Virgin and Martyr
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Saint Magdalene followed the example of Jesus by accepting physical suffering in order to strengthen the spiritual resolve of her fellow Christians. She is a convincing example of a young person totally devoted to the Gospel and the service of others, whose love for God and neighbor knew no limit.
Magdalene was born in 1611 near Nagasaki, Japan, the daughter of devout Christian parents. While she was still young her mother, father, and siblings were martyred for the faith. In 1624 she became acquainted with two Augustinians, members of the Recollect Congregation, Francis of Jesus and Vincent of Saint Anthony, and was attracted by their deep spirituality. She became an Augustinian tertiary, teaching catechism to the young, seeking alms for the poor, encouraging her people in times of persecution. When these two friars were martyred, she placed herself under the spiritual guidance of two other Augustinians who eventually also received the crown of martyrdom. In 1629 she sought refuge in the hills of Nagasaki, sharing the sufferings of her fellow Christians, baptizing the young and visiting the sick. Because many Christians were renouncing their faith in the face of torture, she decided to encourage them through her own acceptance of persecution. In September 1634, dressed in the habit of a tertiary, she turned herself in to the anti-Christian civil authorities. In October of that same year she was subjected to the torture of the pit for 13 days. On the last day the pit was filled with water and she was drowned. Her body was burned and her ashes were dispersed to prevent the Christians from having any relics of her. Magdalene was beatified in 1981 and canonized by John Paul II on October 18, 1987.
The story of the Augustinian martyrs of Japan is a wonderful illustration not only of Christian resolve in the face of trial, but of the unity and universality of the Order. Laboring in this country were friars from various nations and from several branches of the Order who, together with many dedicated lay persons, found themselves more closely united in mind and heart for a common purpose and a common witness.