►Speaking at the last day of the 120th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) held in Manila on Jan. 25-27, 2020, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle — who is set to become Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (or simply, “Propaganda Fide”), commended the “Canonization Cause” of Blessed Takayama — the Philippine Church’s THIRD “Blessed” — the care of the Filipino bishops.
►Blessed Justus Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila; beatified 2017) is “Our Own Saint.” The celebrated Christian “Samurai of Christ” chose exile in Manila rather than abjure his Catholic Faith. But 44 days after his arrival with some 350 Christians deported by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Japan-born Manila Catholic died of “a tropical ailment.” It was the Manila Archdiocese that proposed Sainthood for Takayama at the Vatican — only 15 years after he died at the PLM/Jesuit Compound in Intramuros, Manila.
Takayama is part of the history of the evangelization of the Philippines – his life, labors and heroic virtues were comprehensively detailed in Colin/Pastrells’ “Labor Evangelica.”
BLESSED JUSTO UKON TAKAYAMA
►BACKGROUND: Don Justus Ukon Takayana has been called by the Jesuit-published “La Civiltà Cattolica” as “the Greatest Japanese Missionary of the 16th Century.”
Ukon was born to a Samurai family who converted to Christianity at age 11, and became Daimyo (feudal governor), at age 21, of the strategic castle-town of Takatsuki, converting 18,800 of its 25,000 residents to Catholicism within 11 years. In an era with so few Jesuit priests, he relied on the Holy Rosary to hold his people together — until the next Jesuit could come to celebrate Mass.
Instead of supporting a 20,000-man standing army during The Warring States period (1467 to 1567), he kept a vanguard of only 1,000 samurai, and devoted his resources to building churches, seminaries, and oratorios.
He fought under the banner of the Cross, and openly practiced his Catholic faith. He chose exile to Manila rather than abjure his Catholic religion – so on November 8, 1614, Lord Takayama, his family and 350 other Catholics left for Manila with the Manila Jesuits preparing housing for the exiles in their encomienda at San Miguel. But 44 days after his arrival, Ukon died on Feb. 3, 1615 of a tropical ailment at the Jesuit guesthouse, Casa San Miguel, in Intramuros.
Lord Takayama was given a state funeral and his wake was held in all six churches in Intramuros. The eulogies extolled Ukon as a saint.
►PROPOSED FOR SAINTHOOD: On Oct. 5, 1630, only 15 years after Ukon died, the Manila Archdiocese proposed Takayama’s Cause for Beatification at the Vatican, the first such petition ever presented by the Philippine Church.
►DORMANT CAUSE: This cause was dormant till 1937, when Manila hosted the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress, Feb. 3-7, 1937. With the opening day occurring on the 322nd death anniversary of Takayama, the Japanese delegation introduced a resolution reviving the Cause of Beatification of Takayama. Japanese press reports say this was approved by the Eucharistic Congress.
►TAKAYAMA CAUSE ‘SECONDED’ TO JAPAN: At the sidelines of Vatican II (1962-1965) which was attended by bishops from around the world, the Japanese Bishops visited Manila Cardinal Rufino J. Santos, petitioning that the Takayama Cause be revived. They were surprised when Cardinal Santos readily “seconded” the cause to them. The Japanese Bishops’ Conference (CBCJ) established a Historical Committee which gathered supporting materials and sent the loose-leaf documents to the Jesuit General Postulator. Because some chapters were written in German, Portuguese and Japanese — which are not official Vatican languages — the Takayama papers could not be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS).
►’ACCIDENTAL’ MANILA RE-INVOLVEMENT — A group of Filipino and Japanese history buffs, wanting to print some literature for Japanese pilgrims visiting the Takayama Memorial (est. 1977) at Plaza Dilao, wanted to ascertain whether Lord Takayama was indeed a Japanese historical figure, or merely a composite of several celebrated Christian samurai. They asked an ex-seminarian, Ernesto A. de Pedro, to take two weeks off to research at the Vatican. The Jesuit General Postulator was glad somebody was interested in Takayama; the papers had been dormant for eleven years. Fr. Paulo Molinari, SJ, said their office was short-handed; there were only two Jesuits in their office … they had to do the xeroxing themselves. In short, they gave the Filipino researcher the entire carton box of materials for translation.
►WHEN THE BOOK-BOUND “POSITIO” –“Justus Takayama Ukon, Servus Dei” (1994, 648p) – was submitted, the Jesuit Postulator General, Fr. Paulo Molinari, acknowledged: “Thanks to your much appreciated collaboration, all the essential materials for this important ‘Cause’ are by now available.”
►‘BLESSED TAKAYAMA OF MANILA’ — When the Vatican Information Service News announced on Jan. 21, 2016 that Pope Francis had issued a Decree of Martyrdom, declaring the “Servant of God” Dom Justo Ukon Takayama as a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines” — the Japanese Bishops quickly shared the information with Manila and acknowledged the help given by the Philippine Church to this four-centuries old campaign to elevate Takayama to the honors of the altar: “With your help, we have realized our hope. We are deeply thankful for your help.”
