Today the church remembers The Martyrs of Japan, 1597.Japan was first introduced to Christianity by Francis Xavier, a great Roman Catholic missionary. For nearly half a century the churches he founded flourished and grew. Finally, the Japanese government became alarmed at the spread of Christianity, which they regarded as a cloak for subversive activity by foreigners. Christianity was made illegal, and to show that the authorities meant business, six missionaries and twenty Japanese Christians were publicly crucified in Nagasaki. But this was only the beginning. For the next 250 years, any Japanese people who were found to be practicing Christianity were subject to the death penalty. Through the years many thousands died rather than forsake Christ. At last the ban was lifted in 1859. Christian missionaries again entered Japan (see December 2). To their astonishment they discovered several secret Christian communities still surviving, without priests and with very little education, but still keeping the faith in a most admirable manner, as they had through centuries of persecution. Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs in Japan triumphed over suffering, and were faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of everlasting life. Amen.
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O God our Father, source of strength to all your saints, you brought the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of eternal life: Grant that we, encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith we profess, even to death itself; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.