On several days this week, we remember Japanese martyrs of the 17th century. This is not the most well-known group of Japanese martyrs to those of us outside Japan – that would probably be Paul Miki and Companions, remembered in February.
On 17 August we celebrate the memory of many more Japanese martyrs, including Blesseds Michael Kiraiemon, Francis Kurobiove, Miguel Kurobioye, Martin Gomez, Luke Kiemon, and Francis Kuloi.
On 18 August we celebrate the memory of Blessed Mary Guengoro and her husband Thomas and son James, who were crucified at Kokura in 1620.
(Note: the son was only two years old)
On 19 August we remember Blessed Thomas Koyanangi, who was arrested as a passenger on the ship of Blessed Joachim Firayama-Diz and beheaded at Nagasaki in 1620.
On 25 August we remember Blesseds Louis Sasanda, Louis Sotelo, Peter Vasquez, and companions, who were martyred at Shimbara in 1624.
Some more information here. This group of over 205 martyrs was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
The source for the information on that website is a book called Life of the Blessed Charles Spinola, of the Society of Jesus : with a sketch of the other Japanese martyrs, beatified on the 7th of July, 1867. You can read the full text at archive.org here.
Extra Did you know that Pius IX proclaimed March 17 as a feast in Japan called “The Finding of the Christians,” commemorating the date the Hidden Christians of Japan made themselves known to a French missionary in Nagasaki. More in this book.
Also remembered today is Jeanne Delanoue, also known as St. Joan of the Cross. Beatified in 1947, canonized in 1982:
Jeanne (Joan) was born June 18, 1660 at Samur in Anjoú, France. She was the youngest of twelve children and her early life was one of self-centeredness, pride and avarice. She was described as bad-tempered and egotistical. Her long widowed mother died when Jeanne was twenty-five and she took over as proprietress of her mother’s small store.
Jeanne provided accommodations for pilgrims coming to the shrine of Our Lady of Ardillier. She caused great scandal by opening her shop on Sunday, an unheard of practice in 17th century France. Jeanne’s only interest was making herself rich from the pilgrims and she paid no heed to what other’s thought or said about her.
At some point Jeanne underwent a conversion and became a changed woman. She began to live a very austere life and apparently in a dream or vision was told that her vocation was to care for the poor.
Jeanne began to care for orphans, taking them into her home. Soon other like-minded women joined Jeanne and the foundation of the Sisters of St. Anne of the Providence of Samur was born. At first she was criticized by many who did not believe in her sincerity, but over time she won their hearts by her unselfish love and care for all those in need.
Despite the responsibilities she had accrued, in response to this call which she believed to have come from God, Jeanne turned toward the poor. They assumed more of her time each day than did her clients until finally they became her full-time occupation. Within a short time no longer did the poor await her visits to them, but they came to her. In 1700, she warmly welcomed a child into her home, and soon after she took in the sick, the aged, and the destitute.
With so many needing lodging, the only place for the poor were the grottos hollowed out in the tuff. She made them as comfortable as she could, however it was necessary for her to seek help. Within four years, in 1704, some young girls were interested in helping Jeanne and were even willing to wear a religious habit if she wished them to do so. It was thus that the congregation of Sainte-Anne de la Providence was born. Under this name the constitutions were approved in 1709.
Jeanne Delanoue’s tenacity, supported by the dedicated women who worked with her, brought about the foundation of Saumur’s first home for the poor (in 1715) – a home which King Louis XIV called for in 1672!
Very quickly her charity spread beyond the limits of Saumur and of her diocese. More than that, already there were forty helpers who were under her direction and who had made the decision to follow her example of self-sacrifice, of prayer, and of mortification.
At her death, August 17, 1736, Jeanne Delanoue left a dozen communities, as well as homes for the poor and schools. “The saint is dead”, they said in Saumur.
Everyone could admire her zeal and the work she accomplished in the numerous visits she received and made, but only her closest friends knew about her mortification, her life of prayer and of union with God. It is from this that her untiring charity proceeded. She was attracted toward all those who suffer, but especially those who are poor-and God knows they were many during those sad years of want, of cold, of famine and of war.
Again…why am I fixated on telling these saints’ stories and pointing you to the the prayer of the Church, aka the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours? Because, as I said last week, this is where Catholic prayer starts. Also, context. Mercy and deep faith were not hidden for two thousand years and rediscovered only recently. In addition, any discussions of mercy and evangelization in Catholicism must happen within a Catholic context, which means 2000 years of history, tradition, intellectual life, spiritual life and (yes) movement of the Holy Spirit.