Image of beatified Samurai of Christ blessed, venerated

The image of Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon, found at the garden of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex, was blessed and venerated last March 28, 2017 (Tuesday), in celebration of Takayama’s beatification last February 7, 2017, in his native of Japan.

According to the bionote prepared by Graduate School dean Marilu R. Madrunio, PhD, “Ukon Takayama was 12 years old when he was baptized as a Catholic in 1563. In time, he rose to become governor of the castle town of Takatsuki near Kyoto, then the capital of Japan. Before that, he made a mark and gained fame as an outstanding general. In civilian life, he became known as a builder of castles, churches, seminaries and oratories. As a person, he had been reared in the ways of the samurai and in the best traditions of their civilization. The only difference was that he was a Christian samurai, which was rare.”

Madrunio further narrated that “the turning point came when a new shogunate rose to power in Japan, that forbade the practice of Christianity. Those who disobeyed the order were executed. But in the case of Takayama and other nobles and samurais who occupied positions of social prominence, they were exiled to Manila, which was then the bastion of Christianity in Asia. These sturdy Japanese chose to lose their possessions, honor and social status and lead ordinary lives in a foreign land than renounce their Catholic faith.”

In 1614, Blessed Takayama was one of the 148 Japanese Christians who were banished to Manila for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith. He turned over an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Dominican friars in Santo Domingo in Intramuros. The image, which remains in the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, came to be known as “La Japonesa.”

A few months later, he passed away in Manila, leaving behind “a grateful Japanese community that eventually thrived in the place called Plaza Dilao — or Yellow Square — some distance from Intramuros. Plaza Dilao is now part of the district of Paco in contemporary Manila. Many Filipinos today trace their roots from these noblemen and samurais who have since inter-married and blended with the local population.”

The ceremony included the dedication and blessing of a new marker, the laying of wreath, as well as offering of palm branches at the base of the image.

The veneration was made possible through the efforts of Dr. Ernie A de Pedro, Managing Trustee of the Lord Takayama Ukon Jubilee Foundation.

The University of Santo Tomas is considered as the center of the Philippine participation in the canonization cause of Blessed Takayama. Since 1989, UST has been home to the Lord Takayama Professorial Chair, and foremost among the scholars on Takayama is the late Professor Florentino T. Hornedo, PhD.

Takayama’s cause for canonization was first submitted to the Vatican in 1630, and his beatification in 2017 brings him one step closer to sainthood. The petition for his canonization in 1630 made him the very first subject of such petition for the Archbishopric of Manila.

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