Tag: Martyr

This Mexican Merchant Missed His Ordination and Ended up a Martyr

This Mexican Merchant Missed His Ordination and Ended up a Martyr

Felipe de Jesus never made made it back to Mexico, becoming the first to die for the faith in Japan

San Felipe de Jesus may be the patron of Mexico City and one of the 26 Martyrs of Japan, but he reportedly began life as a frivolous boy and was later a reluctant priest.

Born in 1572 in Mexico City, Felipe joined a new Franciscan order called the Reformed Franciscans of the Province of St. Didacus, founded by St. Peter Baptista. Not long afterward, however, Felipe became disinterested in religious life and in 1589 left the community. He became a merchant and took to the high seas, landing in the Philippines. A year after he arrived, though, he was drawn to the Franciscans again and reentered the order in Manila.

There was no ordinary in the Philippines at the time, so when Felipe was ready to receive holy orders, his superiors ordered him back to Mexico. Bound for his homeland on a Spanish war vessel, with four other friars aboard — another Franciscan, a Dominican and two Augustinians — the ship was blown off course in a terrible storm and they landed in Japanese waters, stranded on the island of Tosa.

Officials seized the boat and soon became suspicious of the Catholic missionaries since the ship was carrying ammunition. The captain made the mistake of praising the king of Spain and said the missionaries were preparing the way for a Spanish conquest. Infuriated, the Japanese emperor ordered Felipe and his missionary companions arrested, along with the founder of Felipe’s order, Peter Baptist, who had already been working in Japan for a few years. Seventeen Japanese Franciscan tertiaries, as well as Jesuit Paul Miki, and his two servants, were also seized.

On January 3, 1597, Felipe and his missionary companions were marched through the streets of Kyoto, all of them with their ears sliced off. Two and a half weeks later, they were taken to Osaka and then on to Nagasaki where they were brought to a hilltop, now called the “Mount of Martyrs,” and crucified. Each was made to stand on a cross beam, then their arms were tied to another beam and they were held to an upright pole with an iron collar. The practice was then to spear the person through both sides of his chest, after which death came quickly.

Fr. Jose Aguilar, a Mexican Jesuit living at the Jesuit residence near the 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki told The Catholic Sun in 2013 that the beam Filipe was standing on broke, so the Franciscan was choking from the collar. The order for his execution was given immediately and with that, he became the first of the 26 Christian martyrs in Japan, as well as the first Mexican martyr.

Pope Pius IX declared Felipe a saint on June 8, 1862, and he was named the patron saint of Mexico City. During the three-year Cristero War, which began in 1926, many turned to Felipe’s intercession. Devotion to him was so fervent in Mexico that when it was time to build the 26 Martyrs Museum and Shrine in Japan, many tradesmen and artisans from Mexican came to help. At the shrine’s dedication in 1962, more than 600 Mexicans were in attendance.

Though the seeds of the more than 250,000 Japanese martyrs have yet to bear the fruit of widespread faith in Japan, the little church near the 26 Martyrs Museum, named for San Felipe, stands as a moving reminder of the heroic virtue of Mexico City’s patron saint.

Memorial Of St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr – January 21

Memorial Of St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr – January 21


Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes, may follow her constancy in the faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Agnes (c. 304) like St. Cecilia, is to be numbered among the most famous martyrs of Rome. When the Diocletian persecution was at its height, and when priests as well as laymen were apostatizing from the faith, Agnes, a girl of twelve, freely chose to die for Christ. When she was commanded to offer incense to false gods, she raised her hands to Christ and made the Sign of the Cross. When the heathens threatened to bind her hand and foot, she herself hastened to the place of torture as a bride to her wedding feast. Pain had no terror for her—although the fetters slipped from her small hands while even the pagan bystanders were moved to tears.

St. Agnes

Agnes is one of the most glorious saints in the calendar of the Roman Church. The greatest Church Fathers vie with one another in sounding her praise and glory. St. Jerome writes: 

“All nations, especially their Christian communities, praise in word and writing the life of St. Agnes. She triumphed over her tender age as well as over the merciless tyrant. To the crown of spotless innocence she added the glory of martyrdom.”

