Abp. Charles J. Brown, Extols Heroic Virtues of Japanese-Born Manila Martyr, Blessed Takayama

►Blessed Takayama of Manila was a samurai from the hereditary military nobility of Japan. The samurai were soldiers, were warriors, and it’s interesting how many Catholic saints were soldiers.

Secondly, Blessed Takayama is an example of holiness and resistance to injustice.

And thirdly and lastly, I think that Blessed Takayama also for us a good example of the importance and indeed the precious quality of refugees and migrants. Because he was a refugee. Literally, a refugee from Japan who came here on a boat. A refugee who was a saint.

Takayama family in Intramuros, Manila

HOMILY delivered by Abp. Charles J. Brown, at the Feast Day Mass of Blessed Takayama at Santisimo Rosario Parish Church (UST Chapel) on Feb. 3, 2022.

►As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36). No, in all these things we are more than yconquerors through zhim who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,

No in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it gives me so much joy to have the privilege to celebrate this Mass in commemoration of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon.

I was very grateful for the invitation that I received from Dr. Ernesto De Pedro, Managing Trustee of the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama to celebrate this Mass here in the Chapel at U.S.T. – University of Santo Tomas. And I’m grateful to Fr. Paul Talavera for having invited me to be with all of you this afternoon.

The story of Blessed Justo Takayama is intimately connected to the story of the evangelization of Japan, and also of course the story of the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. The Catholic faith had arrived in Japan, in Nagasaki by means of St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the 1540’s and there briefly flourished and was very effective in evangelization, over one hundred thousand people became Catholic in a short time in Japan in the 1540’s and the 1550’s including many people from the noble class, from the land-owning class.

But the faith began to provoke also resentment and opposition. And then beginning in the 1560’s there was a series of edicts issued by the Emperor restricting and finally banishing Christianity, Catholicism in Japan. Beginning in the 1560’s but increasingly into the 1580’s.

And there we begin to see the connection with Manila, because in 1593 during the time in which the Catholic faith was suffering repression in Japan, a saint from Manila, who was originally from Spain, San Pedro Bautista went from here, from the Philippines to Japan with his companions. And continued that work of evangelization.

And as we know, San Pedro Bautista himself, after having founded hospitals and churches in Japan was martyred for the faith in 1597, in February of 1597 in Nagasaki. (San) Pedro Bautista and twenty-five other Christian Catholics were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597.

That, Brothers and Sisters, is the context in which our Blessed Takayama was living in Japan. He had been baptized into the faith as a young boy of eleven  years old in 1563. So just as this persecution was beginning. And he experienced that persecution very, very personally. He was from the ruling class. He was from the military class. He was a samurai, a man of great nobility, of great human qualities. And he and his family had become Christian, indeed his parents had become Christians and passed the faith onto him. He had in the beginning of his Christian life was not terribly devout, but later on experienced a kind of reconversion, and became very, very fervent. But he then began to suffer this repression, this persecution. But was also an incredibly effective evangelizer, because of the nobility of his character, because of the beauty of his person, because the convincing power of his example – many Japanese even in the midst of this time of opposition and in deep persecution were becoming Catholic.

So finally, in 1614, so that was quite a bit later on as almost fifty years he had become a Catholic through baptism, he was exiled from Japan. With something like 300 other Japanese Christians and some foreign missionaries. They were loaded on to a ship departing from Nagasaki in November of 1614, and arrived here in Manila more than a month later on December 21st of 1614 of that year.

And because of the prominent figure of Blessed Takayama, he was received by the Governor General Juan de Silva here in Manila with high honors. But the voyage was quite difficult and he had become quite sick and ill during the voyage. And then here in Manila after having arrived, he then, approximately 44 days after his arrival here in Manila, the Lord called him to his heavenly reward. And he went into heaven on the 3rd of February of 1615, and was buried in the Jesuit church in the southern part of Intramuros.

So we have this amazing story of a man deeply immersed in his own culture who became an amazing evangelizer, and then because of the persecution, he was exiled from his country and ended up here in Manila, where he went into his heavenly glory in 1615.

