A Polish Jesuit dies in the Pit in Faithful Silence

      Portrait of Father Meczynski by an anonymous artist.
Public Domain, from Wikimedia Commons


Father Albert Meczynski, S.J. was born of Polish nobility, the Poraj of Kurozwęki; his father (who, as best I can determine, was the Count of Kurozwęki) died when Albert was a boy. Sent to study at the Jesuit college in Lublin at age fourteen, Albert soon embraced a desire to join the Society of Jesus. His mother, outraged, sent him to school in Krakow to deter this ambition she thought unfitting a nobleman; there he studied medicine, which would later come in handy.

       Despite parental opposition, Albert did eventually join the Society at Rome; he was ordained at Evora after years of study. Having repeatedly requested permission to go on mission to Japan, he finally set sail from Lisbon in 1631. An epidemic of typhus raged on board the ship, during which Father Albert rendered constant medical service; ultimately, contrary winds forced the ship to turn back to Lisbon. Thereafter Father Albert spent two years convalescing because of a circulatory ailment.    

       He sailed again on 5 March 1633; on this voyage, too, the crew was plagued by mortal illness, but they finally arrived at Goa, India on 20 August. There Father Albert visited the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier, miracle worker and “Apostle of the Indies,” where he received an infusion of spiritual strength. Setting sail then for Malacca, Father Albert was captured by Dutch pirates, taken to their colony on Formosa and kept captive for seven months; here, too, his medical skills proved useful, as the Dutchmen, who had been starving him, began to treat him more humanely when he effected a cure for their commandant’s ailing son.  

       Eventually he made it to Portuguese Macao, near Hong Kong; there he studied Japanese—and presumably prepared himself for martyrdom, for he had early on donated his entire fortune to the Society of Jesus with the words: “Now I have nothing but my blood to give to God.”[1]

         To make this ultimate donation, Father Albert joined Father Antonio Rubino’s bold atoning mission to Japan, which set sail from Manila in 1642. Its purpose was to repair the insult to the Christian Faith and to the Society of Jesus that Father Christovão Ferreira’s public apostasy after four hours’ torture in the Pit at Nagasaki had inflicted—and, if possible, to bring the apostate Ferreira back to Christ.

       As for the ultimate fate of Ferreira’s soul, only God knows, but the Name of Christ suffered no soiling at the hands of Father Rubino’s Jesuit missionaries: in the hands of the Shogun’s torturers they would withstand seven months’ torture being scalded with sulfur-water and branded with hot iron at the volcanic “Unzen Hell” without breathing a whisper of apostasy. Finally they would be condemned to the torture of the Pit, the very apex of contrived human cruelty. From his gallows atop Nishi-zaka in Nagasaki, Father Albert hung upside-down in a dark, stinking toilet of a hole with his waist crimped in a wooden vise and every nerve of his body in torment, enduring a man-made hell far worse than Unzen, giving his blood to God drop by drop, dripping from his ears and mouth and nose into the filth he had to breathe for seven days, seven eternities: atonement seventy times seven for Christovão Ferreira’s apostasy, a debt far more than mere mortal man should ever have to pay.

       Father Albert, holy immortal, entered Eternity on 23 March 1643.
Hallelujah. Glory be to God in all His angels and saints and martyrs.

Copyright 2017 by Luke O’Hara


[1] Menology of the Society of Jesus (Roehampton: St. Joseph’s Press, 1874) 88.