Our saint’s name should be traced to the Greek hagne – the pure, rather than to the Latin agna – lamb. But the Latin derivation prevailed in the early Church. The reason may have been that eight days after her death Agnes appeared to her parents with a train of virgins, and a lamb at her side. St. Augustine knew both derivations. “Agnes”, he writes, “means ‘lamb’ in Latin, but in Greek it denotes ‘the pure one'”. 

The Latin interpretation occasioned the yearly blessings of the St. Agnes lambs; it takes place on this day in the Church of which she is patron, and the wool is used in weaving the palliums worn by archbishops and, through privilege, by some bishops. In the church built by the Emperor Constantine over the saint’s grave, Pope Gregory the Great preached a number of homilies. Reliable details concerning the life of St. Agnes are very few. The oldest material occurs in St. Ambrose’s De Virginibus, parts of which are read today at Matins. The value of the later (definitely unauthentic) “Passion” of the saint is enhanced by the fact that various antiphons and responsories in the Office are derived from it.

From such liturgical sources we may construct the following “life of St. Agnes”. One day when Agnes, then thirteen years old, was returning home from school, she happened to meet Symphronius, a son of the city prefect. At once he became passionately attracted to her and tried to win her by precious gifts. Agnes repelled him, saying

“Away from me, food of death, for I have already found another lover” (r. Ant.). “With His ring my Lord Jesus Christ has betrothed me, and He has adorned me with the bridal crown” (3. Ant., Lauds). “My right hand and my neck He has encircled with precious stones, and has given me earrings with priceless pearls; He has decked me with lovely, glittering gems” (2. Ant.). “The Lord has clothed me with a robe of gold, He has adorned me with priceless jewels” (4. Ant.). “Honey and milk have I received from His mouth, and His blood has reddened my cheeks” (5. Ant.). “I love Christ, into whose chamber I shall enter, whose Mother is a virgin, whose Father knows not woman, whose music and melody are sweet to my ears. When I love Him, I remain chaste; when I touch Him, I remain pure; when I possess Him, I remain a virgin” (2. Resp.). “I am betrothed to Him whom the angels serve, whose beauty the sun and moon admire” (9. Ant.). “For Him alone I keep my troth, to Him I surrender with all my heart” (6. Ant.).

Incensed by her rebuff, Symphronius denounced Agnes to his father, the city prefect. When he threatened her with commitment to a house of ill fame, Agnes replied: 

“At my side I have a protector of my body, an angel of the Lord” (2. Ant., Lauds).” 

When Agnes entered the house of shame, she found an angel of the Lord ready to protect her (1. Ant., Lauds). A light enveloped her and blinded all who tried to approach. Then another judge condemned her to the stake because the pagan priests accused her of sorcery.
Surrounded by flames she prayed with outstretched arms: 

“I beseech You, Father almighty, most worthy of awe and adoration. Through Your most holy Son I escaped the threats of the impious tyrant and passed through Satan’s filth with feet unsullied. Behold, I now come to You, whom I have loved, whom I have sought, whom I have always desired.” 

She gave thanks as follows: 

“O You, the almighty One, who must be adored, worshipped, feared – I praise You because through Your only begotten Son I have escaped the threats of wicked men and have walked through the filth of sin with feet unsullied. I extol You with my lips, and I desire You with all my heart and strength.”

After the flames died out, she continued: 

“I praise You, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by Your Son the fire around me was extinguished” (4. Ant., Lauds). 

And now she longed for union with Christ: 

“Behold, what I yearned for, I already see; what I hoped for, I already hold in embrace; with Him I am united in heaven whom on earth I loved with all my heart” (Ben. Ant.). 

Her wish was granted; the judge ordered her beheaded. 

~St. Agnes, Pray For Us!


—The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Affianced couples; betrothed couples; bodily purity; chastity; Children of Mary; Colegio Capranica of Rome; crops; engaged couples; gardeners; Girl Scouts; girls; rape victims; diocese of Rockville Centre, New York; virgins.

Symbols: Lamb; woman with long hair and a lamb, sometimes with a sword at her throat; woman with a dove which holds a ring in its beak; woman with a lamb at her side.

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