November 24 marked
November the Eleventh marks the 378th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Marina of Omura, canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 18, 1987. I first learned of her story on seeing her statue in the courtyard of the Kako-machi Catholic Church in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan—a lady in lay Dominican garb clutching a crucifix to her breast and standing atop a crown of flames that would send her straight to Heaven, her face aglow with faith and hope and love—and superhuman strength.
She had dedicated her life and her virginity to Christ: a vow which was anathema to the Shogun up in Edo (modern-day Tokyo): Iemitsu, a sin-enslaved sadist who would prowl the streets of his capital at night in disguise, heavily guarded, looking for innocent victims to test the sharpness of his sword on. Of all his imagined enemies he feared Christ the most.
Marina lived in Omura, a very long way from the capital but just a few hours’ ride on horseback from the port-town of Nagasaki, the Christian capital of Japan. Omura itself had been a Christian stronghold in former times. Indeed, Omura Sumitada, lord of Omura three generations past, had been Japan’s first-baptized Christian domainal lord, and his daughter had herself been baptized as ‘Marina’. Alas, a string of anti-Christian dictators had, since those days, put an end to the freedom of conscience that some parts of Japan had once known: in Saint Marina’s day, to profess Christ was death throughout Japan.
Her crimes were legion: she had manifested charity to the utmost, giving refuge in her home to hunted priests and persecuted Christians at the risk of her life. Thank God that Saint Marina—like so many Holy Martyrs before her—despised the pains of death: for in her eyes these were but the merest footsteps in her faultless climb to Heaven to meet her one true Lord.
Arrested, she was stripped naked and paraded through the whole domain of Omura to shame her; yet, as a virgin self-promised to Christ, she marched with perfect modesty. She was immolated by ‘slow fire’ on Nishi-zaka, the holy execution-ground overlooking Nagasaki Bay—the sacred soil that had held the crosses of the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan back in February of 1597. Many holy souls had followed their path to Heaven since that icy winter day thirty-seven years before; Marina of Omura would stand tall among them as a paragon of indomitable faith.
‘Slow fire’ meant that the firewood beneath her feet had been wetted to prolong her miseries and delay merciful death. Marina, however, did not amuse her torturers with displays of agony; instead she prayed for her persecutors and her fellow persecuted Christians: thus is she remembered in Omura as a Christian heroine of remarkable strength. Superhuman, supernatural strength, humility, and courage, let us say—as befits a faithful child of God.
Saint Marina of Omura, pray for us.
Luke O’Hara, Kirishtan.com
1:55 PM – Public
The photo on this page is a bird’s-eye view of one of the sulfurous hot springs atop the Shimabara volcano where so many Christians–Kirish’tan, that is–were boiled by the local daimyo’s minions in order to procure their apostasy. Here died many a Japanese Kirish’tan hero, among them Blessed Paulo Uchibori, whom the torturers hung upside down and dipped into the boiling sulfur-bath head-first.
They pulled him out, expecting him to renounce Christ, but to their astonishment, Paulo shouted a victory cry: “Praised Be the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
Again they dunked him, determined to boil away that strength of Spirit in him, but when they pulled up the rope again, the boiled Christian’s shout of faith resounded in redoubled strength: “Praised Be the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
They plunged him in again, this time not to force a change of heart–for this was too plainly impossible–but to drown him in the boiling hell which would send him straight to Heaven. Perhaps their consciences could no longer bear the sting of Truth burning in those words of his, those quintessential Kirish’tan words: “Praised Be the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
May God grant that we all learn from his example–in this present age so steeped in lies–to not traduce the Truth: our Faith.
Saint Francis Xavier; Saint Paul Miki, Saint Luís Ibaraki and the other 26 Martyrs of Japan; Arima Harunobu, Konishi Yukinaga and Omura Sumitada, the Christian daimyo of Amakusa and Shimabara; the great warlords Shimazu Yoshihisa, Kato Kiyomasa, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu: these characters live again in the pages of Kirish’tan: Heaven’s Samurai.
The novel is available at https://www.createspace.com/3650514