The Catholic religion was introduced into Japan by St. Francis Xavier. For nearly a century and a half the Church there enjoyed peace ; the great Japanese persecution was commenced by the Emperor Taicosama, in the year 1597 ; by his order six Franciscan friars, seventeen laymen, and three Jesuits were crucified at Nangasaki. They embraced and kissed their crosses reverently and affectionately. These three Jesuits, all Japanese, were the first of their Order to shed their blood in a land which was to give so many martyrs to the Society.
Paul Miki, aged thirty-three, not yet a priest, rejoicing that he was about to die as Our Lord at Our Lord's own age, preached with such eloquence, as he was being led from city to city, that he converted many to the faith.
" See, father," said John of Goto, " we must prefer salvation to all things," giving to his parent the cloth from his head as a gift to his mother. Their sides were pierced by lances. "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit!" exclaimed Paul Miki. " Jesus, Mary," murmured James Kisai. John of Goto's father remained at the foot of his son's cross, embracing the wood on which he had died. John of Goto was a novice of nineteen ; James Kisai was a laybrother. These martyrs were beatified in 1627, and canonized by Pope Pius IX.