Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Paulo was born in the year 1562 to a wealthy samurai family in the town of Settsu Kuni (near Osaka). A few years later, Changqi Miyoshi, a famous and larger samurai leader became a guardian of the province. Though he himself was not a believing Christian, he allowed missionary activities and largely allowed the populace to practice in safety. Paulo would be baptized with 72 other Japanese in the year 1566 at the age of four, setting him firmly down a path of following the Word of God.
In the year 1580, Oda Nobunaga the shogun at the time (who largely had allowed the Franciscans to introduce Christianity to Japan) allowed the Jesuit society to build the first Christian seminary in castle Azuchi. Paulo Miki would be in the first generation of students to enter the seminary and receive education, eventually becoming one of the first Japanese Jesuit members. As a missionary, he traveled to Nagasaki (Hizen at the time) and to Osaka, helping convert Buddhist priests.
After the shogun's passing, Christianity began to be viewed much more critically by Japanese authorities, believing it to be upsetting to the local culture. As the years passed, Japan became more and more unified under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi became concerned of the Portuguese warships and the Jesuits - famously growing extremely worried over affairs after the superior of the Jesuit mission boasted the Jesuits could summon Portuguese warships. Though this would lead to a ban on missionaries and Christian activities, the ban was not enforced and the Jesuits were largely able to continue their mission.
The spark that lit the fire came from a crashed Spanish galleon. On July 12, 1596, the San Felipe wrecked on a sandbar and it's captain (believing a positive government in place towards Christianity and the west) sought aid from the local warlord who then sent them to Kyoto to speak with Hideyoshi's commissioners. At Kyoto, Mashita Nagamori, one of the commissioners spoke with the captain one night over drinks and music. The captain showed a map of the colonial empire and implied the path to conquest was through first converting the local populace. Once Hideyoshi was informed of this conversation , he reacted swiftly ordering all missionaries in Japan to be arrested.
26 Catholics would be arrested and sent to Nagasaki for execution, Paulo Miki being one of them.
Called Luzon's ambassadors, these people came to Japan, stayed in Kyoto, and spread the law of Christians, which can be strictly prohibited in the past year. As a result, he is punished with the Japanese who practice the law. Therefore, 24 people will be crucifying in Nagasaki. Here again, the Christian law is forbidden. Everyone should do their best. All other people should kill the entire Ichikuro party.
20th November , 1st year of Keicho (8th January , 1597)
Was proclaimed before the Sakai magistrate's office
While still in the Kyoto prison, Paulo was informed they would be crucified in Nagasaki and immediately began to rejoice and preach the heavenly path to the other prisoners. As the 26 were forced to walk the nearly 600 miles from Kyoto to Nagasaki, Paulo would often lead the group in singing "Te Deum" and preached constantly to the crowds that gathered to mock the prisoners along the route.
Paulo would preach his last sermon on the cross, loving those around him just as Christ had done. Witnesses reported his last words:
"The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die.
After Christ's example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain."
"Everyone who comes here, listen to me. I am not a man from Luzon, I am a well-known Japanese Jesuit Ilman. I have not committed any sins. But I die because I have taught the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am delighted to die for this reason, and I think this is a great blessing that God has bestowed upon me. I don't want to deceive you before, so I assert and explain that there is nothing but a Christian path for human salvation."
"I forgive the King (Kanpaku) and all those involved in this death penalty because the Christian teaching teaches to forgive the enemy and those who have harmed myself. There is no hatred for the King Rather, he longs for him and all Japanese to become Christians."
Pope Pius IX officially canonized Paulo in 1862, alongside all 26 members.