Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who are "his companions"?

Yesterday was one of those memorials of a saint and martyr, Paul Miki, and his companions. I've always wondered about those "companions" who are honored on that day but not usually mentioned by name. I like to pray to "the companions", figuring they don't get many prayer requests! So today I looked up the names of the actual martyr companions. There were actually 25 of them who were crucified with St. Paul Miki in Japan on February 5, 1597 during a Christian persecution. They were converted to Christianity by the great Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier. Among them were were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church. Here are a few of them mentioned by name in an article I read:

Francis, a carpenter who was arrested while watching the executions and then crucified; Gabriel, the nineteen year old son of the Franciscan's porter; Leo Kinuya, a twenty-eight year old carpenter from Miyako; Diego Kisai (or Kizayemon), temporal coadjutor of the Jesuits; Joachim Sakakibara, cook for the Franciscans at Osaka; Peter Sukejiro, sent by a Jesuit priest to help the prisoners, who was then arrested; Cosmas Takeya from Owari, who had preached in Osaka; and Ventura from Miyako, who had been baptized by the Jesuits, gave up his Catholicism on the death of his father, became a bonze, and was brought back to the Church by the Franciscans. They were all canonized as the Martyrs of Japan in 1862.

At least 4000 technically suffered the fate of martyrdom in Japan over the years, with estimates as high as 35,000 or more. Most of these holy martyrs will remain nameless, including women and children who were killed off as family of any condemned person. May these holy martyrs inspire us to live holy lives, make us thankful for our freedoms, and pray for us to be saints one day too.

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