From 16th-17th century, Christianity was banned in Japan and those who refused to abandon their faith were killed brutally.
During the first wave of persecution, 26 Christians were executed by crucifixion. This is the group of the Franciscan St. Pedro Bautista and the Jesuit St. Paul Miki.
Then, the group of 205 were persecuted. This is the group of Bl. Alphonsus Navarette whom we celebrate today.
After this was the Great Martyrdom of Nagasaki (1622) led by the Jesuit Bl. Charles Spinola.
Then, the 16 Martyrs of Japan (1633–1637) which includes St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the Thomasian martyrs of Japan. Waves of persecution still continued after this.
Alphonsus Navarrete was very young when he gave up his inheritance to enter the Dominican Order in Valladolid (Spain) and, after he had completed his studies, was sent to the Philippine missions. The great persecution had just begun in Japan, yet he was determined and begged to be allowed to go to Japan. Consequently, he was sent as superior of the mission.
The missionary career of Alphonsus was brief, however, in the few years of his apostolate, his accomplishment was immeasurable. He went about teaching and baptizing the people. He began the tremendous task of caring for the abandoned babies. He also cared for the homeless which he supported through the generosity of wealthy Spaniards.
When two priests were persecuted in Omura, Alphosus went to Omura with the intention of rescuing the relics of the martyrs and consoling the Christians. They were captured on the way and were beheaded. Their bodies were thrown into the sea.
Pope Pius IX, in 1867, solemnly beatified 205 of the martyrs, among whom were 59 Dominicans, the friars and the laity, and 58 members of the Rosary Confraternity. Although all did not die at the same time nor place, they are listed under the name of Alphonsus Navarrete, who was the first to die.
I asked my professor in Theology before, if I would be in Japan on that day, I would probably renounce the faith but keeping in my heart that Jesus is the Lord. My professor said “When you are called to be a martyr, God will give you the grace to endure the persecution at that moment.”