YOUR EXCELLENCY, OFFICERS OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE FORCES, YOUR GRACE, YOUR LORDSHIPS, REVEREND FATHERS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
We are gathered today to honor the memory of one united with us under the banner of the Catholic faith and whose image, by the grace of God, may, in the not distant future, adorn the altars of our Catholic churches.
Justo Ukon Takayama was the son of Dario Takayama, a native of Kyoto, the ancient capitalofJapan. In 1565, when little Justo was eleven of age, his father was received into the Roman Catholic Church by the Jesuit Father Gaspar Vilela, and soon after Justo himself was baptized in the Catholic faith. Justo grew up to be a mighty captain. He became Lord (feudal governor) — [first, at age 21, as Daimyo of Takatsuki, r. 1573-1585; and later] of Akashi, the fortress town commanding the entrance into the Inland Sea.
Of him it can be truly said that he had everything—family, social position, wealth—yet all these he abandoned to walk in the path of the Lord. The spiritual regeneration of men both by example and by precept became his life task. For his Lord he gave up everything and led a humble existence doing good everywhere he went. No doubt by the very simplicity of his Christian life and the ardor of his devotion to his faith, he attracted many to a life of virtue and faith.
This was the man who headed a group of Japanese Catholics who sailed to Philippine shores in the beginning of the 17th century. Though it was not given him to continue his evangelical labors in this country, for the Lord called him to His bosom shortly after his arrival in the Islands, yet so strong was his influence that those whom he left behind emulated his example and led lives of real Christian culture and self-abnegation.
The beatification of Justo Ukon Takayama will redound to the glory not only of Japan but also of the Philippines, where his mortal remains rest, and will serve to bind closer these two countries already held together in the indissoluble bond of racial and geographical affinity. Long obscured by foreign influence, we have been brought by the Greater East Asia War to a realization of this affinity. For many years, before the outbreak of the war, we had been made to regard our fellow Orientals, the Japanese, with distrust and trepidation, Fear of Japan was widespread and prevalent. The war, fortunately, has dispelled all our unfounded doubts. For instead of wreaking vengeance on those who took part in the war, the Imperial Japanese Forces have acted with unparalleled magnanimity, benevolence and generosity. Unnecessary loss of life and property has been meticulously avoided. Social institutions have been respected and preserved. Individual liberties, especially freedom of worship, have been guaranteed. Not only has the religious life of the Filipino people been allowed to continue free and uninterrupted, but a movement towards spiritual and moral regeneration was immediately begun and undertaken.
In these days of supreme effort and toil, when the spirit of self-sacrifice and other virtues should be made to triumph over materialism and other human failings, when our thoughts and acts should be sanctified by the noblest and loftiest of motives, the spirit of self-abnegation and other virtues that constituted the moral greatness of Justo Ukon Takayama should serve as an urge and an inspirationfor the entire Filipino people.
In the great and urgent task of effecting in ourselves a spiritual regeneration, I deem the support and cooperation of the Church and of her ministers as important and necessary. Always in close contact with the people, with every sermon that they preach, every sacrament that they administer, every aid that they give, they hold the key to the hearts of the people and wield the power to revive and strengthen in their souls the spirit of self-sacrifice and self-discipline, the passion for honesty and for simple living, the love of God and of one’s fellowmen, and the other great virtues that have ever distinguished us as an oriental people.
On this solemn occasion, therefore, that we have consecrated to the memory of the famous Japanese leader whose life was devoted to the moral and spiritual improvement of his fellowmen, I appeal to the Church for the fullest support and cooperation in the sacred task of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of the Filipino people.#
On Holy Thursday we commemorate the first Mass, the first miracle of the Eucharist. None of us having been there, how do we know it occurred? Faith of course, but faith buttressed by the knowledge that our Faith is supported by historical facts. We know when Christ lived. At each Mass we remember that He suffered under Pontius Pilate which allows us to date the Crucifixion and the Last Supper to plus or minus a few years. We know when Caiaphas was High Priest. Judea, the province in which Christ lived, was not some make-believe land but a province of the Roman Empire and we know much about it at the time of Christ. Above all, we have the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul, documents written while those who saw and heard Christ still lived.
This of course was only the start of the historical record of Catholicism, the Universal Church. Each generation produced new writers who give us precious facts of the journey through history of the Faith of Christ. One of the most important of the early writers about the Church is Saint Justin Martyr, regarded as the foremost exponent of the Divine Word, the Logos, in the second century.
Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, ancient Shechem, modern day Nablus, in Judea circa 100 AD. He was brought up a pagan. Having enough money to pursue the study of philosophy, he encountered the teachings of Christ, after a long and methodical search for the true philosophy, and became a convert. Having found the true philosophy, he traveled around the Roman Empire, spreading it, garbed in his philosopher’s gown. Eventually he settled in Rome. He wrote eight treatises defending Christianity. His best known work is his First Apology which he addressed to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, one of the best of the emperors, who reigned from 138-161 AD. This Apology was a plea for the Emperor to stop persecuting the Christians. In this Apology he gives us many details as to how Catholics worshiped in Rome during the middle of the Second Century. His description of the Eucharist is a treasure for all Catholics as we attend Holy Thursday Mass today.
“There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to so be it. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
“And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.”
Here the Real Presence is asserted matter-of-factly as what all Christians believe. As Catholics in the Twenty-First Century we are part of a long process of the keeping of the truth handed to the Apostles by Christ on that Thursday night so long ago. As Saint Justin Martyr witnessed to that truth in his day, we witness to it in ours. As his title indicates, Saint Justin died a martyr for the Faith. We have a contemporaneous account of his heroic death.
“The Prefect Rusticus says: Approach and sacrifice, all of you, to the gods. Justin says: No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety. The Prefect Rusticus says: If you do not obey, you will be tortured without mercy. Justin replies: That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Savior. And all the martyrs said: Do as you wish; for we are Christians, and we do not sacrifice to idols. The Prefect Rusticus read the sentence: Those who do not wish to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the emperor will be scourged and beheaded according to the laws. The holy martyrs glorifying God betook themselves to the customary place, where they were beheaded and consummated their martyrdom confessing their Savior.”
►In the summer of 1587, as the Regent (Kampaku) Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, 1537–1598) was consolidating power with final battles in Kyushu, where the Akashi Daimyō Justo Takayama Ukon (高山右近, 1552-1615) was a field commander, he sent Sen no Rikyū (千利休, 1522–1591), to Lord Takayama: Would Ukon renounce his fealty to a foreign religion?
Hideyoshi did not want a foreign God in Japan. So he decided to expel all missionaries who were bringing the tenets of “that evil religion” among the Japanese, including many daimyos in Kyushu.
Rikyū was a friend of both Hideyoshi and Takayama, so he knew what Ukon’s reply would be, but he was duty-bound to bring the message nonetheless.
Lord Takayama knew well the consequences of his decision. He dispatched a horseman from Hakata to Akashi – six hours’ drive in Japan’s modern roadway system – for his family to vacate immediately the new Akashi castle he had just built – before Hideyoshi’s cohorts got there.
Now a “rōnin” (浪人, “drifter” or “wanderer”), Takayama sought to keep his family together in the faith. For a year, he was under the protection of his friend and fellow Christian, Lord Konishi Yukinaga (小西 行長, 1555-1600) – who despite being a Christian, was untouchable because Hideyoshi needed him for the conquest of Korea – and then China.
For the next 26 years, Takayama was in domestic exile in Kanazawa — whose Great Daimyo Lord Maeda Toshiie (前田 利家, 1538–1599) — though not a Christian, had a daughter who was one. Takayama served as guest general (“Kyakusho“). in Maeda’s standing army.
In 1590, Takayama fought for Lord Toshiie Maeda in the Siege of Odawara, Toyotomi Hideyoshi‘s campaign to eliminate the Hōjō clan as a threat to his power. Hideyoshi’s victory occasioned an invitation from Hideyoshi for Ukon to join him at a tea ceremony, suggesting there was no personal enmity between the two wary men.
While Takayama himself served at the Maeda court in Kanazawa, he was given an estate in Noto Peninsula to support his family and his retainers. Here he invited some 600 Christian ronin and their families to make up two ecclesial communities in Shika-machi (志賀町) and Shio-machi (志雄町) with its own Jesuit chaplain and Brother.
But the increasing Christian activity of Ukon had not escaped the notice of Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543-1616) and when the ruler ordered the expulsion of the missionaries on Jan. 27, 1614, he paid special attention to the Christian community, exiling its leaders Ukon and Lord Juan Tokuan Naitô (内藤 如安, c1549–1626) along with their families. Other outstanding members of this church were condemned to hard labor in the region of Tsugaru.
The Tokugawa shogunate’s prohibition was extended to everyone regardless of class or origin, including all missionaries without exception. The shogunate was concerned about a possible invasion by the Iberian colonial powers, which had previously occurred in the New World and the Philippines.
