Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki - 29th October


The Augustinians arrived in Japan towards the beginning of the XVII century and they immediately got down to strong evangelisation amongst the local people. A good number of these were drawn towards the spirituality and devotions of the Augustinian family and, as was the case in the Europeann and American continents, they decided to join the Order as laity, spiritually and legally. This union was fulfilled mainly through two common means of lay association: by way of membership of the Third Order or by annexation with the Fraternity of the Cinturati. When the persecution by the Japanese authrorities against Christians started, a good number of these members of the laity did not wish to leave alone priests and friars who had done so much with and for them. This meant that, when the hour came, they suffered martyrdom with the religious.

Amongst these we find St. Magdalene of Nagasaki. The young Madalene, who was born in 1611, lost her parents at a young age when they were murdered because they refused to renounce their faith. They were close to the Dominicans as well as to the Augustinian Rekolletti, and thus, when she reached the appropriate age, she consecrated her life to God as a lay Augustian Rekolletta. The Augustinain Rekolletti friars who were closest to her from when she was thriteen years old (Francis of Jesus and Vincent of St. Anthony) helped her grow in Christian virtues. She became a cathecist which was a commitment she took very serioucly as, in it, she saw the best way by which she was able to transmit to others Jesus Christ’s faith. From her earnings and whatever she was given by benefactors, she used to help, as much as she could, the poor around her. She did all this conscious of the real risks she was taking in view of the prevailing harsh persecution against Christians.

Indeed, as the persecution got even harsher under the Emperor Yemitsu, many were constrained to seek refuge in the mountains, where it was more difficult for them to be found. Madalene did the same thing but, in such circumstances, she also did her utmost to encourage those who were suffering due to the harsh situation. She imbued them with hope that, notwithstanding all their suffering, and what was may have been in store for them, they would not be abandoned by the Lord. In the absence of priests, she also used to baptise into the Catholic faith newlyborn infants.

In a moment of utmost courage, Madalene decided to affront the civil authorities.She wished to set an example for her Christian brethren who perhaps were afraid and whose faith was beginning to wane because of fear. As time passed, the harshness of the methods of the persecution used by the Japanese was becoming more widely known, and thus the level of fear was increasing. She went before the persecutor dressed in the habit of the Augustinian Tertieries, wearing a cord along her waist that signified her bond with Mary and the consolation that Our Lady obtained for her from heaven

The authrorities did their utmost to get her to change her mind. After they realised that whatever kind words or empty promises had no effect on her, she was condemned ot daeth. The death she endured was one of the most cruel as she was hung head downwards, with her head up to her waist in a restricted space, making it difficult for her to breath. This notwithstanding, her agony lasted thirteen days which she passed praising God by means of the hymns which she had memorised. In the end she gave herself up to her Creator when rainfall filled the hole in which she had been hanging. So as to erase any memory of her strong showing of faith, the persecutor scattered the ashes of her burnt body. This was in the year 1634.

St. Madalene of Nagasaki was cannonized by Pope St. John Paul II in October 1987 on Missionary Sunday, along with 15 other martyrs who had suffered the same persecution. On that day, in his sermon, he declared that these martyrs: “ in their suffering, the love and imitation of Jesus, reached its apex, became embodied with Jesus, the only mediator, in a perfect way  [.......] These saintly martyrs, from countries, languages, different social conditions, were enjoined together with the God’s faithful people in the mystery of salvation of Christ the Redeemer”.    

The withness of St. Madalene of Nagasaki, a lay Augustinian Rekolletta, reminds us of the primary call we received in our baptism, that is, in Christ we will all die together and,with him, we will rise again.


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