St Paul Miki and Companions

Martyrs (entered heaven in 1597)

Dear Mike,

The adjustments to your Chapter Plan are admirable.  It’s good to see that you are beginning to take seriously the task of changing campus culture, not just going along for the ride.

But may I make one suggestion?  If you really want to alter the atmosphere on campus, you need to first of all identify who really makes that atmosphere.  Usually there are some students who set fashions, but most of the time, since students come and go every four years, the real campus culture-makers are a handful of faculty members, a couple of popular professors and a few shrewd administrators.  If you really want to change what’s getting blown into the campus air, you need to identify these key individuals: the leaders.  Not doing so can lead to disaster.  Just look at what happened to today’s saints.

Paul Miki was a native born Japanese nobleman who became a Jesuit priest and joined the work of the Christian missionaries on that beautiful island.  Their work had progressed steadily since St Francis Xavier first planted the faith in 1549.  By the end of the century, there were over 200,000 practicing Christians, being ministered to by numerous Spanish and Portuguese missionaries (mostly Jesuits and Franciscans).  The native rulers were suspicious and hesitant (especially since the Japanese emperor was considered divine, which didn’t harmonize too well with Christian monotheism), and expelled all the foreign missionaries.  Some stayed behind in disguise, but by then there were enough native Japanese to continue spreading the faith.

Things got ugly, however, in 1596, when a powerful Japanese ruler was roused to anger by an imprudent boast: a Spanish merchant made an offhand comment that the missionaries were mainly there in order to facilitate the conquest of Japan by the Spanish and Portuguese crowns.  Of course, he had no backing for the statement, and it was completely out of place, but it touched one of the Shogun’s sore spots, and he initiated a brutal persecution of Christians.  It included the martyrdom of whole families and their pastors, among whom was St Paul Miki – the first native Japanese martyr.  They were crucified in a particularly gruesome way, being fastened to crosses by cords, then elevated with chains and iron collars around their necks, then speared through the hearts (all this after having half one ear cut off and being paraded bloodily through the streets as a warning to others).  It took place on a hill outside Nagasaki.

All because the Shogun wasn’t won over to the Christian cause.  Even if half the population were sympathetic to the Christians, a single command from the Shogun could still create havoc.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that the Christians had not tried to win him over, it’s just that the devil got to him before much progress was made.  So in your new Chapter Plan, or at least in your conversations with the Leadership Team and your faculty advisor, I would start doing some deeper analyses about who really sets the moral tone on campus.

Your tired uncle,


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