Two Young Japanese Princes Embrace Martyrdom but Refuse to Renounce the Faith

January 14, 2021

The new king of Arima, the infamous parricide Michael, after having taken possession of all the goods of his father, declared war against the Christian religion. . . .

King John, his father, had only him [Michael] from his first marriage; but his second wife, Queen Justa, had borne him four children, among whom were Princes Francis and Matthew. These children had remained in the kingdom, while their mother, after the death of the king, her husband, had been sent to Meaco. Prince Francis was only eight years old, and Prince Matthew was only six. In so tender an age, both knew how to show an inviolable attachment to the faith. Princess Fima, the second wife, or rather the concubine of Michael, who had taken her by repudiating his lawful wife, seeing one day these two children, said to Francis: “Will you deny the God of the Christians?” The young prince indignantly answered: “No; I will never deny him.” She replied: “If you do not consent to do so, the emperor will put you to death.” “God grant it,” replied the prince; “I do not fear it, and I even desire it.” She then tried to pervert Matthew, the younger prince; but he was as immovable as his brother. This wicked woman, being supported by a perfidious counselor, afterwards prevailed upon the king [Michael] to cause the death of these two innocent youths, thus to secure for himself the possession of the throne.

Arima Harunobu, King of Arima. Photo by 治済

They were at first kept in close confinement, and it was noised abroad that they were living with their mother at Meaco, whither only the two young princesses, their sisters, had been sent. Thus imprisoned, our little martyrs, as if they had a presentiment that they were doomed to death, prepared themselves by exercises of continual piety, especially by prayer and fasting, just as well as persons who are of a mature age and who have consummate virtue. During the night that was to be the last of their stay upon earth, as Francis was engaged till a very late hour, his servant reminded him that it was time to go to bed. “Ah!” cried out the youth, “I am thinking of the torments that Jesus Christ suffered for us, and that makes me weep. What goodness was that, to wish to die for us! Poor idolaters, who know not this good Savior!” Before retiring he recommended his soul to the Blessed Virgin, in case he was to die that very night. About midnight a soldier quietly entered the room, approached little Matthew, who was asleep, and plunged a dagger into his heart; then he cut the throat of his brother Francis, and the servant found them in the morning, weltering in their blood. When their worthy mother, the exiled widow, was informed of this murder, as she had been for a long time united with God, she raised her eyes to heaven and thanked the Lord for having called to himself these two tender lambs that she had brought into existence.

Rev. Eugene Grimm, ed. Victories of the Martyrs, vol. 9, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1888), 346, 349–50.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 760

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