This is last week I read teh 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki by Diego Yuuki S.lJ. (enderle Boods JPY1,050). These 26 were made up of 20 Japanese, and 6 missionaries from Spain, Portugal and Mexico. There were 3 young Japanese boys, aged 15, 13 and 12. Their death sentence was proclaimed by Hideyoshi for being Christians. (He was suspicious of the unity Christians had with each other, thinking it could damage his own power). Their left earlobes were cut off as a sing that they were judged to be criminals and paraded on a long winter foreced march from Kyoto (Jan. 3) to Nagasaki (Feb.5) where they were crucified. From reading their story what impresses me is the sheer JOY these 26 had. They helped each other, theyrealized that they were soon to die but so looked forward to being with God in Heaven (Paradise). People who saw them were not frightened away from becoming Chrisitans, but on the contrary were attracted to become Chrisitans, by their example.
Here is a page from the above book giving the letter written by 13 year old Thomas Kozaki to his mother. (His own father was also among the 26).
"Today Mihara is an industrial city, but then it was a "fortress," that is, a castle with its jokamachi: the castle was constructed in 1588 by Mori Motonari's son. He had died only a few months earlier and the lord of the castle was then a nephew of Hideyoshi, Kobayakawa Hideaki, whose treachery at the battle of Sekigahara would pave the way for leyasu's victory. In the center of the city the foundations of the central tower and its moat may still be seen, and the neighborhood to the north still preserves the outline typical of a jokamachi, with its narrow, straight streets. There, on the night of the 19th, hiding it from the eyes of the guards, Thomas Kozaki wrote a farewell letter to his mother. Stained with blood, the letter was found after the crucifixion within the garments of his father, a fellow-martyr. The text needs no comentary; it amply proves the stout heart of the fourteen-year-old boy:
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 twenty-four, 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.9
The band set out on the road once more on 20 .January. The prisoners were not allowed a single day to rest, although they were exhausted and suffering greatly from the cold. After all, they had been condemned to death, and their guards considered themselves lucky if none of the captives delayed them on the road. " (From "The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki" by Book Diego Yuki S.J. (Enderle))
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