6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)
Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.
He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he was crucified on 5 February 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners stating that he himself was Japanese. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.
On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.
A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.
The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.
1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12
Be strong and show yourself a man.
These days, it’s difficult to be a man. I’m not talking about a high achieving, career successful man. I am talking about a man of integrity, a man who upholds values, a man who is secure in God and himself that he is able to become the cornerstone of a family, a man who will bravely rise up to the responsibilities of heading a family as God envisioned a Catholic family to be.
Today’s reading shares with us the conversation between David and Solomon as David instructs Solomon how to go about his responsibilities as the next king. I would imagine that Solomon received a lifetime of instruction from David to prepare him for his new role. He would have received lessons, and would have learned, not just from talking with his father, but with seeing how a leader is like. This is how a man learns. He learns by observing other men.
Unfortunately, with the breakdown of marriage, or with many failed marriages, many men have grown up without a father figure. We now have grown men who have the sense of responsibility and commitment of teens, or even younger. Our cultural set-up also leads to emasculating men. The ‘feminist’ movements have undermined gentlemanliness by scoffing at men who offer seats or who open doors for the ladies. Helicopter parenting doesn’t allow them to learn to face unpleasant situations and rise up and be better. They are denied of the challenges they need to develop and strengthen their character.
And it’s a scary place to be. After all, the key tasks of men in our society are to lead and to protect, and these also map onto our spiritual lives. Without well-formed men, we can’t have well-formed fathers. Without well-formed fathers, it makes it difficult for us to understand our Father’s love for us. We end up struggling to understand how we can depend on God, how God is our provider, how God is our protector.
So what can we do? I think, firstly, we have to pray for God’s guidance, and we have to pray for the men in our lives. We also have to pray for wisdom so that our actions, words, and thoughts help build up men. We also have to be discerning when we enter marriage and include in our decision how the husband will be like as a father. For the gentlemen, may they be role models all their lives even if the interaction is only in the corporate setting – men catch things. For women to step back and let the men grow up, to hold our standards so men can be challenged to rise up.
We need to stop and reflect on how we are helping our gentlemen become the men God wanted them to be. We need to pray and act, because from these men, God will raise priests and fathers.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)
Prayer: Dearest Lord God, help us recognize the beauty of masculinity and help us, as a society, raise up men who are ready to become who you want them to be.
Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of manhood for it reflects your protective and providing nature. It allows us to feel secure.