history of the Augustinian mission in seventeenth century Japan contains
the glorious account of more than 100 friars, tertiaries, and members of
the Archconfraternity of Our Mother of Consolation who shed their blood
for the faith. This group represents the countries of Japan, Mexico, Portugal,
and Spain, as well as various branches of the Augustinian family. In 1867
twelve of these martyrs were beatified by Pope Pius IX.
The Augustinians formally set out from the Philippines to begin the mission
in Japan in 1602. They quickly established churches and won many converts
to the faith. From the very start they accepted candidates for the Augustinian
Order and zealously promoted the Third Order of Saint Augustine and the
Archconfraternity of Our Mother of Consolation. It was not long, however,
before the persecutions began and the religious, as well as their newly
converted Japanese Christian brothers and sisters, were called upon to pay
a great price for their belief.
One of the first martyrs was Fernando Ayala, of an illustrious family
of Castile. He was born in 1575 in Valesteros, Spain, and joined the Order
at the age of eighteen while on a visit to relatives in Montilla. Fernando
excelled in studies and was invited to teach at his alma mater, the University
of Alcalá de Henares. However, when an appeal was made by the mission
procurator from the Philippines for volunteers for the new mission of the
Augustinian Order in Japan, Fernando was the first to step forward. In 1603
he resigned his teaching position and arrived in Japan in December 1604.
Among his foundations was that of Nagasaki, where his great fervor, compassion,
and patience encouraged many to the faith. In every mission center he established
the Archconfraternity and the Third Order for the continued spiritual development
of new Christians. He composed several textbooks for catechetical instruction
and set up living quarters for the elderly, for the infirm, and for delinquents.
On 27 January 1614, the emperor signed a decree for the expulsion of the
missionaries and the destruction of their churches. In the face of torture,
Fernando was immovable. He consoled and encouraged his converts to remain
faithful to their beliefs. Finally, he was beheaded in 1617.
In the same year Andrew Yoshida, one of Fernando’s catechists and
president of the Archconfraternity of Our Mother of Consolation, was also
beheaded. Peter Zuniga arrived in Japan in 1618, but was forced to return
to the Philippines when the governor of Nagasaki learned that he was the
son of the Viceroy of New Spain and therefore could not be sentenced to
death. Two years later, however, Peter returned, was captured, tortured,
and finally burned alive. Over a thousand neophytes witnessed his martyrdom.
The oblates John Shozabuco, Michael Kiuchi Tayemon, Peter Kuhieye, Thomas
Terai Kahioye, and tertiaries Mancio Seisayemon and Lawrence Hachizo were
beheaded on 28 October 1630.
Bartholomew Gutiérrez, a Mexican, arrived in Japan from Manila
in 1612. In the beginning he was forced to spend his daylight hours hidden
in a cave and minister to the Japanese Christian community in the darkness
of night. Betrayed by a former Christian, he and his catechist John Shozabuco
were arrested on 10 November 1629. While John was beheaded in 1630, the
torments of Bartholomew began in earnest in December 1631, when he was submitted
to the painful torture of hot sulphur baths which had succeeded in bringing
many Christians to renounce the faith. Because of his constancy his torturers
had physicians cure his wounds so that he could be tortured again and again.
He was finally burned alive on 3 September 1632, together with Francis of
Jesus and Vincent of Saint Anthony. These two latter Augustinians were members
of the Order’s congregation of Recollects. They arrived in Nagasaki
in October 1623 and were received there by Father Bartholomew. After six
years of intense missionary activity they also became his companions in
The memory of these twelve members of the Augustinian Family is observed
on 28 September.