James, Japan’s Noble Four-Year-Old Martyr

August 6, 2020

On the same day his cousin, by the name of Balthasar, superintendent of the royal treasury, obtained the same crown. He had also been despoiled of his property and exiled from the kingdom on account of his faith, and it was also in the place of exile where it was announced to him that he had been condemned to death because he was a Christian. He rejoiced greatly, and thanked the governor for having delivered him thereby from the miseries of this life. He subsequently visited his mother, Lucy his wife, and his daughter Thecla, and communicated to them the good news that he had received. The officers of justice came to ask him in which place he wished to die. “Wherever you please,” he answered. Thecla then said: “My father, it is not necessary for you to leave the house; it would be for us a consolation to be present at your death.” Balthasar rejoined: “My daughter, the Son of God wished to die outside of Jerusalem, in a public place; we should imitate his example by dying in the same place in which malefactors die.” Before departing he prayed before the image of our Lord. His wife and daughter wished to have the consolation of washing his feet; thereupon he set out and joined the executioners.

Balthasar had a son four years old, named James, who, seeing his father going to his death, threw himself at his feet and cried out that he wished to die with him. The father persuaded him to remain with his mother; but the boy did not wish to leave him; finally, to rid himself of further trouble, he allowed him to follow him.

When all had arrived at the place of execution, the servant of God, seeing those present moved with compassion, spoke to them: “You would have reason to pity me if I died in punishment of a crime; but since I die for my religion, you should envy my happiness; for I only quit the earth in order to reign eternally in heaven.” Having said this, he embraced his son, fell on his knees, made to God an offering of his life, and presented his neck to the executioner who beheaded him. The martyr was in his forty-eighth year.

Little James, without being frightened by the death of his father, knelt as he had done, kissed the collar of his garment, and received also the death-blow, while he was saying, “Jesus, Mary!” It was indeed wonderful to see so young a child die with such intrepidity; but it was still more wonderful that there could be found an executioner capable of immolating this little innocent.

Rev. Eugene Grimm, ed. Victories of the Martyrs, vol. 9, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1888), 367–8.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 738

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