But the change of the Cause from “Confessor” to “Martyr” necessitated the writing of a new “Positio” by the new Jesuit General Postulator, Fr. Toni Witwer, SJ – “Positio Super Martyrio … Servi Dei Justi Takayama Ukon” (2015).
►BEATIFICATION IN OSAKA: Ukon Takayama was beatified in Osaka on Feb. 7, 2017. The next day at the Vatican, Pope Francis delivered a homily on the singular importance of this martyr who died in exile in Manila.
►EVERY ‘BLESSED’ NEEDS A SUPPORT GROUP: No Beatus can become a saint without a prayer army keeping his memory alive. So the Takayama movement seeks to spread devotion through programs within their ready means: ● altar-statues, ● prayer-cards, ● seminary vocations, ● symposia, ● networking with Catholic mandated groups, ● focus forums, ● social media outreach, and ● ministry on campus – which are funded by project-specific gifts from devotees and benefactors.
►JAPANESE PILGRIMAGES TO MANILA – Japanese Catholics and Buddhists mount Takayama pilgrimages to mark the December 21 arrival of Takayama, or his February 3 death anniversary. Seven Bishops from Japan’s 16 dioceses have already traced the footsteps of Blessed Takayama — from the PLM University Chapel, Manila Cathedral, Paco Parish Church … to the Jesuit Cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, the putative resting place for Ukon’s bones. They also include a visit to the Santo Domingo Convent in Quezon City, where Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (tagged as “La Japona”) is enshrined — the same Marian statue that was brought back from Nagasaki by Lord Takayama in his exile boat.
►31 TAKAYAMA STATUES DISTRIBUTED, THUS FAR — Statues of Blessed Takayama have been distributed to 31 basilicas, cathedrals, churches and seminaries in six countries (◘ The Philippines, ◘ Japan, ◘ the United States, ◘ Italy, ◘ England, and ◘ the Vatican).
The Nagasaki Church Trust has invited the Prayer Warriors to send the 31st statue of Blessed Takayama to join the yearly Grand Nagasaki Procession of Martyrs on Feb. 2, 2020 – at which Laoag Bishop Renato P. Mayugba will lead a pilgrim group of 22 parishioners, among them 12 priests.
►BENEDICTION FROM POPE FRANCIS — In the run-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Japan, the Prayer Warriors presented to Pope Francis, a printout of the Apostolic Breve sent by Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-1590) to Lord Takayama in 1590 – exhorting the recently-dispossessed Daimyo “to hold fast to your Faith.”
Receiving the archival parchment from Manila, together with a Takayama statue from the “Via Lucis Pilgrimage Group 112011,” Pope Francis was so pleased he imparted his Apostolic Blessing on all the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama on July 25, 2019.
THE ‘ARC OF HISTORY’ (1615-2020)
Cardinal Tagle delivered his first homily on the “Servant of God,” Justo Ukon Takayama at the 400th Takayama Anniversary Mass in Kobe, Feb. 3, 2015 – two years before Takayama was beatified. He said that a “bridge of faith and martyrdom” inextricably links Ukon Takayama, Japan’s most illustrious Christian, with San Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), Filipino protomartyr, who was martyred in Nagasaki in 1637. “Martyrdom is the deepest link between our two churches,” the Manila archbishop said.
On Feb. 7, 2017, Archbishop Tagle was the only Cardinal — (the Church of Japan, at that time, had no Cardinal) — invited to concelebrate Takayama’s Beatification Rites, presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS). In a nod to Takayama’s Philippine connection, the 1,000- member choir sang the Filipino offertory hymn “Salamat sa Iyo” (Tanging Alay) with a full orchestra accompanying the voices.
Since then, Cardinal Tage has spoken about Blessed Takayama as “a singular promoter of God’s Kingdom, and an undaunted witness to the Catholic Faith” — broadcast through “TV Maria” (the national Catholic television channel broadcasting from Manila) and Veritas 846.ph (Radyo ng Simbahan, a faith-based radio station in the Philippines).
Blessed Takayama’s support army — the “Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama” — has brought the Takayama Movement to “far corners.”
►The Lord moves in wondrous ways. As Cardinal Tagle proceeds to Rome to be Cardinal Prefect of the super-dicastery with the task of directing and coordinating the work of evangelization and missionary cooperation all over the world – it is opportune to remember that in some corners of the world, the heroic virtues of Blessed Takayama will resonate – as 💥refugee and migrant, as 💥missionary disciple, and as💥 “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”
►The Holy Father would not have learned of the mission and commitment of the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama — without the endorsement and support of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, now Cardinal Prefect of “Propaganda Fide.”◘
Posted by Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama