Homily on the Blessing of Statue of Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama at Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Wilmington, CA, June 29, 2019

Wilmington, CA Catholic Church
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church (SPPC) in WilmingtonCalifornia, USA

►The SPPC Pastor, Rev. Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. notes: “Today, we honor Justo Ukon Takayama as recently beatified, a saint who joins the two countries of Japan and the Philippines in a bond of Christian peace.”

Happy feast day!

Welcome to our honored and special guests from the Japanese Catholic community and the Filipino community.

◘ St. Peter’s imprisonment guarded by 16 soldiers, but prayers by the Church brought 1 Angel, who set him free.

◘ St. Paul’s last letter to Timothy,

>>>Now an old man and living in Rome

>>>St. Peter also in Rome

>>>Both caring for the Christian community there, having suffered many times for Christ with imprisonments and beatings.

As St. Peter had professed to Jesus years before “You are the Christ the Son of the living God”, so now after years of preaching, working miracles, baptizing, and caring for the Christian communities, they have been putting into practice the profession of faith.

III. Tradition tells us that there in Rome, about the year 67AD both died as martyrs, witnesses to their faith in the Lord Jesus. St. Peter’s Basilica is built over St. Peter’s tomb. His successor, Pope Francis, lives in a house nearby. St. Paul died just outside the city near the monastery of Tre Fontane.

►We wear red today because both of these Princes of Apostles died as martyrs. The Church has a long tradition of venerating men and women who died for the faith. For 300 years after Jesus’ Resurrection, the Church was persecuted throughout the Mediterranean area, the Roman Empire.

In the following centuries, other persecutions occurred in different countries throughout the world, with many giving their lives in witness to their faith in Christ. England had many martyrs in the 16th century, France in the 18th century, Uganda in the 19th century, Russia, China, Spain and Mexico in the 20th. All gave up their lives rather than give up their faith. As a result, in many cases, the Church began to flourish in these areas after these periods of persecution. This fulfills a famous saying of the Church Father Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary brought the faith to Japan in the 1550’s and converted many people. However, in later years the local authorities sought to wipe out the Catholic faith by stripping Catholics of their property and making them live in poverty. In 1597, the first Japanese died for the faith. More persecutions followed, but the faith continued to grow in Japan.

Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, SPPC. Wilmington, CA
A Japanese congregation from “St. Francis Xavier Chapel – Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center” (established on Dec. 25, 1912), pastored by Fr. Doan Hoang (a Japanese-speaking Vietnamese-American Jesuit) joined the SPPC parishioners. Japanese nuns of Poor Clare Missionary Sisters based in Los Angeles also attended.

Among the early converts to Catholicism in Japan was Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近). He was baptized with the other members of his family in 1563. His family belonged to the nobility, and when he was 21 he was made feudal governor of Takatsuki. He was a great Samurai warrior, an able governor, and a saintly Christian. Like the holy Apostles, Justo proclaimed the faith of Christ, especially among Japanese Buddhists, and he made many converts, including other noble persons. When he went out to battle, he rode under the sign of the Cross.

During his lifetime in Japan, three separate persecutions broke out against Christians. Justo was fortunate to escape with his life and he continued to make converts by his winning personality and fervor for the faith. Pope Sixtus V heard of Justo’s evangelical missionary work and sent him a letter with the Apostolic blessing in 1590.

Finally, in the third persecution, which broke out in 1614, Justo was given the ultimatum: renounce his Catholic faith or be deported. He fled to Manila late that same year and died of his mistreatment early in 1615 in Manila. As Pope Francis described Ukon in the Decree of Martyrdom he issued Jan. 21, 2016: Justo Ukon Takayama was a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.”

Sts. Peter & Paul Church Blessing of Takayama Statue
The SPPC Filipino Choir sang the Jesuit Music Ministry’s new Takayama song, “Mabunying Samurai” (Happy Warrior) — the first time in church.

Today, we honor him as recently beatified, a saint who joins the two countries of Japan and the Philippines in a bond of Christian peace.

Let us pray for the continued growth of our Catholic faith both here and among our countrymen of the Far East.#

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