Category Archives: The Professed

Jul 23 – Sts Philip Evans, SJ (1645-1679) & John Lloyd, (1630-1679), Priests & Martyrs


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-linen jacket (~1640), woman’s bodice, in which remains were found at Holywell, please click on the image for greater detail

It’s a mystery that has puzzled researchers for almost 150 years. In 1878, a wooden box was discovered in an attic in the Welsh town of Holywell. It contained two skulls and a cluster of other bones, wrapped in a linen jacket.

Jan Graffius is the curator of the Stonyhurst Collections, an eye-popping assembly of Catholic martyrs’ relics at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, northwest England. She believes that she has finally solved the conundrum.

“The starting point is you look at the evidence in front of you,” she told Catholic News Agency in an interview. “So you have two skulls. One has a hole in the cranium, and many of the bones that are associated with the two skulls show evidence of having been cut with a sharp knife.”

“The immediate premise that you draw from that is that at least one of these two was dismembered after death and that one of the heads was stuck on a spike.”

Acknowledging that the details were “quite graphic,” she continued: “I examined the skull to see whether the hole in the top had been inflicted from the outside in or from the inside out. And the way the bone had been damaged indicated that the force had come from within the skull, within the cranium itself. It had also been pierced by something from inside, like a spike.”

“The clinching argument was that the coccyx [pictured above] — the bone at the base of the spine — had been severed very cleanly. And when you’re hanging, drawing, and quartering, the quartering is literal: you cut the body into pieces. And that indicates to me where you would normally expect the cuts to come from severing the legs from the body.”

A second identifying factor, Graffius said, was where the bones were found. They were uncovered in a house connected to the Jesuit order, where relics of English martyrs were previously discovered.

“So there was an association with an English martyr, or a Welsh martyr, and somebody with a Jesuit association,” she explained.

(Holywell is, in addition, home to St Winefride’s Well, the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain.)

Graffius said that another clue was that the two skulls were found together, suggesting that the two figures were closely associated.

She consulted Maurice Whitehead and Hannah Thomas, academic experts on the Welsh martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries. That led to the breakthrough.

Philip Evans was playing tennis on July 21, 1679, when he heard that he would be executed the following day. He reportedly received the news in good spirits and asked permission to finish the game in the grounds of the prison where he was being held. Not permitted to do so, he took up a harp back in his prison cell and sang praise to God for calling him to be a martyr.

Evans was born around 34 years earlier in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales. He studied at the English Jesuit College at St Omer in Flanders, entering the Jesuits at the age of 20. In 1675, he returned to his homeland to serve as a missionary: a perilous enterprise following the Welsh Reformation.

Priest hunters tracked Evans down on Dec. 2, 1678. After weeks of solitary confinement at Cardiff Gaol, he was allowed to share a cell with another condemned man, John Lloyd.

Lloyd was older than Evans. Born in Brecon, mid-Wales, he trained for the Catholic priesthood in Valladolid, Spain. He came back to Wales in 1654, knowing that he risked his life by doing so.

Evans and Lloyd were condemned to death at the Spring Assizes in 1679. A jailer allowed them considerable freedom in their final months, with Evans playing the harp as well as engaging in racket sports.

On the evening before his execution, Evans wrote to his younger sister, a nun in Paris.

“Dear Sister,” he said. “I know that you are so well versed in the principles of Christian courage as not to be at all startled when you understand that your loving brother writes this as his last letter unto you, being in a few hours hence to suffer as a priest and consequently for God’s sake. What greater happiness can befall a Christian man?”

Evans was the first to be hanged, drawn, and quartered the next day. Witnesses noted that his executioners showed unusual aggression. At executions of groups of Catholic priests, the first killing was often especially savage, in an attempt to persuade those waiting to recant. But Lloyd held fast to the faith to the end.

Graffius said that the experts she consulted suggested that the bones possibly belonged to the two Welsh priests.

“They both said, ‘Look, this must be Evans and Lloyd because they were very closely associated in life.’ They spent their last six months or so together in prison. They were executed at the same time. They were buried, or disposed of, at the same time, and they are always spoken of as a pair, if you like, because of the close friendship they had during life.”

“So it makes perfect logical and historical sense for these two bones of these very closely associated men to have been rescued together, and secreted together.”

The story of the bones’ identification is told in an online exhibition, “‘How bleedeth burning love’: British Jesuit Province’s Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,” inspired by the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

The exhibition was originally planned as a physical event marking the anniversary of the canonization by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970. But the coronavirus crisis forced the organizers to change their plans, offering instead an audio and visual experience to internet users around the world.

The exhibition describes the discovery of the bones at Holywell as well the lives of Evans and Lloyd, who were among the 40 martyrs canonized in 1970.

It also features relics of the celebrated Jesuit martyrs St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, as well as two hats, a crucifix, and part of a hair shirt belonging to St. Thomas More.

Graffius said that she was “just thrilled” when she drew the evidence together and connected the Holywell bones to Evans and Lloyd.

“To be able to say with a good degree of confidence, ‘this is who they are,’ is very exciting,” she said.


-St Philip Evans, SJ


-St Philip Evans, SJ


-17th century chalice believed to have belonged to St Philip Evans, SJ


-carving of St Philip Evans, SJ with his harp

Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645, was educated at Jesuit College of St. Omer (now in France), joined the Society of Jesus in Watten on 7 September 1665, and was ordained at Liège (now in Belgium) and sent to South Wales as a missionary in 1675.

He worked in Wales for four years, and despite the official anti-Catholic policy no action was taken against him. When the Oates’ scare swept the country both Lloyd and Evans were caught up in the aftermath. In November 1678 John Arnold, of Llanvihangel Court near Abergavenny, a justice of the peace and a staunch Calvinist and hunter of priests, offered a reward of an additional £200 (equivalent to £30,000 in 2019) for his arrest.  The normal price for a Jesuit was £50.

Despite the manifest dangers Father Evans steadfastly refused to leave his flock. He was arrested at the home of a Mr Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorgan, on 4 December 1678. Ironically the posse which arrested him is said to have been led by Turberville’s brother, the notorious priest-taker Edward Turberville.

Father John Lloyd, a Welshman and a secular priest (a priest not associated with any religious order), was a Breconshire man. He was educated in Ghent (now in Belgium),[citation needed] and from 1649 at the English College, Valladolid, Spain. He took the ‘missionary oath’ on 16 October 1649 to participate in the English Mission. Sent to Wales in 1654 to minister to covert Catholics, he lived his vocation while constantly on the run for 24 years. He was arrested at Mr Turberville’s house at Penlline, Glamorgan, on 20 November 1678, and imprisoned in Cardiff Gaol. There he was joined by the Jesuit, Philip Evans.

They waited five months before going to trial because the prosecution could not find witnesses to testify that they were indeed priests. Eventually a woman and her daughter said that they had received the sacraments from the Jesuit, which was true. Both priests were brought to trial in Cardiff on Monday, 5 May 1679. Neither was charged with being associated with the plot concocted by Oates. Nonetheless, they were tried for being priests and coming to England and Wales contrary to the provisions of Jesuits, etc. Act 1584, and were declared guilty of treason for exercising their priesthood.

The executions took so long to be scheduled that it began to appear that they might not take place. The priests were allowed a good deal of liberty, even to leaving the prison for recreation. The executions took place in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff, on 22 July 1679. Two plaques mark the site at what is now the junction of Crwys Road and Richmond Road in Roath, Cardiff, still known as “Death Junction”.

Philip Evans was the first to die. When Evans mounted the ladder at the gallows, he said, “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I can not forbear to tell you again that I die for God and religion’s sake. “He addressed the gathering in both Welsh and English saying, ‘Adieu, Father Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again’. John Lloyd spoke very briefly saying, “My fellow sufferer has declared the cause of our death, therefore I need not repeat it. Besides, I never was a good speaker in my life. I shall only say that I die in the true Catholic and apostolic faith, according to these words in the Creed, I believe in the holy Catholic Church; and with those three virtues: faith, hope and charity”.


-plaque at Death Junction

“Archbishop George Stack marked the 50th anniversary of the Canonisation of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI by holding Mass in the stark and grim bare stone cell at Cardiff Castle where two of these Martyrs were held before their execution on 22 July 1679.

