickle nature of secular powers. The beginning of the Catholic mission in Japan was in 1549, under an agreement with the daimyo, not because a new religion was particularly wanted, but because there was a hope of opening trade with the Europeans, and additionally, the shogunate wanted something to neutralize the growing influence of the Buddhist monks. Things didn’t develop to the satisfaction of those in the imperial government, and because there was no further usefulness in having Catholics in Japan, the great round-up began. Christianity was banned. Those who refused to abandon the Faith were killed.
It was on 5 February 1597 that twenty-six Christians – six European Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young boys – were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki on the orders of the daimyo, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Before they were raised up on crosses and pierced through with spears, they had been mutilated by each having an ear cut off, and then force-marched for some six hundred miles as a visible warning to any who might have been reluctant to give up the Faith. The government officials had decided the Catholics were expendable, so the final act was to make a public exhibition of that fact, on a hill overlooking Nagasaki.
The daimyo might now be called “Mr. President,” and the shogunate referred to as “honorable members of Congress,” but not much else has changed. As we’ve seen, even in this great nation of ours, as long as there was the possibility of the Catholic leadership serving some purpose by propping up a particular political platform, there was a certain level of tolerance. But now that the complete agenda of those in secular power is there for the world to see, and now that it has dawned on our ecclesiastical authorities that perhaps they had been pathetically credulous, just wait for it -- our current administration will be as merciless as a 16th century Japanese daimyo.
We can give thanks to God that our bishops have become unified as almost never before, as our president wields a hammer which threatens to smash our constitutional rights of freedom and conscience. Of course, word must translate into action, and on this there can be no compromise. Some of these very bishops will soon be raised to the office of Cardinal in the Church. The last time Pope Benedict XVI did this, he reminded them that the scarlet red of their vesture signifies the dignity of their new office and that they must be ready "even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."
If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes, and we’ll be ready to stand with them.