It was from Kanazawa that Takayama departed for Manila on Feb. 14, 1614 – on a 267-day journey on foot (with lengthy stops to wait for developments) to Nagasaki – and after a 43-day voyage to the Philippines on board a Chinese sampan captained by the Portuguese mariner Esteban d’Acosta — arrived in Manila on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614 – with his family of 7 (wife Doña Justa Kuroda Takayama, daughter Lady Lucia Yokoyama [wife of Lord Yokoyama Daizen Yasuharu], and five grandsons (aged 8-16), all surnamed Takayama) and 350 other migrants and refugees (M&R).
Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro, PhD
Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama
►Aside from ‘Te Deum Laudamus,’ Japanese Christians chanted other Latin hymns: “Ave Maria,” “Adoro Te Devote,” “Regina Caeli,” “Pange Lingua Gloriosi,” “Veni Creator Spiritus,” and “Salve Regina.”
As the 26 Martyrs were marched along the long road from Kyoto to Nagasaki, they chanted the “Te Deum Laudamus” (“Thee, O God, we praise”) over and over again — Jesuits and Franciscans alike. If he had been the 27th Martyr, Lord Justus Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila) would have added his full-throated voice to the plain chant.
But, alas, Dom Justus missed his chance at martyrdom, because his name, which originally topped the list, had been crossed out by Lord Maeda Toshiie (who, since 1588, had been the liege lord of Ukon) and Lord Ishida Mitsunari, daimyo of Sawayama in Ōmi Province.
Lord Takayama had been stripped of his feudal domain in Akashi in 1587, and was now a guest general (Kyakusho) in Lord Maeda’s employ.
The two daimyos calculated that the untimely execution of Ukon, the foremost Christian ex-daimyo, might cause complications they could not foresee.
Beginning Jan. 10, 1597, the 26 martyrs — with their left ears cut off — were marched barefoot in the snow from Kyoto to Nagasaki – via the scenic route. They walked about 620 miles (1,000 km) over the course of 26 days. They left Sakai and went to Osaka, Hyogo, Akashi, Himeji, Akaho, Okayama, Omichi, Mihara, Hiroshima, Shimonoseki. They traveled by boat from Shimonoseki to Okura and they walked to Hakata, Karatsu and Sonogi. Traveling by boat from Sonogi, they went to Tokitsu and they walked to Nagasaki.
On Feb. 5, 1597, Japan’s 26 proto-martyrs – three Japanese Jesuits, and 17 Japanese members of the Third Order of St. Francis, including three young boys, and four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Portuguese from India (all of whom were Franciscan missionaries – were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki on the orders of the Lord Chancellor (Kampaku) Hideyoshi Toyotomi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, 1537-1598).
Two proto-martyrs stand out:
💥 St. Paul Miki (1562-1597), son of a Kirishitan Samurai in the service of Lord Takayama in Takatsuki Castle. Paul studied at a Jesuit seminary at Arima, built in 1580 beneath Hinoe Castle, repurposed by Lord Takayama from a Buddhist monastery. The original décor was left largely unchanged.
💥 St. Fr. Pedro Bautista (1542-1597), Father Provincial of the Franciscans of the Philippines and founder of the San Francisco Monastery in Quezon City, had arrived as the Philippine Ambassador to Hideyoshi’s court in 1593, and was royally received. With his diplomatic chores done, he was permitted to remain in Japan to set up a Franciscan missionary outpost.
When Hideyoshi lost his temper over steady advances of Christianity, he ordered the execution of “the Manila friars” (meaning, Fr. Bautista and his confreres) and other Japanese Christians to deter the spread of Christianity. He prescribed crucifixion as the method of death, in grim parody of Christ’s own death.
These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears.
‘Te Deum’ in Manila Cathedral
When the first Japanese exile boat with 350 Catholics deported from Japan, led by Lord Takayama, arrived in Manila after a perilous 43-day voyage, they were grateful for the new lease on life they were graced with. On the late afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614, the exiles / refugees / migrants visited the newly consecrated Manila Catholic (III) – inaugurated just 16 days earlier on Dec. 5, 1614 — and sang a “Te Deum.” It was the battle hymn they had not been able to sing during the typhoon that wrecked their voyage.
It was an ancient hymn of deliverance written in A.D. 387. It survives to this day largely through the devotion of Benedictine monks.
