In the persecutions of the Christian faith in Japan during the seventeenth century, numerous Japanese-born Augustinians (priests, oblates and lay confraternity members) gave their lives for Christ.
Tommaso Jihyoe O.S.A., a Japanese who became an Augustinian priest was like a legendary Zorro or Scarlet Pimpernel in the way he very skilfully eluded capture by the the forces of the emperor for five years.
Tommaso (Thomas) was the first Japanese to become an Augustinian priest.
He had an extraordinary life of only thirty-five years. Born in Omura in 1602, he was admitted into the Order in Manila (Philippines) in November 1623.
Because of his Christian Faith, he had been expelled from Japan and sent to Macao, but returned to Japan six years later.
He was simply professed in Manila during 1624 and then ordained in Cebu in 1628, only to return to Japan in 1631 against the will of his superiors in the Philippines.
Called "Kintsuba," in Japan he mastered the art of disguise, and even for a time worked as a gardener in the sight daily of those seeking him.
Finally captured in 1636, he endured severe torture, and died towards the end of 1637 rather than accept the offer to be freed if he denied the Christian faith.
He was 35 years of age when executed. There is a statue of him in Nagasaki.
He has been beatified (i.e., declared a Blessed of the Church) as one of 188 Christian martyrs of Japan. His ceremony of beatification occurred in Nagasaki on 24th November 2008.
(Continued on the next page.)