“Letters of fire” and “Pedro, Agustín and Lorenzo: Japanese, Recollects, Blessed”, two writings to learn about a golden time in the history of the Recollects.
On December 5th, same day we were celebrating the 430thanniversary of the Order, four publications were presented in Madrid; two literary and two pictorial. The authors take us to discover the hidden history of Japanese Catholicism, especially presenting the most important missionary feats of the Recollects. Edited by Augustinus: “History and Spirituality” for the collection titled “Witnesses of the Kingdom: Augustinian Saints and Blessed”.
The pictorial publications were made by Santiago Bellido, which includes a painting measuring two by one meters, and a series of linear drawing illustrations that decorate the pages of the book “Letters of Fire”. This book is a complete collection of letters written by the Augustinian Recollect missionaries in Japan who were martyred while spreading the Good News of the Gospel and leaving the Recollect Spirituality in the hearts of the laity who also gave witness of their faith in times of persecution.
It’s a complete well-prepared scientific edition that narrates what was lived by the missionaries in an almost novel style. These letters were written while the missionaries were imprisoned time before they were martyred.
The second book is a brief biography titled: “Pedro, Agustín y Lorenzo: Japoneses, recoletos, beatos”. These three were wrongly included in the list of martyrs as belonging to the secular order when in reality they were Augustinian Recollect Religious. There is not much information about them but what is known is presented in this first number of the “Witnesses of the Kingdom” collection.
The presentation of these new publications was made in Madrid at the St. Nicholas of Tolentine crypt in St. Rita’s parish. Pablo Panedas puts the work of these missionaries within the context of Japanese Catholicism history, especially how Christianity’s survival for 250 years without priests, missionaries, parishes; all in secret in the midst of persecution.
“We have your heart”, is the phrase clandestine Christians told a French missionary who was able to enter Japan in 1865, some 250 years after Christianity was abolished in that country.
Pablo Panedas was unable to hold his heart felt emotions while speaking about the “hidden Christians”.
For us to understand this reality, you could see videos on internet of Japanese singing hymns in latin without really understanding what they mean. That means that these hymns have been passed from one generation to another. This means that they have cherished and held these prayers in their hearts for centuries in the midst of spiritual oppression and persecution.
Japanese authorities had abolished Catholicism and closed commercial and cultural communications with the rest of the world until they were forced to open in the middle of the nineteenth century with the United States of America bombings over the island.
Pablo Panedas saw that it was necessary that the work done by these friars in Japan had to be made known to all, it is a debt we have had with them for some 388 years.
Before ending the presentation, Pablo Panedas explained the details in the painting done by Santiago Bellido who could not be present that day due to his teaching duties in the university. Everyone was able to better admire and understand the detailed painting.
Pablo Panedas was presented by Angel Martinez Cuesta while giving a broader presentation of the historical context in which Panedas would focus. Cuesta also presented Panedas’ curriculum which includes many years as professor of Spiritual Theology and his investigating work concerning the charism of the Recollects and its main protagonists.
Father General, Miguel Miro, concluded thanking God for these martyrs of the Church and the Order, and for Panedas’ investigative work and presentation. He encouraged the whole Augustinian Recollect Family to get to closer know this important page in our history.