Blessed Thomas Jihoye of Saint Augustine - 28th September

Persecutions do not only create martyrs but many times create “soldiers of Christ”. Such was Thomas Jihyoe, a Japanese Augustinian, who was a Christian soldier during the persecution against Christians of the seventeenth century. For five years he evaded the Emperor’s soldiers who were seeking him because he was a catholic priest.

He was born at Omura near Nagasaki around 1600. His parents, teachers of religion, both died martyrs for their faith. From an early age he used to attend the Jesuit school at Arima. When this school closed because of the persecution, he went to Macao to continue his studies. On the advice of an Augustinian missionary, in 1622 he went to Manila, Philippines and in 1624 entered the convent of St Augustine Intramuros. Thereafter he went to Cebú to study theology and he was ordained priest.

The persecution had already started and, one after another, the missionaries were eliminated, thus leaving alone the Christian communities. Thomas felt that his place was with his people and, after a lot of effort, he returned to Nagasaki in 1631. As he was a Japanes national he was able to hide without difficulty the fact that he was a Christian priest, but he was a keen religious filled with a great faith and he joined the governor of Nagasaki under the name of Kintsuba.

Thus, he was able to help Fr. Bartholemew Gutiérrez who was in prison until his martyrdom and, thereafter, he took his place and started helping the Christian prisioners and to encourage them. These started showing so much courage that the governor became suspicious that there was a priest hiding in the prison. When Thomas was betrayed he went to a cave near the city when started the search for him, which is still mentioned until this day.

He used to go out night-time to meet Christians and to give them the sacraments but he kept changing his clothes. Finally in 1637 he was caught by chance. He himself told those who caught him who he was, because they thought he was simply a Christian on the run. He was tortured for many months in an effort to make him deny his religion and on 6 November they took him to a place that had become known as the hill of martyrs and he was hung from his legs in a hole until he died.

In November 1982 his name was listed with another 187 martyrs whose case for canonization was started by the Japanese bishops. Then this was passed to the Order’s Postulator and the case is now in the hands of the Congregation of the Saints, Rome.

Pietro Bellini, o.s.a.

CLAVER, M., OSA. El admirable y excelente martirio en el reyno del Japón de los beditos Padres fray Bartolomé Gutiérrez, fray Francisco de Gracia y fray Thomás de S. Agustín, Manila 1638, 43-74; SICARDO, J., OSA., Christiandad del Japón, Madrid 1698, 300-314; GASPAR DE S. AGUSTIN, OSA., Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas II, Valladolid 1890, 362-371; *The Augustinians in the seventeenth century Japan, King City, Ontario 1965 126-156; MINAKUCCHI, TOMIKO, Kintsuba. The Story of the Japanese Martyr Father Thomas Jihyoe, Kyoto 1995.



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