Lord Takayama (a.k.a. “Dom Justo Ucondono”) did not know what the future held for him, but he was now newly arrived in a land where he and his family could now practice freely their Catholic Faith.#
Dr. ERNESTO A. DE PEDRO, PhD
Managing Trustee, Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama
►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 CiviltàCattolica” 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” –“JustusTakayama 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 announced on Jan. 21, 2016 that Pope Francis had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to publish a Decree of Martyrdom declaring the Servant of God, Justus 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 PilgrimageGroup 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 “PropagandaFide.”◘
Posted by Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama
►As lay promoters of the Cause of Canonization of Blessed Justus Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila; beatified 2017), our movement has been blessed by Pope Francis, who has imparted his Apostolic Blessing “to you and all the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.” We must remain ardent Missionary Disciples for the New Evangelization — committed to “put Jesus at the heart” of all efforts in New Evangelization. “From both Scripture and Tradition, we can see that the path of the new evangelization has been marked out: we are called to renew the proclamation of Jesus Christ, by virtue of our baptism.”
►Pope Francis expounds:
“By virtue of Baptism we become ‘missionary disciples,’ called to bring the Gospel to the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium,’ n. 120). ‘All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization…. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement’ (ibid.) from everyone, the whole of the People of God, a new kind of personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. The People of God is ‘a disciple People’ — because it receives the faith — and ‘a missionary People’ — because it transmits the faith. And this is what Baptism works in us: it gives us Grace and hands on the faith to us. All of us in the Church are disciples, and this we are forever, our whole lifelong; and we are all missionaries, each in the place the Lord has assigned to him or her. Everyone: the littlest one is also a missionary; and the one who seems to be the greatest is a disciple.
“But one of you might say: ‘Bishops are not disciples, Bishops know everything; the Pope knows everything, he is not a disciple.’
“No, the Bishops and the Pope must also be disciples, because if they are not disciples, they do no good. They cannot be missionaries, they cannot transmit the faith.
“We must all be disciples and missionaries.”
►As the Manila-based Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon Canonization Movement reaching out to the peripheries through Social Media, the Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama must not EVER forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ – not any of his saints, martyrs, champions or samurai who are His Witnesses — is “the heart” of all efforts in New Evangelization.#
By Aida M. de Pedro
Auxiliary, Missionary Disciples for the New Evangelization
►Justus Takayama Ukon, Japanese Feudal Lord Who Gave Up Every Privilege and Accepted Exile to Follow the Gospel
►►(By FEDERICO CENCI | FEBRUARY 8, 2017) — “Yesterday, in Osaka, Japan, Dom Justo Takayama Ukon, loyal Japanese layman, who was martyred in Manila in 1615 was beatified.”
Pope Francis remembered during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall this morning, noting: “Rather than compromise, he renounced honors and prosperity and accepted humiliation and exile.
“He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel; for this, he is a wonderful example of strength in the faith and dedication in charity,” Francis said.
Samurai of Christ
Justus Takayama Ukon, a samurai at the service of Christ, was persecuted for following the Gospel in 16th century Japan. Married and father of five children, he became a Christian at 11 years of age, when his father converted — taking the name Darius and giving his son the name Justus — thanks to the preaching of Jesuit missionaries.
There is a saying in Japan that recurs every year, on the remembrance of the dropping of the atomic bomb: “Hiroshima screams, Nagasaki prays – protests in the first city hit by U.S. aviation, composed liturgies in the second.”
Small Minority of Catholics in Japan
This is a fact that attests to the presence in the country of the Rising Sun of a “small” Christian “flock,” which for centuries was able to endure persecutions, offering a testimony dedicated to dignified silence.
This seraphic attitude is summarized in the expression of the statue at Osaka representing Ukon – a warrior with a proud look and with hair gathered behind his head and in his hands, a sword surmounted by a crucifix.
In order not to abjure his Christian faith, years later Ukon was willing to lose all the recognition he had obtained … and to die in exile. The Takayama Tomoteru family was powerful — lords of the Sawa castle and of the whole region of Takatsuki
They were individuals rich in money and warrior virtues. Ukon, like all his relatives, practiced bushido, the “life of the sword,” which combines military discipline and very rigid moral norms. He was also a daimyo of imperial appointment, hence he had the right to contract a private army.
The Japan in which he lived (about the year 1580) was led by the Chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi, known also as the “second unifier of the homeland.” The first Christian preachers also disembarked at that time, Jesuits led by Saint Francis Xavier.
They succeeded in bringing many people to Christ, primarily powerful samurai families, especially in the Nagasaki area. In 1587, however, Hideyoshi decided to limit what was described as the “religion of the West.”
Torture, extortions, abjurations and violence pushed the majority of the Christian neophytes to abandon the faith. Ukon and his father, however, resisted. Willing to face death and humiliation but not to renounce Christianity, they remitted terrains and military honors in the hands of the Chancellor.
They faced a life of hardship until 1614, when the Shogun decided to ban Christianity altogether. At that point, Ukon chose life in exile and, together with 350 other Christians, went to Manila. In the Philippines, he was supported by local Catholics, European Jesuits and Spain, the colonial power. He died at Manila just 44 days after his arrival, on February 4, 1615. His Catholic funeral was decorated with the highest military honors.
Legacy of Dom Justus Takayama
In Japan, his homeland, Ukon aleft a trace that endures up to today. Before going into exile, he contributed to the foundation of several seminaries in the Nagasaki area, small communities that had the task to keep the Christian flame lighted in the course of the centuries. Nagasaki is, still today, the area in which the greatest number of followers of Christ is concentrated.
The memory of Justus Takayama Ukon always remained alive in them. Already in the 17th century, thanks to the clergy of Manila, an attempt was made to beatify “Christ’s samurai.” However, because of the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa shogunate, it was impossible to enter into possession of the necessary documents for the canonical investigation…
Beatification Rites in Osaka
Finally yesterday, Justus’ beatification was able to become a reality. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass at Osaka. AsiaNews reported that he described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”
Justus is the first individual to receive the honors of the altar in the history of Japanese Catholicism. Japan has in fact 42 Saints and 393 Blesseds, all martyrs of the Edo period (1603-1867) and all celebrated as a group.
These martyrs bless the Japanese Church with their “splendid witness,” said Cardinal Amato. A splendor that shines in the honor of Justus Takayama Ukon, “Christ’s samurai.”#
Retrieved by: Adelaida M. de Pedro
Auxiliary, Missionary Disciples for a New Evangelization (MDNE)
Pope Francis’ Address to Japan’s Bishops, during his Apostolic Journey to Japan (Nov. 23-26, 2019)
I am very grateful for the gift of visiting Japan and for the welcome you have given me. I especially thank Archbishop Takami for his words on behalf of the entire Catholic community in this country. Here in your presence, in this first official meeting, I want to greet all the members of your communities: laypeople, catechists, priests, religious, consecrated persons, seminarians. I also want to extend my embrace and prayers to all the Japanese people at this time marked by the enthronement of the new Emperor and the beginning of the Reiwa era.
I don’t know if you are aware of this, but ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands. Many years have passed since that missionary impulse, whose realization has been long in coming. Today the Lord gives me the opportunity to come among you as a missionary pilgrim in the footsteps of great witnesses to the faith. Four hundred and seventy years have passed since the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in Japan, which marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in this land. In his memory, I want to join you in thanking the Lord for all those who, over the centuries, have dedicated themselves to implanting the Gospel and serving the Japanese people with great tenderness and love. This dedication has given the Japanese Church a unique face. I think of the martyrs 💥Saint Paul MIKI and his companions, and of 💥Blessed Justo Ukon TAKAYAMA, who in the midst of many trials bore witness up to his death. Such self-sacrifice for the sake of keeping the faith alive amid persecution helped the small Christian community to develop, grow strong and bear fruit. We can also think of those “hidden Christians” of the Nagasaki region, who kept the faith for generations, thanks to baptism, prayer, and catechesis. Authentic domestic Churches that shone forth in this land, perhaps without even realizing it, as reflections of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The path taken by the Lord shows us how his presence “plays out” in the daily life of his faithful people, who seek ways to keep his memory alive. His is a silent presence, a living memory that makes us realize that wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is there, with the strength and tenderness of his Spirit (cf. Mt 18:20). The DNA of your communities is marked by this witness, an antidote against despair, that points out the path they must follow. You are a living Church that has been preserved by invoking the Lord’s name and contemplating how he guided you through the midst of persecution.
Faithful sowing, the witness of martyrs and patient expectation of the fruits that the Lord gives in his time, have characterized your apostolic approach to Japanese culture. As a result, over the years you have developed a form of ecclesial presence that is for the most part much appreciated by Japanese society, thanks to your many contributions to the common good. This important chapter in the history of your country and of the universal Church has now been recognized with the designation of the churches and villages of Nagasaki and Amakusa as World Cultural Heritage sites. But above all, as living memorials of the soul of your communities, a fruitful hope for every form of evangelization.
The motto of my Apostolic Journey is “Protect All Life”. This could well symbolize our own ministry as bishops. A bishop is called by the Lord from among his people and then given back to them as a pastor called to protect all life. This determines in great measure what our aims and goals should be.
The mission in these lands was marked by a powerful search for inculturation and dialogue, which allowed the formation of new models, independent of those developed in Europe. We know that, from the beginning, literature, theatre, music and various types of instruments were employed, for the most part in the Japanese language. This is a sign of the love that those first missionaries felt for these lands. Protecting all life means, first of all, having a contemplative gaze capable of loving the life of the entire people entrusted to you, and recognizing it, above all, as the Lord’s gift. “Only that which is loved can be saved. Only that which is embraced can be transformed” (Address at the Vigil with Young People, Panama, 26 January 2019). An incarnational principle that can help us view each life as a gratuitous gift, apart from other valid yet secondary considerations. Protecting all life and proclaiming the Gospel are not separate or opposed; rather each appeals to, and requires, the other. Both entail being careful and vigilant about anything that could hinder, in these lands, the integral development of the people entrusted to the light of the Gospel of Jesus.
We know that the Church in Japan is small and Catholics are in a minority, but this must not diminish your commitment to evangelization. In your particular situation, the strongest and clearest word you can speak is that of a humble, daily witness and openness to dialogue with other religious traditions. The hospitality and care you show to the many foreign workers who represent more than half of Japan’s Catholics, not only serve as a witness to the Gospel within Japanese society but also attest to the universality of the Church. This demonstrates that our union with Christ is stronger than any other bond or badge of identity, and can enter into and become part of every situation.
A Church of witness can speak with greater freedom, especially when addressing pressing issues of peace and justice in our world. I will soon visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I will offer prayers for the victims of the catastrophic bombing of these two cities, and echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament. I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history, as well as the victims of the triple disaster. Their continued sufferings are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing, and reconciliation. Evil has no preferences; it does not care about people’s background or identity. It simply bursts in with its destructive force, as was the case recently with the devastating typhoon that caused so many casualties and material damage. Let us entrust to the Lord’s mercy those who have died, their families and all who have lost their homes and material possessions. May we never be afraid to pursue, here and throughout the world, a mission capable of speaking out and defending all life as a precious gift from the Lord.
For this reason, I encourage your efforts to ensure that the Catholic community in Japan offers a clear witness to the Gospel in the midst of the larger society. The Church’s highly respected educational apostolate represents a great resource for evangelization and engagement with larger intellectual and cultural currents; the quality of its contribution will naturally depend on the fostering of its distinctively Catholic identity and mission.
All of us are aware of the grave problems affecting people in your communities whose lives are marked, for various reasons, by loneliness, despair, and isolation. The increase in the rates of suicide in your cities, as well as bullying (ijime) and various kinds of neediness, are creating new forms of alienation and spiritual disorientation. Since these affect the young in particular, I ask you to pay special attention to them and their needs. Try to create spaces in which the culture of efficiency, performance and success can become open to a culture of generous and selfless love, capable of offering to everyone, and not only to those who have “made it”, the possibility of a happy and successful life. With their zeal, ideas, and energy, young people – when well-formed and accompanied – can be a deep source of hope to their contemporaries and bear vital witness to Christian charity. A creative, inculturated and imaginative quest to live the Gospel message can have a powerful effect on so many lives thirsting for compassion.
I recognize that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, so I encourage you to seek out and develop a mission capable of involving families and of promoting a formation that can reach people where they are, always taking into account the specifics of each situation. The starting point for every apostolate is the concrete place in which people find themselves, with their daily routines and occupations. It is there that we must reach the souls of our cities, workplaces, and universities, in order to accompany the faithful entrusted to us with the Gospel of compassion and mercy.
I thank you once more for the opportunity you have offered me to visit your local Churches and to celebrate together with them. Peter wants to confirm you in faith, but he also comes to walk in, and be renewed by, the footsteps of so many martyrs and witnesses to the faith. Please pray that the Lord may grant me this grace.
I ask the Lord to bless you and, with you, your communities.#
►(By Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ) — After the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in Japan (1549), the Catholic Church grew rapidly, and the faith was accepted by people of all states of life. Those who ruled were displeased and responded with persecution, leading to tens of thousands of martyrs giving up their lives. Many Christian communities chose to go underground to preserve their faith. It was not easy to become underground Christians; it was another form of the way of the cross for the sake of the faith, as they had to live in fear and adopt a Buddhist-like style of life to avoid raising the suspicion of officials.
The missionaries who then arrived in Japan strived to foster the local Church. The Christians strengthened their unity through associations such as the Misericordia Confraternity. The confraternities had strict rules and the members were very much committed. For instance, parents who did not respect their children’s freedom concerning marriage and people who had bad drinking habits could not become members.
When the persecution began, the Christians constantly prepared for martyrdom through instructions such as “Maruchirio no Kokoro-e (How to face Martyrdom).” Some of these instructions have been preserved, so we can confirm that not only they made use of them, but also that they kept them safe from the officials who were always checking for any Christian materials.
The reaction of the persecutors
On seeing the attitude of the martyrs and the response of the faithful when the persecution began (1587), its perpetrators understood that it would be difficult to wipe out the Christians completely. An example of their awareness is contained in a passage from Shumon Sensaku Kokoro-mochi no koto (Guide for Interrogation of Religious Beliefs), written in approx.1640 at the request of Lord Inoue of Chikugo, who was in charge of the crackdown on Christians: “If the husband is Christian, so is the wife; if the child is Christian, so are the parents; if the parents are Christian, so too the child; generally, 80 percent of them would also be Christian. Korean Christians especially, men or women, are deeply committed to their faith, and women in particular have deeply rooted faith.” We can see that not only the Japanese Christians, but also the Koreans in Japan preserved their faith.
A public edict from the government, made known everywhere in the country, declared in one article: “Those who hand over Christians who have returned to their faith shall be rewarded with 300 silver coins.” Christians who returned to their faith are those who, after rejecting their faith at one point, later returned to it. These people intended to keep their faith to the end. This clause was added to the others and it shows that the capture of these returnees was worth a lot of money. We can see that it was a known fact among the authorities that there were those who kept their Christian faith, even during their interrogation which involved the ceremony of stepping on holy images (fumie). This fact tells us of the presence of many underground Christians at the time this clause was added to the edict issued in the 1650s.
The faith of the Christians was so strong that it forced the Tokugawa shogunate to realize that the tactics of public flogging used under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s regime (1587) had reverse effects and so they had to change the method of persecution.
Plans to send missionaries to Japan
In 1644 the last remaining priest in Japan underwent martyrdom. He was Fr. Konishi Mansho, a religious missionary. Thereafter, priests could not set foot in Japan for more than 200 years. It is worth mentioning that the Church continued to plan the sending of missionaries to Japan. Fr. Antonius Thomas, SJ, (1644-1709) who worked in India and Macau wrote in a letter dated September 18, 1679: “Notwithstanding a lack of understanding in Rome (on the part of the Superior General), one confrere has been looking for several years for a way to enter Japan.”
In the same year, Fr. Thomas sent a report addressed to the Superior General entitled “The main reasons for sending expeditions to Japan.” In the report, he provides detailed studies and proposes some strategies. Fr. Thomas also wanted to set up a study center in the Mariana Islands to form missionaries to send to Japan, as well as proposing to reach Hokkaido by entering Japan from Russia.
These plans were never realized, but in 1708, a diocesan priest, Fr. Sidotti, arrived in Japan and was arrested shortly after arrival, becoming a martyr on December 15, 1715. Sidotti’s heroic action must have encouraged the hidden Christians and given them hope for the future. Pope Benedict XIV promulgated a decree on February 24, 1748, announcing Francis Xavier as the Patron of Japan and turned the Universal Church’s attention to the country.
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples asked the bishop of Nanking in a letter of February 11, 1781, to “explore possibilities of re-entering Japan,” and in a letter of May 28, 1803, the Congregation sent to the Jesuits in Russia a “Letter of mandate for entry into Japan.” In neither of these cases did the missionaries ever arrive, but the facts show that the Universal Church never forgot the Christians in Japan.
As we have seen, the link between the Japanese Church and the Universal Church was never broken. When eventually the missionaries arrived, the wider Church was thrilled and overjoyed by the “discovery of the faithful” in Nagasaki (March 17, 1865). We can see that this event was not unilateral or the result of mere chance, but an encounter that had been prepared by longing expectation on both sides.
The faith that the French missionaries discovered
The underground Christians of Urakami village (Nagasaki City) risked their lives to visit Oura Church and tell the first priest they had ever met, a foreigner, Fr. Petitjean, that “Our hearts are the same as yours.” Moreover, upon seeing for the first time a statue of Mary, they exclaimed: “Look, it’s Holy Mary, she is holding Infant Jesus,” revealing that the hearts of the hidden Christians were already well prepared.
For their part the missionaries welcomed and accepted the underground Christians. Subsequently, the missionaries interviewed them for a lengthy period of time to examine their faith life. They did a thorough investigation to see whether the faith of these Christians was still intact and at one with the teaching of the Catholic Church introduced by the missionaries in the 17th century, if the baptisms were valid, and so on. For instance, they spelled out in an alphabet more than 20 examples of words used for baptism among the Christians, confirming their meaning with the locals, in order to investigate the connection between Catholic teaching and the hidden Christians (Compiled Letters of Msgr. Petitjean).
