I happened across a mention that today on the Roman Catholic calendar that today is the remembrance for the 26 Martyrs of Japan.
I spent five years serving the church in Japan, and one of my most memorable trips was my pilgrimage to Nagasaki one December. I had been to Hiroshima a couple of times prior to that but wanted to visit the other city of WWII infamy. I learned more than I expected on that trip.
To this day, Nagasaki has a large population of Christian citizens and is full of churches, and museums of its Christian past. The most touching part of my trip to Nagasaki was visiting the site where 26 men and boys were martyred in 1597. Their story is quite compelling.
They were captured near Kyoto, marched through Kobe (where I lived) and over 600 miles to Nagasaki where they were hung on crucifixes. Their deaths were witnessed by a large Catholic communion in that city. Those killings were the beginning of a period of persecution of Christians that lasted until the late 1860?s in Japan. The church went under ground for nearly 300 years, and when missionaries reurned, they found elements of the faith still alive.
A couple of readings-
O God our Father, who art the source of strength to all thy saints, and who didst bring the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith that we profess, even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.