The Dominican Martyrs of Japan

Today we honour the memory of 16 Dominicans led by Saint Dominic Ibanez Erquicia who were martyred at Nagasaki in Japan on 30 September 1637.  Catholics were persecuted and martyred in Japan throughout the 17th century, among them many Dominicans.  This group of 16 were canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

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No matter who we are or what we do we all love to hear words of praise or appreciation.  We like to be patted on the back.  And how many of us would actually turn away from a compliment rather than receive it—even if with a bit of embarrassment?  There is something in the way we are made that makes us happy to be recognized for a job well done.  And in truth, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be praised.  It only becomes a problem when receiving recognition becomes our primary goal instead of knowing in our hearts that any job well done is meant to give glory to God.

Now, contrast the disciples in today’s gospel with the witness of our holy protector Saint Joseph.  Here was a man who truly did welcome a child in God’s name—and with great humility and openness.  And never once did Saint Joseph seek praise for his calling.  Never once did he ask, “What’s in it for me?”

So how did he do it?  Certainly not by human strength alone.  Saint Joseph embraced not only God’s plan for his life but also the divine grace he needed to fulfil his vocation.  Imagine being entrusted with the Son of God.  Joseph must have spent hours and hours in prayer just to keep his heart and mind fixed on this awesome task.

What a lesson for us.  Joseph was just an ordinary man, but he was able to do the thing God asked because he remained close to him.  If Joseph had clung to his old plans for his life or his old ways of thinking, he might never have been able to say yes.

Our Lord wants us all to answer God’s call with the same faith and trust that Saint Joseph had.  It can seem difficult if not impossible when we look with human eyes—just as the disciples envisioned their calling in human terms of prestige and greatness.  But if we hold firm to the truth that Our Lord is with us and wants to give us every grace to succeed in our vocation, then we can move mountains.  God needs only an open heart and he will fill it to overflowing.

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