September 3rd : Blessed Anthony Ixida, SJ

Blessed Anthony Ixida, SJ

Born: 1570
Died: September 3, 1632
Beatified : May 7, 1867

Anthony Ishida (Ixida) was born in Shimabara, of Catholic parents whose Portuguese name was Pinto. He studied at the Jesuit seminary at Arima and worked for a time as a catechist with the Jesuits. He entered the Society as a novice in 1589. He was studying theology when Taikosama Hideyoshi ordered the execution of 26 martyrs on Nagasaki’s Holy Hill. Among them were the Jesuits Paul Miki and his two companions. Anthony had to go into hiding. When peace returned in 1598 with the death of the Taikosama, Anthony continued with his studies and was ordained sometime in 1612.

Fr Ishida was well-versed in Buddhism and was frequently asked to partake in religious debates with Buddhist bonzes which he invariably won, so much so that the Buddhist bonzes dreaded debating with him. Fr Ishida was an eloquent preacher and one of the best apologists of the Japanese Church. He had to go underground when the Great Persecution began in 1614 with Shogun Iyeyasu’s decree forbidding the Christian faith and ordering all missionaries to be banished.

Together with two dozens other Jesuits, Fr Ishida went underground and clandestinely practiced his ministry in and around Hiroshima, moving around in disguise and risking his life for his sheep. He was imprisoned for three years in 1616, but was released three years later when the daimyo who had imprisoned him died. Fr Ishida then moved to Nagasaki where he continued to work underground for another ten years.

Fr Ishida was finally arrested in 1629 and was brought before the governor of Nagasaki who treated him with respect and courtesy and would have set him free if not for fear that his leniency would be reported to the shogun. Fr Ishida was imprisoned at Omura in Sep 1629 and there he met three Augustinian priests, a Japanese priest and a Franciscan tertiary awaiting martyrdom. For two years, he refused to apostatize despite being tortured. They were taken to an extinct volcano with pools of scalding water and immersed six times a day for 33 days until their flesh began to blister and their bodies were open wounds of rotting flesh. Yet Fr Ishida and his companions steadfastly remained loyal to God and the torturers returned them to Nagasaki in 1632.

The news of Fr Ishida’s and his companions’ victory over torture spread through the Nagasaki district and many Japanese Christians were strengthened in their faith. They lingered for another eight more months in prison until the governor decided that he had had enough. On the morning of Sep 3, 1632, all five prisoners were secretly taken to Martyrs’ Hill, outside the city, to die by slow fire. When they saw the stakes and wood awaiting them, they embraced each other and were fastened to the stakes. Still they refused to apostatize.

They prayed aloud and called upon God to give them strength to persevere to the end. God gave them that grace and when the fire had burned itself out, the executioners threw their ashes into the sea. Fr Ishida and his five companions were among the 205 martyrs beatified by Pope Pius IX on May 7, 1867