The Archbishop and pilgrims then carried statues of Saint Phillip Evans and Saint John Lloyd to the site of their execution, then called the Gallows Field, and situated outside the Cardiff walls. It is now a busy road junction but the spot is marked by a plaque on the wall of the NatWest bank.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs
Saint Philip Evans and Saint John Lloyd
triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:
Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,
to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,
that we may receive with them the crown of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 23 – Servant of God (Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova) Mother Catherine of Siena, OPL, (1882-1936) – Victim of Stalin’s concentration camps

Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova (Russian: Анна Ивановна Абрикосова; 23 January 1882 – 23 July 1936), later known as Mother Catherine of Siena, O.P. (Russian: Екатери́на Сие́нская or Ekaterina Sienskaya), was a Russian Greek-Catholic religious sister, literary translator, and victim of Joseph Stalin’s concentration camps. She was also the foundress of a Byzantine Catholic community of the Third Order of St. Dominic.  She has gained wide attention, even among secular historians of Soviet repression. In an anthology of women’s memoirs from the GULAG, historian Veronica Shapovalova describes Anna Abrikosova as, “a woman of remarkable erudition and strength of will”, who, “managed to organize the sisters in such a way that even after their arrest they continued their work.” She is also mentioned by name in the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The Russian Greek Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь, Rossiyskaya greko-katolicheskaya tserkov; Latin: Ecclesiae Graecae Catholico Russica), Russian Byzantine Catholic Church or simply Russian Catholic Church, is a sui iuris Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church. Historically, it represents the first reunion of members of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope of Rome as defined by Eastern canon law.

Russian Catholics historically had their own episcopal hierarchy in the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Russia and the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin, China. However, these offices are currently vacant. Their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other the Eastern Catholic Churches, former Eastern Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties. The Russian Greek Catholic Church is currently led by Bishop Joseph Werth as Ordinary.

Early life

Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova was born on 23 January 1882 in Kitaigorod, Moscow, Russian Empire, into a wealthy family of factory owners and philanthropists, who were the official suppliers of chocolate confections to the Russian Imperial Court. Her grandfather was the industrialist Aleksei Ivanovich Abrikosov. Her father, Ivan Alekseievich Abrikosov, was expected to take over the family firm until his premature death from tuberculosis. Her brothers included Tsarist diplomat Dmitrii Abrikosov and Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov, the doctor who embalmed Vladimir Lenin.

Although the younger members of the family rarely attended Divine Liturgy, the Abrikosovs regarded themselves as pillars of the Russian Orthodox Church. Anna’s parents died early: her mother while giving birth to her, and her father ten days later, of tuberculosis. Anna and her four brothers were raised in the house and provincial estate of her uncle, Nikolai Alekseevich Abrikosov.

The memoirs of her brother Dmitrii “describes their childhood as carefree and joyous” and writes that their British governess “was quite shocked at the close relationship between parents and children.” She used to say that in England, “children were seen and not heard.”

Desiring to be a teacher, Anna graduated with Gold Medal Grade from the First Women’s Lyceum in Moscow in 1899. She then entered a teacher’s college, where the student body ostracized and bullied her for being from a wealthy family.

She later recalled, “Every day as I went into the room the girls would divide up the passage and stand aside not to brush me as I passed because they hated me as one of the privileged class.”

After graduating, she briefly taught at a Russian Orthodox parochial school but was forced to leave after the priest threatened to denounce her to the Okhrana for teaching the students that Hell does not exist. Although heartbroken Anna then decided to pursue an old dream of attending Girton College, the all-girls adjunct to Cambridge University. While studying history from 1901-1903, Anna befriended Lady Dorothy Georgiana Howard, the daughter of the 9th Earl and “Radical Countess” of Carlisle. Lady Dorothy’s letters to her mother remain the best source for Anna’s college days. She ultimately returned to Russia without a degree and married her first cousin, Vladimir Abrikosov.

Catholicism

The Abrikosovs spent the next decade traveling in the Kingdom of Italy, Switzerland and France.

According to Father Cyril Korolevsky:

“While traveling, she studied a great deal. She… read a number of Catholic books. She particularly liked the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena and began to doubt official Orthodoxy more and more. Finally, she approached the parish priest of the large, aristocratic Church of the Madeleine in Paris, Abbé Maurice Rivière, who later became Bishop of Périgueux. He instructed and received her into the Catholic Church on 20 December 1908. Amazingly, especially at that time, he informed her that even though she had been received with the Latin Ritual, she would always canonically belong to the Greek-Catholic Church. She went on reading and came to prefer the Dominican spirituality and to enjoy Lacordaire’s biography of Saint Dominic… She never stopped thinking of Russia, but like many other people, she thought that only the Roman Catholic priests were able to work with Russian souls. Little by little, she won her husband over to her religious convictions. On 21 December 1909, Vladimir was also received into the Catholic Church. They both thought they would stay abroad, where they had full freedom of religion and… a vague plan to join some monastery or semi-monastic community. Since they knew that according to the canons they were Greek-Catholics, they petitioned Pius X through a Roman prelate for permission to become Roman Catholics — they considered this a mere formality. To their great surprise the Pope refused outright… and reminded them of the provisions of Orientalium dignitas. They had just received this answer when a telegram summoned them to Moscow for family reasons.”

The couple returned to Russia in 1910. Upon their return, the Abrikosovs found a group of Dominican tertiaries which had been established earlier by one Natalia Rozanova. They were received into the Third Order of St. Dominic by Friar Albert Libercier, O.P., of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Louis in Moscow. On 19 May 1917, Vladimir was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. With her husband now a priest, according to Catholic custom, Anna was free to take monastic vows. She took vows as a Dominican Sister, assuming her religious name at that time, and founded a Greek-Catholic religious congregation of the Order there in Moscow. Several of the women among the secular tertiaries joined her in this commitment. Thus was a community of the Dominican Third Order Regular established in Soviet Russia.

Persecution

During the aftermath of the October Revolution, the convent was put under surveillance by the Soviet secret police.

In 1922, Father Vladimir Abrikosov was exiled to the West aboard the Philosopher’s Ship. Soon after, Mother Catherine wrote him a letter from Moscow, “I am, in the fullest sense of the word, alone with half naked children, with sisters who are wearing themselves out, with a youthful, wonderful, saintly but terribly young priest, Father Nikolai Alexandrov, who himself needs support, and with parishioners dismayed and bewildered, while I myself am waiting to be arrested, because when they searched here, they took away our Constitution and our rules.”

Imprisonment

Due to her work with the Papal Aid Mission to Russia, Mother Catherine was arrested by the OGPU. Shortly before the Supreme Collegium of the OGPU handed down sentences, Mother Catherine told the sisters of her community, “Probably every one of you, having given your love to God and following in His way, has in your heart more than once asked Christ to grant you the opportunity to share in His sufferings. And so it is; the moment has now arrived. Your desire to suffer for His sake is now being fulfilled.”[13]

Mother Catherine was sentenced to ten years of solitary confinement and imprisoned at Yaroslavl from 1924 to 1932. After being was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was transferred to Butyrka Prison infirmary for an operation in May 1932. The operation removed her left breast, part of the muscles on her back and side. She was left unable to use her left arm, but was deemed cancer free.[14]

Release

Meanwhile, Ekaterina Peshkova, the wife of author Maxim Gorky and head of the Political Red Cross, had interceded with Stalin to secure her release and grounds of her illness and that her sentence was almost complete.

