Father Vieira Shakes the Emperor’s Pagan Convictions, and Is Then Martyred

December 3, 2020

Father Sebastian Vieira, a Portuguese Jesuit, expelled from Japan in 1614, came to Rome some years after, to render an account to the Holy Father of the state of his mission. He then returned to Japan, into which he penetrated in disguise in 1632. The governor of Nagasaki having succeeded in capturing him, immediately gave information of this to the young emperor, who ordered that he should be taken to Jedo for the purpose of obtaining from him news from Europe. Having arrived at this capital, he was visited by the lords of the court, and he spoke to them freely about the truths of our faith. The emperor wished to have in writing an abridgement of the Christian doctrines. When these memoirs had been carried to the court, and the reading of them had begun, it was remarked that the emperor seemed as if wavering and agitated by various thoughts, above all when the article about the immortality of the soul was read.

The martyrdom of Father Sebastian Vieira.

He then said: “This bonze of Europe is a man of good faith; he exposes with sincerity the mysteries of his religion.” He added: “If what he says of the immortality of the soul be true, as it seems to be, what will become of us, unhappy beings that we are?” The more the reading continued, the more the emperor appeared to be moved; but all the lights that he had on the truth of our faith were soon obscured by the discourses of Oiendono, his uncle, who persuaded him that all that the missionary had advanced was a tissue of lies, and that it was something unworthy of a prince to abandon the religion of his ancestors in order to embrace that of a stranger, an emissary of the King of Spain, who aspired to take possession of Japan as he had already done in the case of the Philippine Islands. The young prince, imbued from his infancy with pagan maxims, yielded at once to the reasons given by his uncle, and condemned the holy missionary to the following torture: after he had been led through the streets of the city in a most ignominious way, he was suspended in a grave, his head downwards and his hands tied behind his back; two boards, hollowed out held him tightly in the middle of the body, depriving him entirely of light. He, however, predicted that he would die only by fire. In fact, at the end of three days, on finding him quite fresh, as if he had not suffered at all, the executioners kindled a large fire in the grave, and he thus consummated his martyrdom, January 6, 1634.

Rev. Eugene Grimm, ed. Victories of the Martyrs, vol. 9, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1888), 428–30.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 755


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