“The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” Paul Miki, while hanging on a cross
When I read from the memorial of the martyrs Paul Miki and companions, those events are clearly mirrored I the world today. The Japanese Jesuit was martyred in the late 1500’s through an emperors desire to purge foreign, and notably western influences from Japan. How eerily similar is that to the persecution throughout the world today? I could start with the Christian persecutions rampant in and around Syria, and could continue through Africa where the same persecution is taken place. I could also cross the Mediterranean and note the escalating emotions Syrian refugees fleeing that horror are beginning to encounter throughout Europe. I can see traces of those same temperament’s simmering and beginning to boil in this New World too. I can then read that last line of the quote above: “I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” One of the uses of those candles blessed at Candlemas is the votive candle, a candle lit as a prayer for peace, and a prayer to end religious and ethnic persecution.