The Last Word
The 150th anniversary of the rediscovery of the Hidden Christians of Japan will probably go unnoticed this year by most, but it should not be by us. Their three historical questions to Fr. Petitjean, M.E.P., are as relevant today as they were on March 17, 1865.
The missionaries, martyrs-to-be, had well trained their Japanese flock on how to recognize a true Roman Catholic priest, as it would be 225 years before they would see another one, 1640-1865!
“Do you pray to Santa Maria sama?” asked Pierre, the brave Japanese, as Fr. Petitjean opened the church to the little group of 15.
“Of course, look at her lovely statue over there!”
“Are you with the Pope of Rome? What is his name?”
“Yes, for sure; it is Pope Pius IX.”
And before leaving the priest, he wanted to be sure that he was truly a successor of the missionaries of old.
“Don’t you have any children?” he asked timidly.
“Don’t you know that true priests don’t marry? Our people are our children.”
Hearing this, Pierre and his companion bowed down all the way to the ground, exclaiming: “They are virgins! Thank you! Thank you!”
Later in May, a whole Christian village asked for the visit of the missionaries, and then 600 other Catholics sent a delegation of 20 people to Nagasaki. On June 8th, 25 Christian villages (with about 10,000 hidden Christians) had been identified by the missionaries and 7 ‘baptizers’ were put directly in touch with them.
These will remain forever the three marks of a true priest: to be devoted to our Blessed Lady, to be attached to Rome, to be celibate.
Fr. Daniel Couture
Source: Les Missions Catholiques Françaises au XIXe siècle, by Fr. J. B. Piolet, S.J., (n.d., circa 1900), Vol. III, pp. 440-445.