December 23rd : Bl. Michael Nakashima, SJ

Blessed Michael Nakashima, SJ

Born : 1583
Died : Dec 25,1628
Beatified : 1867

Michael Nakashima was born in Machiai, in today’s prefecture of Kumamoto, Japan, of non-Christian parents. He was baptized at the age of eleven by Fr John Baptist de Baeza and as a young man, he took a private vow of chastity and to live a life of piety and penance. As Christianity was outlawed in Japan and the missionaries had to go underground, Michael invited Fr Baeza to live with him in his Nagasaki home where the latter lived in hiding for twelve years until his death in 1626. Thereafter, Michael invited another priest to live his house although he was aware that he was taking great risk but he considered it worthwhile as he had the joy of frequently attending Mass. While the priests were with him he brought Christians home for Mass and to receive the Sacraments, taking circuitous routes to confuse the spies so that they would not suspect him of helping missionaries. He continued his activity although the risk was growing greater.

Michael was received into the Society as a brother in 1627. In August that year he was brought before the district governor and though nothing was proven against him, he was placed under house arrest for a year which he accepted with serenity and continued to live a penitential life.

In Nagasaki, it was customary for the people of the city to supply the wood for the fiery death punishment of missionaries. On Sep 3, 1628, a wood collector called at Bro Nakashima’s house, but he refused to contribute, saying that he wanted no part in the unjust killing of a minister of God. When his remark was reported to the governor, Bro Nakashima was arrested, his house confiscated, and he was beaten with clubs and imprisoned. He was later stripped & beaten with clubs to get him to deny his faith but he remained steadfast in upholding his faith and would not deny his Lord, saying: “tear me to pieces and rip my soul from my body, but you will never force that detestable word of denial from my mouth.” His torturers resorted to water torture where they would pour gallons of water into his body using funnels placed in his nostrils. The torturers would then repeatedly jump on his abdomen to force the water out. Bro Nakashima remained undaunted and refused to apostatize. He wrote about this experience to a friend saying: “When the pain became too intense, I invoked our Lady, the Blessed Virgin, and my pain instantly ceased.”

Bro Nakashima’s repeated refusal to renounce his faith greatly enraged his persecutors and they decided to subject him to the scalding sulphurous waters at Unzen which the Japanese dubbed “the mouths of hell.” On Dec 24, 1628, after another round of water torture to no avail, they dragged him into a shallow pool of bubbling waters and made him stand there for a while before putting him into a deeper pool by which time portions of his flesh fell from his feet. He was then put into a second pool where the bubbling waters covered his neck. When they pulled him out, Bro Nakashima was unable to walk; his body was an open wound, and in places his bones were exposed. They left him to spend the cold December night in the open, lying on hay.

Early the next morning at sunrise, the torturers were at work again but as Bro Nakashima was unable to stand and go to the boiling water, they devised a way of pouring the scalding fluid over his head and body. For two hours, Bro Nakashima endured the cruel treatment and the only words that he uttered were the names of Jesus and Mary. While the Christian world was thinking of Christ’s birth on earth, Bro Nakashima was thinking of his own birth in heaven, and that morning he made his way to God.

Bro Michael Nakashima was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1867, together with 204 other martyrs.