On August 13, 1932, Mother Catherine petitioned to be returned to Yaroslavl. Instead, she was told that she could leave any time she wanted. On August 14, she walked free from Butyrka and went directly to the Church of St. Louis des Français.[15]

Bishop Pie Neveu, who had been secretly consecrated as an underground Bishop in 1926,[16] wrote to Rome after meeting her, “This woman is a genuine preacher of the Faith and very courageous. One feels insignificant beside someone of this moral stature. She still cannot see well, and she can only use her right hand, since the left is paralyzed.”[17]

Despite warnings that it could lead to another arrest, Mother Catherine also reestablished ties to the surviving Sisters. She later told interrogators, “After my release from the isolator and happening to be in Moscow, I renewed my links with a group of people whom an OGPU Collegium had condemned in 1923. In reestablishing contact with them, my purpose was to assess their political and spiritual condition after their arrest, administrative exile and the expiration of their residence restriction. Following my meetings with them, I became convinced that they retained their earlier world outlook.”[18]

Rearrest

After immediately entering communication with the surviving Sisters of the congregation, Mother Catherine was arrested, along with 24 other Catholics, in August 1933. In what the NKVD called “The Case of the Counterrevolutionary Terrorist-Monarchist Organization”, Mother Catherine stood accused of plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin, overthrow the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and restore the House of Romanov as a constitutional monarchy in concert with “international fascism” and “Papal theocracy”. It was further alleged that the organization planned for the restoration of Capitalism and for collective farms to be broken up and returned to their former owners among the Russian nobility and the kulaks. The NKVD alleged that the organization was directed by Pope Pius XI, Bishop Pie Neveu, and the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches.[19] After being declared guilty as charged, Mother Catherine was returned to the Political Isolator Prison at Yaroslavl.

Death

Abrikosova died of bone cancer at Butyrka Prison infirmary on July 23, 1936, at the age of 54 years. After being autopsied, her body was secretly cremated at the Donskoy Cemetery and her ashes were buried in a mass grave at the same location.

“I wish to lead a uniquely supernatural life and to accomplish to the end my vow of immolation for the priests and for Russia.”
“Soviet youth cannot talk about its world outlook; it is blinkered. It is developing too one-sidedly, because it knows only the jargon of Marxist-Leninism.”
“A political and spiritual outlook should develop only on the basis of a free critical exploration of all the facets of philosophical and political thought.”

Prayer for the beatification of the Servant of God Mother Catherine (Abrikosova)

O God Almighty, Your Son suffered on the Cross and died for the salvation of people.
Imitating Him, Your Servant Mother Catherine (Abrikosova) loved You from the bottom of her heart, served You faithfully during the persecutions and devoted her life to the Church.  Make her famous in the assembly of Your blessed, so that the example of her faithfulness and love would shine before the whole world. I pray to You through her intercession, hear my request………………………………..through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The prayer has to be used in private, as well as in public, out of the Holy Mass.
+ Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusiewich, St. Petersburg 05.04.2004
Postulator asks to inform about the graces received through the mediation of the Servant of God.
Address: Fr. Bronislav Chaplicki, 1st Krasnoarmyskaya, D. 11, 198005, St. Petersburg, Russia

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Summa Theologiae


-by Br Simon Teller, OP

“If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s theological masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. This work has fed the minds of over 700 years of Catholic thinkers, and at least two popes have written laws to enshrine it within the syllabi of seminary professors (see the Code of Canon Law, can. 252 §3). With an import that is vast and perennial, the Summa has become one of the most important texts of Christian literature.

You probably have heard of the Summa, but do you know why Aquinas wrote it?

When St. Thomas began his work on the Summa Theologiae, he did not set out to write a timeless classic. Rather, he intended to meet a specific need of his own era (see Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work, 142–145).

During the 1260s, the Roman Province of the Dominican Order had a problem. Its intellectual life was in a sad state because the Roman friars had lost their ardor for study. Regrettably, many of them had forsaken the reading of sacred books. As a result, the preaching of the friars was beginning to run theologically dry, lacking the robust doctrinal character appropriate to the Dominican charism. Despite years of exhortations and commands from the Dominican powers-that-be, the friars had been unable to do anything to remedy the situation.

In 1265, the Dominican Order tasked St. Thomas with founding a center of studies at its Roman headquarters—Santa Sabina (Ed. one of my novitiate classmates, who could not sing, became Prior of Santa Sabina in Rome and Prior Provinical of the Eastern Province US). Select friars from throughout the Province would be sent to study there, with the hope that they would spread the intellectual zeal from this one house to the province’s other Dominican priories when these friars were sent out for further missions. As the assigned leader of this project, Aquinas was in charge of creating the program of theological formation that would be implemented at this new theological center.

To do this, he set to work charting a course of studies for the students of this new studium. In the process of writing and rewriting his courses, Aquinas produced a synthetic and doctrinally robust textbook for the theological formation of preachers and confessors: the Summa Theologiae.

As we now know, the Summa’s impact far surpassed Aquinas’s original, modest intentions. He had set out to provide for a particular need of his own time, namely, the revival of his province’s intellectual life. But his work far transcended the needs of the Roman Dominicans in the 1260s. For St. Thomas’s writings took on a transgenerational influence, fueling the intellectual zeal of the Church on a universal scale. The local need for a doctrinally rich textbook for beginners that Aquinas’s Summa met was also a need experienced by the whole Church.

St. Thomas did not begin this work with a view to producing a perennial masterpiece. His focus, rather, was on providing for the needs of his age. But God used Aquinas’s solicitude for a particular, local need to meet a need experienced by the whole Church throughout time.”

Love,
Matthew

Prayers for Priests in Purgatory

“All who die in God’s grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).”

“Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, pray for the souls of priests and religious brothers and sisters.”

“Eternal Father, we offer you the most Precious Blood of Jesus, for the souls of priests who in purgatory suffer the most and are the most abandoned.”

“Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Priest, Who during Your earthly life generously cared for every poor person who was afflicted and abandoned, I beg You, look with favor on the souls of priests in purgatory who suffer most atrociously and who are abandoned and forgotten by everyone. Look at how these Holy Souls, tormented by the voracity of the flames and with an agonizing voice plead for pity and help.

Oh most merciful heart of Jesus, Who in the Garden of Olives, in the midst of bitter solitude, victim of most cruel spiritual torments and bloody agony, begged: “Father, if it is possible take this chalice away from Me! Yet let not Mine, but Your will be done.” By this, Your submission and painful passion and agony, I beg you to have pity on the Holy Souls for whom I am praying to You and to relieve their suffering and to console them in the midst of their abandonment, as Your Celestial Father consoled You by sending you an angel. Amen.

Our Lady of Suffrage, Mother of Mercy, we favorably invoke you for our own sake and for the sake of the souls in purgatory. I would like to escape from that tremendous prison, by living a just life, avoiding sin, and doing everything with the fervor of a holy soul. But what can I do, without the help of heaven?

Dear Mother, cast your glance upon me and obtain for me the grace that the last day of my mortal life may be the first day that I will begin to enjoy the glories of heaven. Hope and Mother of the afflicted, run to the aid of those in purgatory. Be merciful towards my relatives, my friends, my benefactors, the souls who love Jesus and who love you and toward the abandoned souls.

Oh Mary, by the Cross on which Jesus died, by the Most Precious Blood with which He redeemed us, by the chalice which every day is offered up to the Eternal Father during the Mass, obtain grace and liberation for all of the souls in purgatory. Listen to the sighs of your sons & daughters in purgatory and opening the doors of this painful prison, let them all ascend into Heaven with you today. Amen.

– Our Lady of Suffrage, pray for us and the souls in purgatory. Eternal Rest grant unto them, oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.”

Love & prayers for our professed and ordained, certainly God will grant the grace you seek to do His will on earth,
Matthew

Oct 19 – Jesuit North American Martyrs (1642-1649)


-St. René Goupil (1642), St. Isaac Jogues (1646), St. Jean de Lalande (1646), St. Antoine Daniel (1648), St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1649), St. Charles Garnier (1649), and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649), please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Christopher Check

“On Christmas Eve 1643, a merchant vessel left Cornwall southbound for Brittany, carrying cargo more precious than whatever filled its holds. Letting go anchor the next morning, the ship’s crew lowered a small rowboat, which left on the beach a man whose lined countenance suggested more than his thirty-six years. Making his way to a nearby fishing cottage, he found two men expecting perhaps a Catholic refugee of the English Civil War. They heard perfect French.

“Is there a church close where I can hear Mass?” begged the man.

“Yes—a monastery not far up the road. Mass begins soon. Come join us for breakfast after.”

The man raced up the road to the monastery, where with tears in his eyes he assisted at his first Mass in almost two years. Later he would write, “It was at this moment that I began to live once more. It was then that I tasted the sweetness of my deliverance.”

Later, devouring breakfast at the home of his hosts, the man could not conceal his deformed hands. What fingers he yet possessed were badly maimed. Some were mere stumps. Some had no fingernails. The thumb of his left hand was missing. The young daughters of the household gave him a few coins they had saved. A merchant from the village gave him a horse and pointed him 130 miles to Rennes, home of a college of the Society of Jesus.

