Blessed Sebastian Kimura, First Japanese Priest, Martyr
Firando, Japan, 1565 – Nagasaki, Japan, September 10, 1622
Roman Martyrology: At Nagasaki, Japan, blessed Sebastian Kimura, Jesuit, Francisco Morales, of the Order of Preachers, priests, and fifty companions, martyrs, priests, religious, married couples, youth, catechists, widows and children, Christ died on a hill in front of a large crowd of cruel torture.
In the long history of the evangelization of Japan, there were two periods of terrible persecution against Christians and foreign missionaries in Japan.
The first began December 9, 1596 by the ‘shogun’ Hideyoshi and led to the martyrdom of the first 26 Catholics, including three Japanese Jesuits and six Franciscans, crucified and pierced February 5, 1597, in the area of Nagasaki on the ‘holy hill’ these martyrs were proclaimed saints by Pope Pius IX in 1862.
The second prosecution after a useful period of peace which saw the arrival of other missionaries, not only the Jesuits and Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians as well, was unleashed by the ‘shogun’ Ieyasu, in 1614 and its successors until 1632; a furious carnage that struck missionaries, catechists, lay people of every social condition, even children and entire families killed in the style of Eastern and refined among various tortures.
Most of the martyrs, who were thousands, died tied to a stake and burned over a slow fire, so that the ‘holy hill’ of Nagasaki, which experienced the first persecution, was eerily illuminated by rows of torches for several evenings and nights; other martyrs were beheaded or chopped to pieces. In this second, longer and more numerous persecution, collecting evidence, the Church was able to recognize among the many thousands of victims, the historical validity of martyrdom for at least 205 of them, that Pope Pius IX, July 7, 1867 proclaimed Blessed.
Among them is one blessed Kimura, descendant of the first newcomer to be educated and baptized in Hirado s. Francis Xavier and a relative of two other Japanese martyrs, Kimura (Leonardo) and Kimura (Antonio) who will become blessed as well.
Kimura was born in Firando in 1565 into a family converted to Catholicism, at Baptism, he was also given the Christian name of Sebastian. For 11 years, he devoted himself to the service of the Jesuit church in the city of Firando, then passed to Bungo in the seminary of the Jesuit fathers, aged 19 and got asked to join the Order of St. Ignatius. Seminarian said the catechism Meace and the district of the monkey, then moved to the College of Macao to China to study theology. In September 1601, he returned to Japan, and was ordained a priest in Nagasaki, the first of the Japanese nation.
The second raging fierce persecution against Christians, Father Kimura (Sebastian), who was gifted with remarkable eloquence, was skilled at disguise and transform, to evade the spies, in the most diverse characters, as a soldier, merchant, farmer, carrier, doctor. This allowed him to penetrate even the most dangerous places in prisons to comfort the future martyrs.
Learning that he was wanted, the father provincial of the Jesuits urged him to leave Nagasaki as soon as possible, but it was too late, June 30, 1621, betrayed by a Korean slave, Father Kimura was arrested while he was staying at the home of Anthony, a Korean Catholic, taken with him were also his catechists and Suzuta, locked up in prison, where they were prisoners for four years, Father Charles Spinola (1564-1622) and four novices.
The conditions of the prisoners were terrible, the prison was on a mountain top, cold and exposed to the winds, and they were given a single blanket, some food; rice and two sardines, just enough to keep them alive but without satisfying their hunger.
The hygienic conditions were miserable, unable to wash a cloth and dry them without a bit ‘n the sun, the time spent in this terrible prison, saw them engaged in prayer, penance and fervent spiritual talks.
At last September 9, 1622, orders came to transfer the prisoners to Nagasaki, Father Kimura, Father Spinola and 22 others, novices and faithful Catholics, now sentenced to death by the governor Gourocu were combined with others from local jails and transported on boats to Nagaic and from there on mules up above the hills above Nagasaki, where the stakes were ready and the wood to be burned alive.
The torment of the stake fell to 22 of them, while 30 others were beheaded, it was September 10, 1622, Father Kimura, and Father Charles Spinola were among those burned at the stake, to make longer torment the wood shed had been put off circle.
The barbaric execution, which lasted three hours, was witnessed by a huge crowd scattered on the mountain and on boats at sea, Father Sebastian Kimura, First Priest of Japan, died last, after being motionless for three hours, and tied with his arms crossed, until the fire reached him.
His liturgical feast is on September 10.
Author: Antonio Borrelli
Source: Santi e Beati