Life and Soul

Saint of the week: Francis de Morales (September 10)

Mission to Satsuma

The Madrid-born Francis de Morales entered the Dominican order as a young man and was sent to Japan. He served first in the town of Satsuma for 20 years and then went to Nagasaki in 1614 to continue his missionary work.

Initially, the shogunate supported the Catholic mission. Officials believed that the missionaries would reduce the influence of Buddhist monks and boost trade with Catholic Spain and Portugal.

Christians crucified

But as time wore on the regime became nervous that the Spanish would take power and convert the population. The authorities began to see Christianity as a threat and prepared for a deadly persecution.

On February 5, 1597, 26 Christians were crucified in Nagasaki. This was the beginning of a wave of anti-Christian violence across the country which continued for years. Despite the evident threat to his life, Francis chose to remain in the country.

Burned alive

In 1622, a further 55 Christians were martyred, again in Nagasaki, in what was known as the Great Genna Martyrdom. Among them was Francis, who was burned alive for his faith, along with Blessed Charles Spinola and 30 other Jesuits, half of whom were Japanese.

At this point in the country’s history, Catholicism was fully outlawed and the Church in Japan crumbled, until the arrival of Western missionaries in the 19th century.

St Francis Morales and the martyrs who died with him were canonised in June, 1862 by Blessed Pius IX.