Arriving on the eve of Epiphany, the man knocked on the door of the seminary asking for the rector.

“He is preparing to offer Mass.”

“Please tell him I have news from the Jesuit missions in New France.”

The rector came with all haste. “Do you know Fr. Isaac Jogues?” he asked. “He is a prisoner of the Iroquois. Is he dead? Is he alive?”

“I know him well. He is alive. I am he.”

Subsequently, Fr. Isaac Jogues, who had suffered capture, torture, privation, and every form of unspeakable humiliation for more than a year at the cruel hands of Mohawk savages, was for four months fêted by the royalty of France. Pope Urban VIII, who had who canonized Loyola and Xavier and patronized the Jesuit reductions in Latin America, joyfully granted Fr. Isaac a dispensation once again to offer Mass even though he lacked a canonical set of fingers and thumbs. Indignum esset Christi Martyrum Christi non bibere sanguinem, he wrote. “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ not be allowed to drink the blood of Christ.”

Fr. Isaac was filled with joy to ascend again ad altare Dei, yet his heart’s prayer was to return to New France, to the native peoples of the St. Lawrence Valley for whom he desired more than anything to bring baptism and the salvation of Jesus Christ, knowing with near certainty that his return would bring to him a brutal martyrdom.

St. Isaac Jogues is one of the eight North American Martyrs, also called the Canadian Martyrs, canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI, whose heroic courage and sacrificial love we honor today. Their missionary work during the first half of the seventeenth century, especially among the Hurons, is an epic tale rich in opportunities for reflection.

When we are inconvenienced, for example, turning our imaginations to the daily lives of the Jesuit martyrs should prove a quick tonic. Knowing that to convert the Indians they had to live among them and live as they did, the Jesuits endured the smoke and the squalor of the Huron longhouses, with their lack of hygiene and rampant promiscuity. The missionaries paddled and portaged along with the natives, slept on the hard ground, endured the bitter Ontario cold, and subsisted on eels and corn paste.

The story should also refocus our appreciation of the sacrament of baptism. It would be seven years—after first learning their language and then catechizing the Hurons—before St. Jean de Brébeuf baptized a healthy adult native. In time, 7,000 Hurons had the doors of heaven opened to them through the waters of baptism—and good thing, for most of the Huron people were later massacred by the vicious Iroquois in their wars of expansion.

And vicious does not overstate it. In March of 1649, the Iroquois tribes—Mohawk and Seneca, especially—invaded the Huron lands with fury. Fr. Jean and his young colleague, Fr. Gabriel Lalemont, were taken prisoner and forced to watch as the Hurons they had come to love were slaughtered, their skulls split by Iroquois tomahawks. Those spared the tomahawk—women, children, sick, elderly—were burned to death in their longhouses.

Binding Brébeuf and Lalemont along with other Huron Christians, the Iroquois dragged them to the neighboring town of St. Ignace at the southeastern end of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. Stripped naked, the priests and their Huron sons in Christ were subjected to the gauntlet. With blood-curdling shrieks, the Iroquois beat the Christians with clubs before confining them to a cabin that Brébeuf himself had designed with the hopes that it would one day be a church. There the Huron Christians consoled one another while the priests gave absolution.

Then the torture continued. First, they broke Brébeuf’s fingers. They pulled out his fingernails and gnawed his fingertips. Next, they bound him to a post, which the saint kissed—the instrument of his martyrdom. They set burning sticks around his feet and ran torches up and down his body, between his legs, around his neck, and under his arms. The saint’s flesh began to blister, but he made no cry, so they slashed his flesh with knives.

To the Hurons enduring the same ordeal, Brébeuf called out, “My sons, my brothers, let us lift up our eyes to heaven in our affliction. Let us remember that God is the witness to our afflictions, and very soon he will be our exceedingly great reward. Let us die in our Faith. The glory that awaits us will never have an end.” As the Mohawks stabbed him with the heads of spears he repeated aloud: “Jesus have mercy on us.”

To silence the giant of a priest, the savages cut off his lower lip and thrust a hot poker down his throat. Then they brought out Lalemont, around whose naked waist they had fastened a girdle of pine bark. Tying him to a stake alongside Brébeuf the Mohawks set fire to the pine bark.

Around Brébeuf’s neck the Indians had fastened a necklace of hatchet heads heated red in the fire. If he leaned forward, they burned his back. If he leaned back, they scorched his chest. “Jesus have mercy on us!” was his only cry.

The Iroquois, in their diabolical frenzy, tied around him another girdle of pine bark and set it aflame. Traitorous Hurons poured boiling water over him in a mockery of baptism. They sliced strips of flesh from his legs and ate them as he watched. They cut off his nose, his upper lip, his tongue. They shoved a torch into his mouth and gouged out his eyes. Dragging him to a platform, they hacked off his feet, scalped him, tore open his chest, ripped out his heart and ate it. Then they drank his blood, hoping to acquire his courage. Finally, a blow from a tomahawk cut his face in two.

Fr. Lalemont they tortured similarly throughout the night, being certain to bring him only to the brink of death before giving him reprieve. The young priest whom his superior had doubted was physically fit for the rigors of the missions of New France endured sixteen hours of torture before the angel met him with the crown of martyrdom.

A final point of reflection: the Jesuits were the best and the brightest of their time. Their colleges provided the finest and broadest education in Europe. These men could have been bishops, university professors, seminary rectors. They could have been writing academic treatises or making scientific discoveries. There were no finer minds. We may find it odd that they left so much behind to endure the wilderness of New France, but there was a time when the world’s best and brightest were sent to do the world’s most important work: bring souls into the Catholic Church.

That human instinct, if you will, that the best and brightest take up the most important work, is still with us. It is what we regard as the most important work that has changed.”

Love,
Matthew

Lent, Fridays: Canticle of the Passion, St Catherine de Ricci, OP, (1522-1590) – we carry our crosses w/Him


-“Canticle of the Passion” by St Catherine de Ricci, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“For twelve years, Saint Catherine de Ricci, OP, experienced all of the rigors of Christ’s passion on a weekly basis. From noon on Thursday until late afternoon on Friday, the marks of Christ’s Passion were visible on her body. After her first ecstatic experience of the stigmata, St. Catherine received the Canticle of the Passion from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since then, it has spread as a pious devotion to the monasteries and convents of the Order of Preachers, and it has been traditionally prayed on the Fridays of Lent.

The Canticle consists of a series of couplets drawn from Scripture, with the exception of a single couplet from the Te Deum. The cantor chants each couplet in succession, though silence punctuates the space between them. The entire Canticle is divided into two segments, which are separated by a lengthier silence after a reference to the death of the Lord. The first half of the Canticle recounts the Passion of Christ through the words of Scripture, and the second half is the Christian’s response. In each half of the Canticle, there is a verse repeated by the entire choir.

The current practice in the Studentate at the Dominican House of Studies is to precede the chanting of the Canticle with a reading of one of the four servant songs from the book of Isaiah and to conclude by venerating a cross while the Vexilla Regis is sung. These reminiscences of Good Friday help to focus our contemplation on Christ crucified during the season of Lent.

Suffice it to say, Saint Catherine de Ricci had a great devotion to the crucified Christ. Aside from the marks of Christ’s Passion, a betrothal ring was also visible to those looking on during her ecstatic episodes. Saint Catherine’s experience of Christ’s sufferings was Christ’s gift to her as his beloved spouse. This may appear, at first glance, incredibly counterintuitive. Why would Christ grant suffering to one he loved? To answer this question, we must first answer another: Why did Christ undergo his Passion? Love. Christ suffered out of love for sinners. Christ suffered out of love for us (ST III q. 46, a. 3).

When we look upon the Cross, we primarily see two things: first, we see our sins; second, we see God’s loving mercy. The heart that loves Christ and sees Him on the Cross cannot help but desire to accompany Him in His sufferings. The model for this is, of course, His Mother, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced as she looked upon her Son and suffered alongside Him at the foot of the Cross.

