How the lives of the Japanese martyrs can inspire us today

Dr. Jim Asher is blogging about Catholicism from Japan. He's seen here at the monument at 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki. Thomas, who he writes about, is 7th from the left.
Dr. Jim Asher is blogging about Catholicism from Japan. He’s seen here at the monument at 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki. Thomas, who he writes about, is 7th from the left.

This is part four in a series of blogs from Dr. Asher’s trip to Japan. 

One of the 26 Christians who were the first martyred in Nagasaki on Feb. 5, 1597 was Thomas Kozaki. He wrote a letter to his mother:

With the help of the Lord’s grace I am writing these lines. The priests and the others who are journeying to be crucified in Nagasaki number in all 24, as testified in the sentence that is carried on a board ahead of us. You should not worry about me and my father, Michael. I hope to see you both very soon, there in paradise. Although you need the priests, if you are deeply sorry for your sins and have much devotion at the hour of your death, and if you remember and acknowledge the many blessings of Jesus Christ, then you will be saved. And bear in mind that everyone in this world has to come to an end, and so strive so that you will not lose the happiness of heaven. Whatever men may impose on you, try to have patience and show much charity for everyone.

It is really necessary that my two brothers, Mancius and Philip, do not fall into the hands of heathens. I commend you to Our Lord, and I send you prayers for everybody we know.

Remember to have great sorrow for your sins, for this alone is important. Although he sinned against God, Adam was saved by his sorrow and penance.

The 2nd day of the Twelfth Moon, in Mihara fortress, in the kingdom of Aki.

What is remarkable about the letter is Thomas was only a 14-year-old boy. Among the condemned were two other boys, Louis Ibaraki, aged 12 and Anthony – surname unknown – age 13. The soldiers tried to talk them into giving up their faith. They would not, and died tightly bound to crosses as spears were thrust through their chests.

Martyrdom so steadfastly accepted by such youths is especially awesome. And who would have blamed them for surrendering? Yet these boys seem to have all been very devoted to the faith, and their intrepidity demonstrates a Holy Spirit not about to abandon them in their hour of need.

I think it may be worthwhile to practice a bit for martyrdom. Loyal Catholics seem headed for persecution at the hands of their excommunicated brethren soon, if things don’t change in our country. How to practice? Same old thing: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, resisting temptation and trying to live a virtuous life, which is only possible through frequent reception of the sacraments.

And, it wouldn’t hurt to pray a bit to Ss. Thomas, Louis, and Anthony, along with the other 23 martyrs executed that February in 1597.

This is part of Dr. Jim Asher’s series of blogs on Catholicism from Japan. READ MORE.