Saint Felipe de Jesus

March 26, 1995
Brother John Raymond

	Praying to the martyrs can give us strength to be brave in
 witnessing to the Faith in our lives. I just read an interesting
 book about a martyr named St. Felipe. He was born in New Spain, as
 Mexico was called at the time, in 1575. Between twelve and fifteen
 years old he joined the Franciscans, but he left after one year.
 Three months later Felipe travelled by boat to Manila in the
 Philippines to develop a trade business with Mexico. Three years
 later he entered the Franciscans stationed in Manila. On May 22,
 1594, Felipe was professed adding to his name "de Jesus."
	Two years later Felipe was put on a boat bound for Mexico to be
 ordained by the bishop there. Three typhoons reduced the ship to a
 wreck. In a miraculous manner the ship made it to the Japanese
 coast. The ship accidently grounded on a reef. The Japanese took the
 cargo and crew to land. They confiscated the cargo and held the crew
 as prisoners. Felipe was allowed to travel with some others to see
 the ambassador. Eventually he went to see Fr. Bautista in Miako,
 Franciscan superior of Japan, who decided that Felipe should return
 to his community in Manila.
	Meanwhile the warlord of Japan, Taikosama, desperately needed
 money. He was interested in the merchandise from Felipe's ship. To
 justify his confiscation of it he accused the crew of piracy. Later
 he accused them of exploring Japanese ports in preparation for an
 invasion. The friars and priests were accused of helping the King of
 Spain win the Japanese people over to prepare for a Spanish
	Before Felipe could leave Miako Japanese guards had surrounded
 the Franciscan house. After a few weeks of house arrest Felipe, two
 Franciscan priests and two brothers, along with twelve Japanese
 Christian associates were all condemned to death. They were thrown
 into a common cell. The next day the Franciscan, Fr. Martin and
 three Japanese Christian associates from the Franciscan Osaka house,
 along with three Japanese from a Jesuit house, joined them in
	Soon all of them were led to the public square in front of the
 principal temple of the city. The twenty-four of them had a piece of
 their left ear cut off. Then they were paraded through the streets
 of the imperial cities with a man shouting their crimes. This began
 a thirty-day Way of the Cross in Winter. Its destination was
 Nagasaki, where they were to be crucified. Along the way two more
 Christians joined the condemned bringing the total to twenty-six.
 The Fathers and brothers had been accused of preaching Christianity,
 which had been forbidden by the Japanese warlord. If they renounced
 Christianity they could be spared, which they refused.
	On February 5, 1597, they arrived at the crucifixion place called
 Tateyama, which means "Hill of Wheat." Felipe embraced his cross.
 Instead of being nailed the Japanese style was to put iron clamps
 around the wrists, ankles and throat. A straddle piece was placed
 between the legs for weight support. Then the person was pierced
 with a lance up through the left and right ribs toward the opposing
 shoulder. Death would immediately follow.
	In Felipe's case the supporting straddle piece had been put too
 low. When they raised his cross the throat clamp began to strangle
 him. With great effort he lifted himself up long enough to shout,
 "`Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!'" The executioners, seeing that he was
 suffocating, decided to lance him at once. After two lance thrusts
 his body sagged on the cross. Fearing the body weight would break
 the clamps, a third lance was employed impaling his body to the
 cross. The others were executed one by one.
	On February 5, 1629, Mexico celebrated the beatification of
 Felipe de Jesus. St. Felipe was made the patron of Mexico City. In
 June, 1862, all twenty-six martyrs were canonized in Rome. Their
 feast day is celebrated on February 6th. In 1990, on my way to the
 International Eucharistic Congress in Seoul, Korea, I was graced to
 visit the shrine of these martyrs in Nagasaki, Japan. Let us look to
 this first canonized saint of North America to strengthen us to
 share in Our Lord's Passion this Lent.