It is fitting then that this devotion of the Canticle of the Passion should have been handed over by the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Catherine de Ricci, because St. Catherine also shared in the sufferings of the Virgin’s Son. It is further fitting that St. Catherine, another virgin united to Christ’s sufferings on the Cross, should spread this devotion to women and men ardently seeking that same union. May we who have received this devotion come to know deeply the love of the crucified Christ through our own share in his Cross. We also suffer like Him so that we may come to love like Him.”

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

Feb 3 – Bl Iustus Takayama Ukon (高山右近), or Dom Justo Takayama (born Hikogorō Shigetomo) (1552 – 3 – 5 February 1615), Martyr


-Blessed Iustus Takayama Ukon 高山右近 Kirishitan Daimyō, please click on the image for greater detail

“The Holy Daimyo of Christ”, Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, Martyr, was a Japanese Catholic (日本のカトリック教会) kirishitan (吉利支丹, 切支丹, キリシタン, きりしたん), daimyō, and samurai.  Of the Japan’s 42 Japanese Saints and 394 Blessed, only the Cause of Blessed Takayama Ukon was processed individually – a first instance in Japanese church history. All other Japanese Saints and Blessed are group martyrs, processed by the Vatican in four batches.

Kirishitan, from Portuguese cristão, referred to Roman Catholic Christians in Japanese and is used in Japanese texts as a historiographic term for Roman Catholics in Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. The daimyō (大名) were powerful Japanese feudal lords.

Modern Japanese has several words for Christian of which the most common are the noun form kirisuto-kyōto キリスト教徒, and also kurisuchan クリスチャン. The Japanese word kirishitan キリシタン is used primarily in Japanese texts for the early history of Roman Catholicism in Japan, or in relation to Kakure Kirishitan, Hidden Christians. However, English sources on histories of Japan generally use the term “Christian” without distinction.

Christian missionaries were known as bateren (from the Portuguese word padre, “father”) or iruman (from the Portuguese irmão, “brother”). Both the transcriptions 切支丹 and 鬼利死丹 came into use during the Edo Period when Christianity was a forbidden religion. The Kanji used for the transcriptions have negative connotations. The first one could be read as “cut off support”, and the second as “devils who profit from death”.

Portuguese ships began arriving in Japan in 1543, with Catholic missionary activities in Japan beginning in earnest around 1549, mainly by Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits until Spanish-sponsored mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans, gained access to Japan. Of the 95 Jesuits who worked in Japan up to 1600, 57 were Portuguese, 20 were Spaniards and 18 Italian. Fr. Francis Xavier, SJ, Fr. Cosme de Torres, SJ, and João Fernandes, SJ were the first to arrive to Kagoshima with hopes to bring Catholicism to Japan.

Takayama had been baptized into the faith in 1564 when he was twelve, though over time neglected his faith due to his actions as a samurai. He would eventually rekindle his faith just after his coming-of-age ritual near the age of 20. He abandoned his status to devote himself to his faith and was exiled to Manila, where he lived a life of holiness until his death two months later.

In 1571 he participated in an important and successful battle all as part of his coming-of-age ritual which culminated in a duel to the death with a compatriot whom he killed; but Ukon received grievous wounds in the process and during his convalescence realized he had cared little about the faith that had received him and had been imparted to him by his father, who was also so daimyo, and converted to Catholicism, having Ukon baptized at age twelve, and giving him the name Justus, or Iusto. After his coming-of-age celebration he was named as Shigetomo (重友). However he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近).

But then disaster struck, initiated by the lies and boasts of the Spanish captain of the ship San Felipe. On its voyage from the Philippines to Mexico it ran into a roaring cyclone that tore off the masts and sails and dumped it on the Japanese coast – with most of the cargo and crew intact. By Japanese custom the local Daimyo looked after the crew, but the cargo was his.

When the ship’s captain was told this he responded with a lie and a threat. “You’ve seen the Spanish missionaries in Japan. Well they are the forerunners of the Spanish Army who will soon come and make Japan a colony. You will be in big trouble then if you have stolen my cargo.” This threat was relayed to Shogun Hideyoshi, the generalissimo and real ruler of Japan – the Emperor was a powerful symbol, eking out cultured boredom in a gilded cage in Kyoto.

The Shogun looked apprehensively at the Philippines and Mexico, and the seemingly unstoppable armies from Europe. This set the scene for the persecution of Christians in Japan.

The Shogun waited because he wanted to continue trade with Europeans via their ships. But early in 1597 he struck a fierce blow – a total ban on Japanese Christian and western missionaries. He now decided to terrorize every Japanese Christian and foreign missionary by public and gruesome executions in Nagasaki, where Christians were numerous. Famous Christian Daimyo Takayama would head the list of about 20, or so, missionaries and Japanese Christians to be executed.

These “criminals” would have ears sliced off, loaded into open carts and paraded around the capital city Kyoto. Then guarded by unmerciful samurai they would be forced to march to Nagasaki, 30 days away, during the coldest time of the year. There they would be fastened to crosses in mockery of this foreign Christian religion.

The local governor was ordered to make as many citizens as possible attend. Everything was to be unhurried and drawn out, to heighten the terror for both the crucified and the onlookers.

Finally the two samurai, who had been standing right under each of the crucified, with the steel tip of a lance very visible, would thrust the lance deep and up under the rib cage of the crucified. The last punishment was the refusal of burial for their corpse that would remain on the crosses until they rotted away.

The Shogun’s advisors did not oppose the gory executions but they advised the Shogun that Daimyo Takayama was too highly respected, famous throughout Japan as a man of great courage and ability, and a lover of the highest expressions of Japanese culture – the Way of the classical Tea Ceremony, Haiku poetry, fine calligraphy – and a brilliant designer of Daimyo castles.

The advisors dared not raise with lecherous Hideyoshi another reason for Takayama’s fame – his total faithfulness to his wife Justa Kuroda, in an era of sexual abandon among the powerful men of the land. His advisors suggested that crucifying Daimyo Takayama like a common criminal could cause dangerous resentment and possibly harm to the Shogun’s “great reputation”.

So Shogun Hideyoshi took Takayama off the list of those to be executed on February 6, 1597. However the merciless Shogun was angry that Takayama still lived publically as a Christian, despite the Shogun outlawing Christianity.

To backtrack some years, Sen no Rikyu, still venerated by most Japanese, was the acknowledged creator of the fully developed Japanese Tea Ceremony, “Chado”, The Way of Tea, which was fast becoming the quintessence of Japanese refinement and culture for the ruling classes. The Tea Ceremony is not like a casual cup of tea with friends.

The Tea Ceremony is conducted mostly in silence, taking an hour or more, and is acted out according to a solemn ritual full of spiritual symbols. Often when Japanese Tea Ceremony people attend Mass for the first time they will say the Mass reminded them of their much loved Tea discipline.

This famous and venerated Sen no Rikyu had publically named the young Daimyo Takayama Ukon as one of his seven “mana deshi” – “most beloved disciple” – among the many Japanese who now practised the Tea cultural expression he created. Shogun Hideyoshi, who was also a follower of this Way of Tea, of course knew Sen no Kikyu personally.

He called Rokyu to his castle, and ordered him to visit Takayama with this stern warning. “I order you to renounce your Christian beliefs. I am your liege lord. If you do not obey me you are betraying ‘bushido’, the Way of the Samurai. The whole warrior class in Japan, from the Shogun to humblest samurai, vows to follow this Way until death. Bushido demands total obedience to your liege lord. I as Shogun am your liege lord and order you to renounce this foreign religion. If you refuse to obey you are breaking the bushido vow, and will have to suffer the consequences.” The consequences the Shogun referred to was the duty of hara kiri (seppuku), the ritualistic disembowelling of oneself with a short sword.

To crafty Hideyoshi the spirited Daimyo Takayama replied immediately and masterfully, neither rejecting bushido nor his Christian faith: “I accept Shogun Hideyoshi as my liege lord on this earth. But, higher than my earthly bushido obligation is my totally absolute obligation to obey Jesus, my Divine liege Lord, the Heavenly liege Lord of all earthly lords. I cannot renounce Him from whom I have received life itself, and the promise of eternal salvation.”


-model of Takatsuki Castle in the Edo Period, please click on the image for greater detail.  The castle was founded in the 10th century AD. Takatsuki was an important commercial and transportation hub because it was between Osaka and Kyoto. The Saigoku road, which connected Nishinomiya (in Kobe) with Kyoto, went through the town as well as did the Yodo River. As a result, the castle was the largest in the Hokusetsu region of what now comprises the northern parts of the Osaka municipality. Ukon helped to develop a thriving castle town. In 1581, Takayama Ukon built a church within the castle grounds and invited missionaries to administer to the local people. There were about 18,000 Christians living in the castle town around Takatsuki Castle.

The Nagai (original patriarch, Nagai Naokiyo, gained control of the castle in 1649. The Nagai ruled for 13 generations until the end of the Edo Period when it was abandoned in 1871. This family gradually increased the size of the castle and expanded its moats outward from when it was a Sengoku period castle. The castle was about 630 meters long and 510 meters wide after the last round of expansion. Unfortunately, it was destroyed after the Meiji Restoration and the castle’s wood from buildings, and stone walls, were repurposed to build the train line between Mukomachi and Osaka in 1874. The stones of the castle were smashed into rocks to be used for the rail bed that was built to connect Osaka with Kyoto.

One of the original castle gates can still be found at Hongyoji Temple. Some Japanese castle books have also suggested that the Karamon at Nagai Shrine is an original castle gate from Takatsuki Castle. The family crest of the Nagai Clan can be seen on the water trough just inside the entrance of Nagai Shrine.

When Shogun Hideyoshi received Takayama’s reply from Sen no Rikyu he was infuriated. He ordered the immediate seizure of Takayama, his castle, lands and all his possessions, reducing him to the ignominious, lowest rank of a samurai, masterless “ronin”, whom no Daimyo could employ or shelter. Takayama, his wife and family were banished to an inhospitable area of Kanazawa in the present day Ishikawa Prefecture. Homeless ex-Daimyo Takayama first went to the Jesuit house at Arie, asking to be allowed to do a week’s retreat based on St Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

Takayama was a great admirer of St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ who once was a knight. The converted Ignatius chose poverty to follow Christ. Samurai Takayama told his wife and family that they now had the opportunity to do the same for Christ. Fortified by the Ignatian retreat, and at peace, Takayama asked for the prayers of the Jesuits and then led his family to what became a hand-to-mouth existence in a hostile environment. Ukon continued to spread Catholicism.

Ukon lived under the protection of his allies for several decades but in 1614 Tokugawa Ieyasu (the new shogun, after Hideyoshi died only one year after impoverishing Ukon and his family) prohibited the Christian faith which witnessed Ukon’s expulsion from Japan.

The shogun knew ex-Daimyo Takayama was spreading Christianity in the provinces and sent a grim message to him. Takayama ignored it. Some new friends advised Takayama to save himself and his family by a “seeming” obedience to Tokugawa’s order. Takayama replied, “For a man who has a sense of honour, and is firmly convinced of his Christian religion, it is inadmissible to even speak of such cowardice.”

Shogun Tokugawa then sent samurai to arrest Takayama and bring him bound to Kyoto. There Tokugawa worked on still famous Takayama for seven months, alternating between enticements of rewards and savage death threats. Takayama remained rock solid for Christ.

On 8 November 1614, Takayama, his wife Justa Kuroda, their daughter and their five grandchildren, 350 missionaries and Japanese Christian laymen were put on a small boat and deported to Manila.

He arrived to Manila on 11 December 1614 where he received a warm welcome from the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos. The governor Juan de Silva wished to provide him with an income to support him and his relations but he declined this offer since he said he was no longer in a position to offer his services in exchange for income but neither did he wish to act like a lord.

The colonial government of Spanish Philippines offered to overthrow the Japanese Empire through an invasion of Japan in order to protect the Japanese Christians and place him into a position of great power and influence. Ukon declined to participate and was even opposed to the plan. He died of illness at midnight on 3 or 5 February 1615 just a mere 40 days after having arrived in Manila after having suffered from a violent fever. Upon his death the Spanish government gave him a Christian burial replete with full military honors befitting a daimyō. His remains were buried in the Jesuit church of San Ignacio Church in Intramuros and this made him the only daimyō to be buried on Philippine soil.


-This statue is found on the grounds of the city of Takatsuki’s functional Catholic Church, The Grand Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of Osaka, Japan.  It is modeled on the cathedral outside Manila, where Takayama spent his last days. This statue is located on the cathedral grounds, near the site where the church Takayama built his original church in 1574, please click on the image for greater detail.


-statues of Bl Takayama Ukon in the Philippines. The first four of the same statue, and the plaque below, are in Plaza Dilao, Paco, Manila, Luzon, Philippines, and the image immediately above of one unveiled 28 March 2017, “Samurai of Christ”, Thomas Aquinas Research Center at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines


-medallion commemorating the beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Prayer for intercession

“O God, in Your Wonderful Providence, You have chosen Justus Ukon Takayama to be a singular promoter of Your Kingdom, and an undaunted witness to the Catholic Faith — Reward, we beseech you, his zeal for Your Glory, and graciously grant us what we humbly ask through his intercession. Grant us also that following his example, we may bravely bear all trials for the sake of our holy Catholic Faith. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer for canonization

“O God, you desire the salvation of all people. Sustained by your grace, Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon followed the Gospel faithfully, and, rejecting all worldly rank and honors, achieved martyrdom by exile from his homeland.

We humbly pray, that Blessed Justo Ukon, who by freely accepting many hardships, gave powerful witness to Your love, may become a source of hope to people throughout the world, and soon be numbered among your saints.

Merciful Father, through the intercession of Blessed Justo Ukon, please hear our fervent prayers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Father Anton Witwer, SJ, general postulator of the Society of Jesus, explained in 2014, “Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process … is that of a martyr.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 6 – Twenty-six crosses on a hill & “Silence”, the movie: love is stronger than death, 日本二十六聖人, Nihon Nijūroku Seijin


-1628 engraving, please click on the image for greater detail


-monument to the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki, 1962, please click on the image for greater detail

With the Oscars last night, will Hollywood ever tell this story, instead of apostasy? I doubt it. One of the reasons I started this blog, to, in my own small way, tell the brilliance of saints. When Christian missionaries returned to Japan 250 years later, they found a community of “hidden Catholics” that had survived underground.

Jn 11:25


-by Matthew E. Bunson

“A group of twenty-six Christians gave their lives for Christ on a hill near Nagasaki, Japan, on February 5, 1597. They are noteworthy not only for the zeal they showed as they died as martyrs, but for the model they provided to Japanese Christians for centuries to come. Their story reminds us that heroic examples of the Catholic faith transcend country and race.

Jesuit Beginnings

The Catholic faith was introduced into Japan on August 15, 1549 by the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier, SJ, who landed on the Japanese island of Kyushu with two fellow Jesuits, Cosme de Torres, SJ, and John Fernandez, SJ. Francis soon learned of the prevailing political situation. Despite the emperor’s traditionally accepted divine origins, he had little authority; instead the local lords (daimyo) exercised extensive powers. Francis concentrated on winning the confidence of the daimyo in the area, and on September 29, he visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, and asked for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo readily agreed to his request, believing that such a church might help to establish a trade relationship with Europe.

Francis mastered Japanese, then took his preaching into the neighboring island of Honshu, the main island in the Japanese archipelago. Within six years, six hundred Japanese converted to the faith in one province alone. But the rapid growth of the new faith soon provoked a sharp reaction. In 1561, the daimyo of several provinces launched a persecution that compelled Christians to abjure their faith.

Surprisingly, the Shogunate of Japan initially gave its support to the enterprise of evangelization. Primarily the shoguns believed the new religion might curb the influence of the sometimes-troublesome Buddhist monks in the islands, but they also thought it would facilitate trade with the outside world. Nevertheless, the Japanese officials were suspicious of the long-term intentions of the representatives of Spain and Portugal, most so because they were aware of the expanding Spanish Empire in Asia and the Pacific.

The labors of Francis Xavier were carried on and furthered by the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who arrived in 1579. This remarkable missionary opened a school to teach new mission workers, established seminaries, and promoted vocations for the Jesuits among the inhabitants. By around 1580, eighty missionaries were caring for more than one hundred fifty-thousand Christians, including the daimyo Arima Harunobu.

In Rome, Pope Gregory XIII declared his immense satisfaction with the work of the Jesuits and issued the decreed Ex Pastorale Officio in 1585. He declared that the Japanese missions were the exclusive territory of the Society of Jesus. Two years later, the first diocese was created at Funai (modern Oita).


