St Paul Miki and Companions, St Dorothy

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Martyrs of Japan. St Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan in 1549. By the time he left a few years later, there were about 2,000 Christians there. The Christian community continued to grow. in the ensuing years. This angered the Emperor Hideyoshi who embarked on a brutal persecution of Christians and their families.

Paul Miki came from a Japanese aristocratic family. He became a Jesuit priest and notable preacher. The other 25 martyrs included two Jesuit lay brothers, six Franciscans, (four of these were Spanish, one Mexican and one from India) and one Korean layman. The other 17 were all Japanese lay people - among them a doctor, a catechist, soldier and three young boys. They were tortured and then crucified in Nagasaki in 1596 (the city is also the setting of the opera Madame Butterfly and the city destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945).

These martyrs were canonised in 1862. Many hundreds of Japanese Christians died in later persecutions especially in 1613, 1630 and 1632.

and St Dorothy

Martyr. Patron of brides, florists and midwives. This third century saint died at Caesarea in Cappadocia during the persecutions of Diocletian. Like St Agatha, whose feast was yesterday, she had refused to marry. According to legend a young lawyer named Theophilus jeered at her as she was being taken to her execution.

He asked her to send him fruits from the garden of paradise. She agreed and prayed for him. An angel appeared to him that night and gave him a basket containing three apples and three roses. Theophilus became a Christian and was later also martyred.

St Dorothy became very popular in Europe, especially Italy and German where the motif of apples and roses often decorates her image.

Her legend was known in Anglo Saxon times. She inspired poems by Swinburne and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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