Wednesday, November 11, 2015

11 November 1634 : Seventy-one Christian Faithful Climb Martyrs' Hill

November 11, 1634: a day of infamy and glory. The train of martyrs led up Martyrs’ Hill was extraordinarily long. Two Dominican Friars on horseback, their hands tied behind their backs and hoops around their necks, led the procession; sixty-nine other Christians formed their train. The sixty-nine lay Catholics were destined for beheading or burning at the stake; the two priests would be hung upside-down in torture-pits to meet a slower, more excruciating sort of death.
On the flat stretch of earth atop the steep slope called Nishi-zaka, all the martyrs found their allotted spots prepared, arrayed inside a stockade built to keep out the milling onlookers. Here were the chopping-blocks from which severed heads would drop to earth, here the stakes against which human forms would squirm and writhe, emitting groans and screams and squeals if the torturers could have their way; and then there were those two pits with the gallows built over them, the stone counterweights readied with ropes to hold the priests dangling by their ankles head-down in the dark, horrid, filth-strewn pits. No sunshine would peek in once the wooden lids were closed tight around those two human waists—no natural sun, at least.
And yet the darkness failed to do its work: neither man called out for respite, neither gave the hoped-for signal that, after all, this unexampled agony, this horror, this test too terrible for merest human mettle to endure, had done its work. The slightest groan could suffice, some word that could be twisted to the tyrant’s purpose, a supposed sign of apostasy, of surrender to his evil will. Instead the two Christian heroes endured their agonies unflinching, surrendering their flesh and lives and souls to the God to whom they had consecrated these in their youth.
Friar Thomas Nishi was the first to die: so weakened by privations and tortures was his flesh that his soul escaped Heavenward within a day; it would take a week for Friar Giacinto Giordano Ansalone to follow his friend home. These two, the only Dominican Friars left in Japan, had been arrested on the fourth of August, the feast day of their Order’s patron saint. With what warm embraces he must have welcomed them home.
Yet more such fearless preachers would come.

Copyright © 2015 by Luke O’Hara