-St Francisco Blanco OFM, Lima, Peru, please click on the image for greater detail”

Change in Politics

Several events soon transpired that changed the tolerant atmosphere. First, assorted Catholic missionaries who lacked the subtlety of the Jesuits arrived in Japan and failed to respect Pope Gregory’s decree. Their aggressive manner offended many Japanese, especially those who feared that Christianity was merely a prelude to invasion by the European powers. Thus, by 1587, when there were over 200,000 Christians in Japan, an initial edict of persecution was instituted by the country’s regent, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Nearly 150 churches were destroyed and missionaries were condemned to exile from the islands. The missionaries declined to leave and found safe haven in various parts of Japan. As a result of the persecution, within a decade the number of Christians had increased by 100,000.

The second major turning point occurred on August 26, 1596, when the San Felipe, a Spanish trade ship traveling from Manila to North America, ran aground off the coast of Shikoku, the southeastern island of Japan. Angered by the violation of Japanese territory, Hideyoshi ordered that the cargo be confiscated, and among the items seized were several cannons. The discovery alarmed Japanese officials, and the ship’s pilot made matters worse. Furious over the loss of his cargo, he threatened the Japanese with military action by Spain, an invasion, he claimed, that would be assisted by the Christian missionaries in the country.

The threats were complete fabrications, of course, but Hideyoshi used the occasion to seize the ship and then to launch the first major anti-Christian persecution in the history of Japan. In 1597, the same year as the arrival of the first bishop, Pierre Martinez, S.J., the government launched its pogrom. The Christian religion was banned, and those who refused to abjure the faith were to be condemned to death.

The initial public execution took place at Nagasaki, a city that had become the center of the Christian faith in Japan. The first martyrs were Paul Miki and his companions.


-drawing remembering 26 Catholic martyrs of Nagasaki, please click on the image for greater detail

Marked for Death

Born around 1564, Paul Miki was the son of a Japanese soldier, Miki Handayu. He was educated by the Jesuits and joined the Society of Jesus in 1580, the first Japanese to enter any religious order. Paul swiftly earned a reputation for the eloquence of his preaching. He was on the verge of ordination when he was arrested and thrown together with twenty-four other Catholics condemned to die in the name of the emperor. With Paul were six European Franciscan missionaries, two other Japanese Jesuits and sixteen Japanese laymen. The laymen included Cosmas Takeya, a sword maker; Paul Ibaraki, a member of a distinguished samurai family; and his brother Leo Karasumaru, who had been a Buddhist monk. Also arrested were Louis Ibaraki, twelve, a nephew of Paul Ibaraki and Leo Karasumaru; and thirteen-year-old Anthony of Nagasaki.

The martyrs were assembled at Kyoto, condemned to die, and then ordered to be taken to Nagasaki for their execution. As was customary, the prisoners had their left ears cut off prior to setting out so that they would be marked as condemned. The march to Nagasaki lasted a month. Along the way the men suffered the tortures of their captors and the jibes of crowds, but they also won the respect of many onlookers as they marched, bleeding and exhausted but still praying and singing. One Japanese Christian layman named Francis—a carpenter from Kyoto—decided to follow the martyrs as they progressed until he was arrested himself and expressed his joy at being included among them.

After the grueling trek from Kyoto, the condemned arrived at last at the place of their martyrdom, the city of Nagasaki. At ten in the morning on February 5, they were led along the highway from Tokitsu to Omura, and then commanded to stop at a small cluster of hills at the base of Mount Kompira. At the lowest of these hills, called Nishizaka, common criminals were put to death, and the lingering smell of rotting corpses could be detected. All was in readiness: Twenty-six crosses awaited the Christians.

Seeing the horrendous surroundings, several Portuguese merchants went to the brother of the governor, Terazawa Hazaburo, and asked him to intervene and at least have the place of execution moved. The governor, Ierazawa Hazaburo, was willing to listen to their plea, especially as his brother was a friend of Paul Miki. As it happened, across the road from the hill of Nishizaka was a lovely field of wheat, and the governor decreed that the executions could be carried out there.


-crucifixion of the martyrs of Nagasaki. A painting in the Franciscan convent of the Lady of the Snows in Prague, please click on the image for greater detail.

Calm amid Horror

At the wheat field, the martyrs were divided by the soldiers into three groups, each one headed by a Franciscan reciting the rosary. Each of the martyrs had his own cross, the wood cut to his height. Gonzalo Garcia, the forty-year-old Franciscan lay brother from India, was the first to be led to his cross. He was shown the instrument of his imminent death, and he knelt to kiss it. Today, he is venerated as the patron saint of Mumbai. Following his example, the martyrs one by one embraced the wooden crosses before them.

Unlike the Romans, the Japanese officials did not use nails. Instead, they fixed the martyrs to their crosses by iron rings around the neck, hands, and feet and ropes tightly binding the waist. The one exception was the Spanish Franciscan priest, Peter Bautista, Superior of the Franciscan Mission in Japan. This former ambassador from Spain (who had devoted his ministry for some years to lepers) stretched out his hands and instructed the executioners to use nails. Paul Miki, meanwhile, proved shorter than his cross had been measured. As his feet did not reach the lower rings, the executioners tied him down at the chest with rope and linens.

With their victims affixed, the soldiers and executioners simultaneously lifted the crosses. As history has demonstrated many times before and after, the crowd that had gathered for amusement at the expense of the dying fell silent as the large crosses thudded into the holes in the earth and the martyrs exhaled in agony from the jarring drop. On the hill with them were four thousand Catholics from Nagasaki. Young Anthony looked down and beheld his family at the front of the crowd, and he spoke words of hope to them.

Then, just as each had embraced his cross, the martyrs one by one began to sing hymns of praise, the Te Deum and the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. The victims struggled to sing and to raise their voices to God one last time. From his cross, Paul Miki also preached for the last time. Seeing the edict of death hanging from one soldier’s long, curved spear for all to see, he responded to the charge, his voice carrying across the hills:

I did not come from the Philippines. I am a Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus. I have committed no crime, and the only reason why I am put to death is that I have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord. At this critical time, when you can rest assured that I will not try to deceive you, I want to stress and make it unmistakably clear that man can find no way to salvation other than the Christian way. (Luis Frois, Martyrs’ Records)

And then the martyrs began their final minutes. The first to die was the Mexican Franciscan Brother Philip de Jesus, who had also been measured incorrectly, so his entire weight was placed on the ring around his neck. He slowly choked to death, until the order was given for two soldiers to pierce his chest on either side with their spears. The soldiers, in pairs, thrust their spears into each side of the remaining victims until the blades literally crossed each other. Death was virtually instantaneous. The martyrs accepted their end with the same prayerful calm that marked their ascent upon the crosses. The gathered crowd, however, cried out in anguish, and the din could be heard in the city of Nagasaki below. Many Japanese who watched the horror unfold became Christians themselves in the coming weeks and months. For the soldiers, the scene proved too much, and many began to weep at the courage of the dead Christians, especially young Louis Ibaraki who cried out, “Jesus . . . Mary” with his last breath.

With the execution over, the Christians in the crowd surged forward to soak up the blood of the martyrs in cloths and to remove small pieces of clothing to preserve as relics. Driven away forcibly by the guards, the crowds slowly dispersed, turning back to see the last rays of the sun framing the twenty-six crosses in stark relief.


-Catholic martyrs of Nagasaki, please click on the image for greater detail

Love is Stronger than Death

After dark, more people gathered. Christians from Nagasaki arrived to pray for the martyrs. In the days following, thousands more made a pilgrimage to the site. Peasants, local daimyo, soldiers, and foreigners stopped at the hill and remained there transfixed in prayer or amazement until the guards forced them away. Word spread across Japan, and the example of the twenty-six martyrs became the rallying cry for Christians.

The people of Nagasaki christened Nishizaka the “Martyrs’ Hill.” The next year, an ambassador from the Philippines was given permission by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to gather up the remains and the crosses. Pilgrims continued to visit the site, and the best efforts of officials could not stop new visits, both public and clandestine.