He was beatified, only about 5 years ago, by Cardinal Angelo Amato, on his trip to Japan indeed he was beatified in Osaka, on February 7th of 2017.

And the following day in Rome, Pope Francis on the 8th of February of 2017 was reflecting on the beatification and said this, the day after in Rome:

“Yesterday in Osaka, Japan, Justo Takayama Ukon was beatified.” And then he summed up his life in a few words. “Rather than compromise, he renounced his honors and comforts, accepting humiliation and exile; he remained faithful to Christ, and faithful to the Gospel. And for this reason, he represents an admirable example of fortitude in the faith and dedication in charity.”

This is the glory of Blessed Takayama. The fact that he was able to sacrifice his honors, indeed his homeland, for the sake of Christ. What a beautiful figure for us today and when we reflect on his life, there’s a few things I think, for me studying his life and reading about him in these days that really impressed me.

First of all, the fact that he was a samurai. He was from the hereditary military nobility. The samurai were soldiers, were warriors, and it’s interesting, isn’t it? Brothers and sisters, how many Catholic saints were soldiers. We think of Saint Martin of Tours. We think of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Even think of Saint Joan of Arc, a warrior. Or Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who will be canonized by Pope Francis this year. All of these people were military people who were then converted to Christ and their spirit of service, and indeed of combat was translated into spiritual combat. And that is the role that all of us as Catholics have to assume. Our lives as Christians in the Church militant which is a church on this earth are lives of combat. Combat against sin, combat against discouragement, the unseen warfare of the heart. The warfare in which we allow God’s grace to make us victorious over sin and death. That is the process of Christian life and it’s a spiritual battle, a spiritual combat which we fight. And these saints like Blessed Takayama who were soldiers, kind of give us an image of that spiritual combat.

Secondly, Blessed Takayama is an example of holiness and resistance to injustice. He did allow the unjust rules of persecution of Christians to discourage him. He remained faithful to his commitment to Jesus, to his love for our Lady.

Indeed, he brought here to Manila that beautiful statue of our Lady – “La Japona” — that he brought from Japan. He did not allow the opposition of the world to defeat him or to discourage him.

And that, brothers and sisters is a message that we can take home for us today. Do not allow even allow today in 2022, the spirit of the world to conquer of defeat you or discourage you. Because in Christ, we conquer over sin and death. In Jesus, all things are possible. Our faith is life that triumphs over sin and death. Blessed Takayama illustrated that and manifested that in his life. He manifested the fact that the Kingdom of God is within us and the spiritual combat that allows that Kingdom of God to conquer, first of all our hearts will then be spread to those around us. But the first battle is the interior battle. Then, the exterior battle.

And thirdly and lastly, I think that Blessed Takayama also for us a good example of the importance and indeed the precious quality of refugees and migrants. Because he was a refugee. Literally, a refugee from Japan who came here on a boat. A refugee who was a saint.

In the Letter to the Hebrews, there’s those famous words, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers.” For by doing so, that is by showing hospitality to strangers, some in a classic phrase have entertained angels unawares. What does it mean? That sometimes by receiving strangers, migrants and refugees, we are giving hospitality to angels without being aware of it.

And indeed, here in the Philippines, the beautiful Catholic culture, which is already in place here in Manila, received with open arms this Catholic refugee from Japan; and received perhaps not an angel unawares, but a saint unawares! A saint who later on would be beatified, and God willing, canonized.

So, it makes us remember, reflect and also be proud of the spirit also here in the Philippines of receiving immigrants and people who need shelter and protection. It’s something that Pope Francis is constantly reminding us of. And we see this example in the 17th century, in the 1600’s – an example that remains valid for us even more today in our own world.

So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, as a representative of Pope Francis here in the Philippines, it gives me so much joy to celebrate this Mass in commemoration of Blessed Takayama. Let’s ask for his intercession. Let’s ask also that we may have the grace to imitate him in his steadfastness, in his spiritual combat, and his love for our Lady and in his triumph over sin and death.

May God bless you. ###

Transcribed by Raul Roque
Trustee, Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama

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