Do you remember the story of the Kakure Kirishitan?
St Francis Xavier went as a missionary to Japan in the 1500s, and the result of the Jesuit mission was very successful. Tens of thousands of souls were converted. The warlords of Japan considered this a kind of alien invasion from the Phillipines and began to persecute the Catholics. Many were tortured and slain for their faith. St Paul Miki was a noble born Japanese youth who converted and became a Jesuit. He was crucified for his faith along with 25 companions in 1597. One of those who died in the great wave of persecutions told the faithful, “In the future someone will come back who will preach to you the gospel of Jesus Christ once more. You will know he is the messenger of Jesus Christ because he will be unmarried. He will be obedient to Peter in Rome, and he will teach you to love the mother of Jesus.”
For nearly 300 years Christianity in Japan was thought not to exist. The persecutions had wiped them out. Then a French missionary, Bernard Thadee Petitjohn, went to Japan in the mid 1800s. Protestants had tried to establish missions, but were unsucessful. When Fr Petitjohn arrived and began preaching an old woman came up and said, “They said someone would come and you have. Come with me.”
She took him to a secret meeting room and introduced him to the Kakure Kirishitan–the ‘secret Christians.’ There were 50,000 Catholics who had kept the faith, baptized, catechized by re-telling Bible stories and maintained their Catholic religion underground. She asked to see his statue of the Blessed Virgin and asked if he was married and obeyed Peter in Rome. When he said he did the Kirishitan flocked to him for the sacraments of confession and Eucharist.
At Mass at school today I told the students this story and reminded them that in nearly every age somewhere around the world the Catholic church was persecuted. It is part of the mark of belonging to the true Body of Christ–where Christ is he will be reviled and hated and persecuted by the world, the flesh and the devil.
Pray for the Church in Japan. Pray for the church suffering persecution even today in Muslim lands.