Paulo Uchibori and Sons, Japanese Martyrs of Unzen, Part III


               Twenty others, stripped naked, were forced to watch the tortures and executions; Paulo himself was one of these witnesses.  First, the executioners lined the condemned Christians up along the bank of the moat around Matsukura’s fortress, calling each one forward and cutting that victim’s fingers off one by one:  some all ten, some less, at the torturer’s whim.  Paulo’s eighteen-year-old son Antonio they called first:  he bravely strode up and spread his hands out on the cutting-board, showing not a wince as they sliced his fingers off.  Paulo’s youngest, five-year-old Ignacio, manifested a miracle when they cut his tender little index-fingers off:  after each slash, he brought that hand to his face and smiled, watching the blood jet out.  The astonished pagans drew away in fear:  like the Gerasenes, terrified by Christ’s power over evil.
After mutilating these heroes, Matsukura’s men stripped them, tied ropes around their necks and ankles, and took them out in a boat for the final torture:  hanging stones around their necks, they plunged each into the icy sea, pulling him out and demanding that he renounce Christ to save his life, and dropped him in again, pulling him out to give him another “chance”, and in, and out, over and over.  None of the Christians apostatized; every one they drowned.
Looking on from a nearby boat were the twenty other Christians forced to watch the tortures and drownings, with Paulo among them.  He heard his heroic son Antonio gasp, “Father, let us thank God for such a big blessing” before they drowned him; and he watched them suspend little Ignacio above the waves before his eyes for a small eternity before they finally sunk the mutilated five-year-old to the bottom of the sea.

The twenty witnesses they then took back to their stripped-off clothes; warning-signs had been sewn on them, threatening with grave punishment anyone who would dare give these Christians alms or shelter them.  Next, they cut the three middle fingers off each of their hands, branding the word CHRISTIAN on their foreheads and setting them loose to fend for themselves:  stark, horrific examples to would-be believers of the Shogun’s certain wrath; but rather than show their misery, these stalwart Catholics went around preaching Christ fearlessly, urging apostates to return to the Faith.  This was not the lesson Matsukura-dono had intended for the souls of Arima, so the twenty were ordered back to his castle.

(to be continued)