The Noble Yemondono and His Family Are Martyred for the Faith

March 4, 2021

The following year, 1628, a young prince, Lord of Jonezava, in order to commend himself to the emperor, enjoined upon a governor to force all the Christians of his states to follow the religion of the country. This governor, who was of a gentle and concilatory disposition, in order to calm him, informed him that there were no Christians in his dominion. Another functionary, however, a rival of the former, made up a long list of Christians and sent it to the prince.

Yonezawa Castle, Yonezawa, Yamagata, Japan. Photo by Satoshin.

A little while after the prince asked the governor who among his subjects was the best captain whom he could safely promote to a higher rank. The governor proposed to him Yemondono as the most worthy of all; but the prince, knowing that he was a Christian, said that he could not entrust his states to a man of this religion. To which the governor replied that Yemondono had been a Christian, but was so no longer. “If this is the case,” answered the prince, “I will promote him.”

Upon this promise the governor went in search of Yemondono with other friends, and endeavored to persuade him to accept the advantageous offers. Yemondono replied that there was no fortune in this world that could detach him from Jesus Christ. Having been informed of this, the prince ordered the governor to put to death Yemondono, his wife, his children, and all Christians. Whereupon the governor said to him: “Shall we sacrifice more than three thousand persons?” He knew that he would lose his life if he did not obey; yet thought it expedient to represent to his young master that all the precepts of the Christian law were full of justice, and that among them was one that specially ordained that one should expose one’s life in the service of the prince. The tyrant would, however, not heed these representations, and confirmed the order that he had given, namely, that all the Christians should die.

Uesugi Sadakatsu. The second feudal lord of the Yonezawa Domain in Dewa Province.

The eldest son of Louis Yemendono, named Michael Taiemon, aged twenty-three, was at that time grievously ill; but hearing of the general condemnation of the Christians, leaped from his bed and cried out that joy had healed him. He had himself carried to the house of his venerable father, who rejoiced with him at the good news and gave thanks to God. His second son, Vincent Ichibioie, did not delay to visit the paternal roof. Two officers afterwards came who were charged with the duty to announce to Yemondono that the prince had condemned him and his whole family to die on the following day, January 12. The good old man answered that he thanked the prince for making him die for so noble a cause; then addressing his two sons, he said to them: “Now, my dear children, I have nothing more to desire, since God is pleased that I should make him a sacrifice of my life—a grace for which I have always been longing.” Michael and Vincent, animated with the same sentiments, united their thanksgivings to those of their father. The two young women, Dominica and Thecla, the wives of the two brothers, having heard of what was going on, and burning with the same desire for martyrdom, hastened to join their husbands; they each had a little daughter that they carried in their arms.

Yemondono then desired to give his servants their discharge, and to make them presents; but they refused even the salary that was due to them, and declared that they all wished to die for Jesus Christ. The servants of Michael and those of his brother spoke in the same way. Among them was a young page, less than twelve years old, who was to be sent home to his parents, but he refused to go. He afterwards consented to return to his father’s house, but only to take leave. His father endeavored to retain him by force; but the boy resolutely told him that he did not wish to lose so beautiful an occasion to prove his fidelity to his God; after this he fled from the house, and returned to join the martyrs.

The night was passed in exercises of piety and in making preparations under the direction of the saintly old man. Two hours before day the officers of justice arrived; they found the servants of God awaiting the moment of their sacrifice. Upon all a rope was put around the neck, and their hands were tied behind the back, with the exception of the women and Yemondono. Remaining thus free to receive the executioners, he went to meet them with a smiling countenance; then he was bound like the rest. All knelt down before an image of the Mother of God that was fastened to a pike. A young page was charged with carrying this holy standard, and another had to accompany him with a blessed candle that was burning. The pious cortege finally left the house in the following order: after the two pages came the women; Thecla had her little daughter in her arms, and that of Dominica was carried by her chamber-maid; then followed the men, masters and servants; and the brave Yemondono closed the procession. They all showed so great a modesty that the idolaters were themselves deepely moved. Arrived at the place of execution, they fell on their knees, and again recommended themselves to the Blessed Virgin. All, to the number of fifteen, were beheaded, the women first, the men afterwards; their venerable chief, Yemondono, was the last that was executed; he received the mortal blow while pronouncing the names of Jesus and Mary.

Rev. Eugene Grimm, ed. Victories of the Martyrs, vol. 9, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1888), 413–6.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 767

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