Paul Miki and his Companions proved the first of many thousands of martyrs in the church of Japan. Sporadic persecutions were conducted over subsequent years, erupting in 1613 under the sharp campaign of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), who considered Christianity to be detrimental to the good of Japan and the social order he was instituting. The next year, all missionaries were expelled and Japanese converts were commanded to abjure the faith. Long-simmering resentment against the persecutions culminated in a Christian uprising in 1637. This was mercilessly put down, and the once-flourishing Church in Japan seemed dead. Foreigners were forbidden to enter the country on pain of death.

The Church outside of Japan did not forget Paul Miki and his companions. The Twenty-Six Martyrs were beatified on September 15, 1627 under Pope Urban VIII, and they were canonized in 1862 by Pope Blessed Pius IX, making them the first canonized martyrs of the Far East. But then came a truly astonishing turn of events. In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States arrived in Japan, and for the first time in two centuries, the country established official contact with the outside world. To the utter shock of Westerners, the Japanese Christians had not abandoned the faith despite brutal persecution. For two centuries, they had practiced the faith in secret. In 1865, priests from the Foreign Missions discovered twenty thousand Christians on the island of Kyushu alone. Religious liberty was at last granted in 1873 by the imperial government. What had sustained these Christians in the long dark years was their trust in Christ and the examples of those who had died for the faith. Foremost in their memory were the Twenty-Six Martyrs upon Nishizaka Hill.

Today, the site of the Twenty-Six Martyrs remains a beloved place of pilgrimage, and they are honored by the Monument of the 26 Martyrs erected in 1962, as well as a shrine and a museum. Thousands of visitors arrive every year. One of them, in 1981, was Pope John Paul II. He declared during his visit:

“On Nishizaka, on February 5, 1597, twenty-six martyrs testified to the power of the Cross; they were the first of a rich harvest of martyrs, for many more would subsequently hallow this ground with their suffering and death. . . . Today, I come to the Martyrs’ Hill to bear witness to the primacy of love in the world. In this holy place, people of all walks of life gave proof that love is stronger than death.

Foreign Franciscan missionaries – Alcantarines

Saint Martin of the Ascension
Saint Pedro Bautista
Saint Philip of Jesus
Saint Francisco Blanco
Saint Francisco of Saint Michael
Saint Gundisalvus (Gonsalvo) Garcia

Japanese Franciscan tertiaries

Saint Antony Dainan
Saint Bonaventure of Miyako
Saint Cosmas Takeya
Saint Francisco of Nagasaki
Saint Francis Kichi
Saint Gabriel de Duisco
Saint Joachim Sakakibara
Saint John Kisaka
Saint Leo Karasumaru
Saint Louis Ibaraki
Saint Matthias of Miyako
Saint Michael Kozaki
Saint Paul Ibaraki
Saint Paul Suzuki
Saint Pedro Sukejiroo
Saint Thomas Kozaki
Saint Thomas Xico

Japanese Jesuits

Saint James Kisai
Saint John Soan de Goto
Saint Paul Miki

O God our Father, source of strength to all your saints, Who brought the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith we profess, even to death itself; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Love of Him,
Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catherine de Ricci, OP, (1522-1590) – Everyday stigmata


-by Br Paul Marich, OP

“The Dominican Order celebrates the witness of one of its own members today, Saint Catherine de Ricci (1522-1590). Devotion to her may not be as widespread in the universal Church as it is to Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), another Dominican for whom today’s saint was named. Yet the life of Catherine de Ricci offers us an example of how to bear the sufferings of this life while still fulfilling our daily responsibilities.

From an early age, St. Catherine de Ricci desired to serve Christ, developing a strong devotion to his passion. She joined a community of Dominican lay women, where she started to have mystical experiences. Many members in Catherine’s community, unaware that she was having visions of spiritual ecstasy, initially had doubts about her vocation. They misunderstood her experiences as rude manners. [Ed. De’ Ricci’s period of novitiate was a time of trial. She would experience ecstasies during her routine, which caused her to seem asleep during community prayer services, dropping plates and food, so much so that the community began to question her competence, if not her sanity.] Nevertheless, she persevered in her vocation, finding ways to complete her tasks in the convent while not losing sight of her devotion.

Catherine’s love for the passion of Christ led her to receive a mystical gift, something only given to a few chosen souls. On Thursdays and Fridays of each week, Catherine would receive visions of the passion, which were accompanied with great physical pain. She was entirely united to Christ’s sufferings through these experiences, which included the gift of the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ on her very body. However, in the midst of such extraordinary graces, Catherine was diligent in carrying out her everyday tasks. Recognition of her skills and abilities would lead to her election as superior of the community on several occasions. She offered spiritual counsel to the people of her town of Prato, while fulfilling the demands of her life within the Dominican community.

Catherine’s example can help us in the midst of our everyday trials and sufferings. Of course, only a few are called to receive the mystical graces that Catherine experienced. One does not have to receive such special visions of Christ’s passion in order to be holy. “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt 16:24).

Christ calls each one of us to bear our everyday crosses with courage. These can be small setbacks, uncertain circumstances in life, persecution for our beliefs, physical ailments, or long-term struggles that seem to have no sense of a resolution, to name just a few. Embracing these crosses in union with Christ allows us to be conformed more fully to Him. At the same time, we must not allow these crosses to prevent us from going about our daily tasks, be they family responsibilities, work, or our contributions to society. In the midst of suffering, Christ’s instruction at the conclusion of the Beatitudes should give us great comfort: “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12). (Ed. The priest who married Kelly and I said jokingly?, “Don’t kid yourself.” He turned out to be a bad apple anyway.)

St. Catherine de Ricci provides an example of one who fulfilled her daily commitments, while secretly carrying the burden of the cross. Now that she shares in the glory of heaven, her witness shows us the hope that awaits us in Christ, now risen from the dead. By uniting our sufferings to His, we can be assured that He will transform our pain and sorrow for the sake of His greater glory. Such confidence in Christ allows us to go about our daily tasks without any fear, for He has been victorious in His sufferings.”

Love & strength, resilience, courage, endurance through His grace, Phil 4:13,
Matthew

Diocese of La Crosse, WI

1/18/20

The Diocese of La Crosse released the names Saturday of more than two dozen clergy who have faced a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

The diocese said none of the accused are now in public ministry. Many are listed as deceased. The list comes from an independent review of clergy files dating to 1868 by the audit firm Defenbaugh & Associates Inc.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties: Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

Those identified are:

Bruce Ball

Raymond Bornbach

Albert Sonnberger

James Stauber

Patrick Umberger

Raymond J. Wagner

Two were identified as being from another order or diocese, but whose allegation occurred while service the Diocese of La Crosse:

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Five more were identified as non-diocesan clergy whose whose names appear on a list in another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse has no specific information relating to the allegations.

Those clergy are:

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/lacrossewi.htm

“The statistics for the Diocese of La Crosse reveal that, out of 705 clergy who have served in the diocese between 1950 and 2002, there have been 10 individuals (including one who was not a priest of the diocese) with substantiated allegations against them. The result is that only 1.4 percent of the total clergy population in that time period had substantiated allegations.

Accused Clerics: 28 (of which allegations were substantiated against 10; of that 10, one was not a priest of the diocese)
Total Priests: 705 (of which 478 diocesan priests, 187 religious order priests, and 40 deacons)
Allegations: 58 (of which allegations against 3 were “withdrawn” or the priest was “exonerated”; 24 were unsubstantiated)

On January 6, 2004, the Diocese of La Crosse released its statistics regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy.”

2/5/20

“The Diocese of La Crosse has released the names of seven more priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

These additions, made Wednesday, include two priests who held assignments in La Crosse and four who worked at a now defunct Jesuit boarding school in Prairie du Chien.

They are:

At least five of the priests have died, and the other two were long ago dismissed by the Society of Jesus. It is unclear whether Cannon (dismissed in 1997) and Haller (dismissed in 1982) are still alive, still working with children or still serving in religious roles.

Though they served within the boundaries of the La Crosse diocese, none of the seven priests were official diocesan clergy or directly overseen by the bishop.

Wednesday’s disclosure came less than three weeks after the diocese released the names of 20 priests who were credibly accused of child abuse while serving in the diocese.

The list included J. Thomas Finucan, who was president of Viterbo University in La Crosse from 1970 to 1980.”

God is merciful. God is just.

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco