1552 AD (Haibara, Japan) – 1615 AD (Manila, Philippines)
Takayama Hikogorō lived 450 years ago in Japan and was a powerful and fearless warrior – a samurai. For a samurai, the most important thing is honor, and doing whatever his master – a lord, a general, or the emperor – tells him, even if it is very hard and dangerous. This can even lead to the samurai’s death! If a samurai promised you something, you could be sure that he would do it, no matter what. And Hikogorō was so good at being a samurai that he became a commander – one of the best!
When Hikogorō was 12 years old, his father – the lord of Sawa Castle, was visited by a Jesuit priest – a follower of St. Ignatius. When the priest arrived, Hikogorō’s dad thought that he’d just have a quick chat with the priest, who would then leave. Instead, Father Gaspare stayed for two weeks, at the end of which both Hikogorō and his dad were so impressed with what he told them and how he behaved, that they too wanted to follow Jesus!
Hikogorō was given the name Justo when he was baptized, which in Spanish means “honorable.” From then on the most important thing to him became to be the best follower of Jesus that he could be, and to share his joy of knowing Jesus with everyone.
Some years later, when Justo was 35 years old, all the priests, like Father Gaspare, were made to leave Japan and all Christians were told that they were no longer allowed to follow Jesus. Most lords and samurai warriors obeyed their emperor’s command, which they were taught to do above all else.
Justo, however, said “No!” to the emperor. Something that to a samurai is unthinkable! He was very much like St. George and St. Thomas More – the power of an emperor didn’t scare them, since they knew that it was much more important to follow God. Just like for George and Thomas, so for Justo too, this was no joke. Saints George and Thomas More were killed for it. Justo immediately lost his castle and all his riches, and was told that he had to leave Japan – the country where he grew up and that he loved.
Again, being faithful to Jesus was more important to him, so he chose being poor and living in a foreign land, instead of betraying Jesus. So, he left with 300 other Christians to travel to the Philippines. When he arrived, he was asked by the Spanish army to lead them in an attack on Japan, where he could fight his enemies and get back everything that had just been taken from him. Like St. Martin before him, Justo was no longer a man of war, and he refused the army’s offer.
Next time you feel like fighting with someone, even if they were mean to you first, remember the great samurai warrior and Servant of God, Justo Takayama, and follow his example of peace.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
(Takayama Hikogorō – 彦五郎)