Most of us know of Nagasaki, Japan, because of the atomic bomb dropped on that city on August 9, 1945, which brought about such devastation as well as the prompt end of conflict between Japan and the United States. Most of us know little else about the history of this city. But there are ties that unite Nagasaki, Japan with our Catholic faith.
Today the universal Church honors as martyrs a group of companions who were put to death for their faith on February 5, 1597. They include Paul Miki, a Jesuit scholastic (student) and twenty five others. These included two other Jesuits, six Franciscans, fifteen Third Order members and two laymen. They were crucified. They are the protomartyrs (the first martyrs) of the Far East, and were canonized in 1862 by Pope Pius IX.
But there is another saint connected with this city besides these early missionaries who brought Christ to the local people. His name is Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest from Poland who lived and worked in Nagasaki before its destruction and his death in Auschwitz in 1941 at the hands of the Nazi regime. His work in Japan was to get the message of Christ out, and he did so through publishing. If it were not for the turmoil in Europe which called him home, he might have lost his life at Nagasaki, ministering to the Japanese people.