Priest and Martyr (1571-1627)
+ Born of a noble Japanese family around the year 1571, Thomas studied under the Jesuits near Osaka. In 1589 entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained to the priesthood at Nagasaki.
+ Shortly after his ordination, an imperial edict was issued, banishing Catholic priests and opening a period of persecution. With eight other Jesuits, Thomas traveled to Macao, where he remained for four years.
+ In 1618 he resumed his ministry in Japan, often wearing disguises to hide his identity.
+ Worn out by the physical and psychological strains of his ministry, and fearing he might not stand firm in his faith in the face of torture, he sought release from his vows. By the time permission arrived, however, he had changed his mind.
+ Following a probationary period he was readmitted to the Jesuits and transferred to Nagasaki; it was there that he was captured on July 22, 1626, while celebrating mass in a private home.
+ On September 7, 1627, after thirteen months in prison, Thomas was taken to a hill outside the city and tied to a stake. As the flames rose around him he blessed those who were with him before falling into silent prayer. According to a number of witnesses, his breast burst open as he died, and from it a huge flame rose upward and out of sight.
+ Thomas Tsuji was beatified by Blessed Pius IX in 1867.
For prayer and reflection
“The martyrdom of Christians is the most sublime expression and sign of this love, not only because the martyr remains faithful to his love to the extent of shedding his blood, but also because this sacrifice is performed out of the loftiest and noblest love that can exist.”—Pope Saint Paul VI
On September 7, we also remember Blessed Ludovicus Maki Soetsu. A Married Japanese layman and the father of Blessed Ioannes Maki Jizaemon, he allowed Blessed Thomas Tsuji to celebrate Mass in his home, for which he was arrested and killed. He was beatified in the same ceremony as Blessed Thomas and his son, Blessed Ioannes.
Lord God, you sent out your martyrs to preach the Gospel by word and example. Grant a rich harvest of grace to those who are fearless in proclaiming the word of our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Supplement to the Divine Office for the Society of Jesus, collect for the Memorial of the Jesuit Martyrs of the Missions)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.