After consulting with the Church leaders in Rome, they reached a conclusion that, in spite of some outward differences, the faith of the hidden Christians (with a few exceptions) followed the orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church. Since in some cases they asked for certain conditions to be met for a valid baptism, it is without doubt that the missionaries did their investigation very carefully.
The legacy of the different religious congregations
The French missionaries who arrived in Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) found that the characteristics of the different religious congregations who brought Christianity in the 17th century had influenced the way the Christians lived their faith. Fr. Petitjean wrote in his letter of January 29, 1866, “We do not exaggerate when we say that the old rivalry had created sects among the Christians. Even after more than 200 years, the differences have survived.
In some villages, each group consists of around a hundred people, and the groups seem as though they are different religions. One group would fast on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but another group would fast only on the weekends. Due to using different calendars, they celebrate Easter on different dates and one group does not recognize the other. There are the Reucitans, the Patarans and the Doisikos, each representing the spiritual children of the Franciscans, the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Their differences are not crucial, thank God. Actually, they recognize us as the successors of the missionaries of the olden times. These differences which are the legacy of past conflicts should disappear in time, and everyone will be united in the same direction.”
We can see the rivalry among the religious congregations was also handed down, but at the same time we can confirm that as regards the dogma the conflict was not definitive, and they shared the orthodox teaching of the Church. Not only the proper faith of the Catholic Church but much of the spirituality of different religious congregations had also been handed down. The holy images and other religious objects kept by the Christians show the tradition and emphases of the different congregations.
A book that sustained the hidden Christians
After his first encounter with the hidden Christians and before starting the interviews investigating them, Fr. Petitjean wrote about a book that the Christians treasured: “A book on contrition published in 1603 is one of the best among other books we have found. It almost seems as though the authors had predicted there would be a long period without priests in the Japanese Church. This book is an example of a comprehensive and clear instruction and presentation of the dogma. Understanding and practice of its contents should have been a powerful support for souls who sinned against God after baptism” (Letter of June 30, 1865).
It is significant that Fr. Petitjean and the other missionaries highly appreciated the “Manual for Contrition” and asserted that the book sustained the spiritual life of the hidden Christians. So, in spite of some superficial conflicts that remained over the years, faith itself and the way to nurture faith had been handed down.
“Spiritual Ascetic Training” (a loose translation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and other devotional works, in which the “Manual for Contrition” was also included) was also widely read among the faithful since the early 17th century. It is known that it was the favorite book of the feudal Lord Takayama Ukon and of Lady Hosokawa Gracia, an aristocrat who converted to Christianity, and the martyrs held it in their hands in their final moments.
I will quote a passage from “Spiritual Ascetic Training” to give an example of its appeal: “With a short orasho (prayer), letting your heart rise, letting out a breath, make it a habit to offer your undivided heart to Deus (God) frequently. This is similar to adding wood fuel from time to time in order not to let the fire go out. You should take to heart that this is ascetic training in order not to dampen down the fire of devotion that burns in the orasho.” As we can see in this quoted passage, it is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and is fleshed out and made easy to understand.
The discovery of the Japanese Christians was a history-making event, but shortly afterward (1867), persecution began again, and the Christians who confessed their faith openly were exiled to different locations. More than 600 of these Christians died in exile. Pope Pius Ⅸ received information on the situation from the missionaries in Japan and sent a letter in 1868 to encourage the Christians. In this it is obvious that the pope does not dwell on the outward expressions of faith of the discovered Christians, but highly appreciates and justifies their perseverance. Finally, in 1873 the Meiji Government removed the prohibition and little by little the exiled Christians who survived were able to go back to their homes.
When we look back on its history, the Japanese Church with its martyrs and hidden Christians spared no sacrifice for the sake of the faith. If we consider that our Church today experiences the invisible persecution of materialism, we can be inspired by our predecessors’ love and adherence to the Church that nurtured them. These Christians who handed down their faith for seven generations without a priest are appealing to us who are having difficulty today to hand down our faith even to the next generation.
I feel that we are urged not to be afraid of conflicts or arguments in order to adhere to the faith we have received. Far from the featureless, obscure ways in which we tend to build up our society today, these Japanese Christians must have known that in deepening the faith and its features, they received through this faith a spirituality by means of which one can be in union with God.#
Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ
Father Provincial, Jesuit Province of Japan