Paul Miki and the other 25 martyrs we commemorate today died in Japan in 1597. Their deaths are sad to read about and a tragic chapter in the history of the church. Paul was a Japanese man who had been educated by the Jesuits and had come to a deep personal faith. At the time of his death, he had begun to prepare for a life of ministry, but that life was cut short when his government, out of fear of western influence, executed him and his companions in a horrific act of crucifixion and ran them through with spears. One thing that struck me from the accounts of his death was how prayer helped sustain these martyrs. Paul led the group in the ancient hymn Te Deum as they were marched to the hill of their execution. Even from the cross, he was said to have recited psalms and preached about his forgiveness to those who tormented him. In this way, they imitated Christ not online in the method of their deaths but also through their response of prayer and forgiveness.
This is a powerful testimony of the importance of prayer in the sustaining of the human spirit. May we imitate St. Paul Miki, and always be ready to offer prayer and praise when we face trials in our own life.